However, in 1975 a perfectly preserved terra-cotta distillation apparatus from about 3000 BC was found in Pakistan. India has a long time honored tradition of perfumes and recipies handed down from geration to generation. It is our belief that the spiknard of Jesus day was infact an indian attar like perfume oil which was created and imported from what we know as present day India. Price lists dating from this period suggest that this pure nard, with which Christ was anointed at Bethany, might already have been produced by a form of distillation.
The hebrew the root word of Nard means light or Nerd, Nayrd an aromatic scent. Pliny, in his writings on Natural History, lists twelve species of nard, ranging from lavender stoechas and tuberous valerian root to what we know as nard – Nardostachys Jatamansi is the true spikenard of today. Nard has intense, warm, fragrant, musky notes, earthy, root like similar to the aromas of humus and is an excelent fixative when used in very small portions. It will enhance as a base other fragrances giving them strenth and enduring power. Use too much and all you can smell is the spikenard. The perfume "Nard" came from India as the root it’s self grows in the high altitudes of the Himalayan mountains. The Root is now on the endangered species list, because of the over harvesting and disappearing Himalayan mountains snow due to global warming.
Though spikenard is now seldom seen on the shelves of the modern american perfumer, because it’s scent does not appeal our american sweet taste. The Name Spikenard stood for centuries as an symbol of the perfume of the lost Garden of Eden, and in literature, nard came to refer to any perfume, as long as it was costly and exquisite. We have conducted studies on Spikenard with studies of the types of containers with which oil was carried during ancient times. Fragrant oil in ancient times was carried in what was called an "alabastron" a narrow flask shaped container. Alabasrons from antiquity were originally carved of alabaster from Egypt.
By relating that it was contained in an alabaster flask (alabastron), Mark 14:3 and Matthew 26:7 further underline the precious nature of the spikenard poured upon Christ. It is also important to note that the only other place Spikenard is mentioned in the Song of Solomon 1:2; 4:13-14. Which nard is referred to in the Song of Songs, as a symbol of the intimate nature of the Bridal love. This is the point at which relations with her beloved are initiated. When the perfume of nard is named, the bride recognizes her beloved as such. Thus a symbol of washing feet or in the case of Matthew's account, anointing the feet was a very humbling experience.
When the newly wed wife would anoint her husband in the marrige bed she was making a statement of devotion and submission to him. It was an extremely costly gesture to anoint with the Spikenard someone's feet as opposed to use this as a perfume. Which places great significance as to the relevance and meaning of Mary’s offering. The Gospels account of Spikenard becomes a symbol of our Bridegroom recieving his brides adoration and worship. This revelation becomes clear during the anointing of Jesus Christ at Bethany as well as His willingness to do what ever it takes to obtain His bride.
He is therefore not just smitten but declares, at the sound her willingness to submit to Him, that He is ravished at the sight of her. None could overwhelm Him. He is the Lord of Hosts, the Captain of the armies of heaven, firce and resolute in His restoring all things to the Father. No one can with stand Him as He roars like a lion at injustice. Blazing white glorious light blasts through the darkness and the hordes of hell cower at the sight of Him. Yet He is intoxicated by the love and devotion of His bride, it is she who loves Him with the whole heart who can turn his head, make Him weak with those doves eyes.
Another tradition in ancient times was to anoint the forehead of a guest that has come to a persons home. This was done as a general custom of welcome as well as to give the person who might have traveled some distance a nice smell. The fragrant smell would cover the not so fragrant smell of the person from their journey. It was also the custom to wash the feet a guest. Remember that back then most of the roads and paths were dirt and would have been very dusty even dung from animals remained on roadways.
In the case of Matthew's account this "alabastron" or alabaster container had a seal at the top as would any other expensive material of the day. The "jar" or container had a lid which was closed by a seal. Sometimes the seal had a small piece of cloth (such as linen or cotton) over the opening of the jar, then the lid was placed on and next came the seal. Sometimes the seal was covered with waxy substance such as melted bees wax or pitch and twine or leather strapping so that the lid would stay on firm, thus allowing the integrity of its contents to remain in tact.
Alabaster then, as well as now was only produced in a few countries in the world, Italy, Greece, India and China, with what was considered an inferior quality coming from Israel. Since the Spikenard perfumed oil was produced in ancient India it is reasonable to assume that the oil was imported in an alabaster container which possibly came from the same country. There is no historical data relating to oils ever being contained in a "box". All of the scholars that we have consulted agree that the term "box" should have been "jar" or something similar.
We believe it was the seal which was broken, so that the precious perfume could be poured out. The breaking of the seal was a traditional method of opening a vessel during ancient times. Think about this, if you broke a box and attempted to anoint someone, it stands to reason that you would have fragments of the broken box in the oil and would most likely cut or scratched the person with the sharp edges of the broken pieces. Again, there is no historical evidence of any "box breaking". However, we have scriptural references of pouring out of oil such as on Aaron's' beard.