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Dictionaries :: Spikenard

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Easton's Bible Dictionary


(Heb. nerd), a much-valued perfume (Sgs 1:12; 4:13,14). It was "very precious", i.e., very costly (Mar 14:3; Jhn 12:3,5). It is the root of an Indian plant, the Nardostachys jatamansi, of the family of Valeriance, growing on the Himalaya mountains. It is distinguished by its having many hairy spikes shooting out from one root. It is called by the Arabs sunbul Hindi, "the Indian spike." In the New Testament this word is the rendering of the Greek nardos pistike. The margin of the Revised Version in these passages has "pistic nard," pistic being perhaps a local name. Some take it to mean genuine, and others liquid. The most probable opinion is that the word pistike designates the nard as genuine or faithfully prepared.

International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia


spik'-nard (nerd; nardos (So 1:12; 4:14); neradhim; nardoi (So 4:13), "spikenard plants"; nardos pistike (Mr 14:3; Joh 12:3), "pure nard," margin "liquid nard"; the English word is for "spiked nard," which comes from the Nardus spicatus of the Vulgate): Spikenard is the plant Nardostachys jatamansi (Natural Order, Valerianaceae); in Arabic the name Sunbul hind, "Indian spike," refers, like the English and Latin name, to the "snike"-like shape of the plant from which the perfume comes. The dried plant as sold consists of the "withered stalks and ribs of leaves cohering in a bundle of yellowish-brown capillary fibres and consisting of a spike about the size of a small finger" (Sir W. Jones, As. Res., II, 409); in appearance the whole plant is said to look like the tail of an ermine. It grows in the Himalayas. The extracted perfume is an oil, which was used by the Romans for anointing the head. Its great costliness is mentioned by Pliny.

With regard to the exact meaning of the pistike, in the New Testament, there is much difference of opinion: "pure" and "liquid" are both given in margin, but it has also been suggested among other things that this was a local name, that it comes from the Latin spicita or from pisita, the Sanskrit name of the spikenard plant. The question is an open one: either "genuine" or "pure" is favored by most commentators.

Written by E. W. G. Masterman

Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
1 Strong's Number: g3487 Greek: nardos


is derived, through the Semitic languages (Heb. nerd, Syriac nardin), from the Sanskrit nalada, "a fragrant oil," procured from the stem of an Indian plant. The Arabs call it the "Indian spike." The adjective pistikos is attached to it in the NT, Mar 14:3; Jhn 12:3; pistikos, if taken as an ordinary Greek word, would signify "genuine." There is evidence, however, that it was regarded as a technical term. It has been suggested that the original reading was pistakes, i.e., the Pistacia Terebinthus, which grows in Cyprus, Syria, Palestine, etc., and yields a resin of very fragrant odor, and in such inconsiderable quantities as to be very costly. "Nard was frequently mixed with aromatic ingredients... so when scented with the fragrant resin of the pistake it would quite well be called nardos pistakes" (E. N. Bennett, in the Classical Review for 1890, Vol. iv, p. 319). The oil used for the anointing of the Lord's head was worth about £12, and must have been of the most valuable kind. In the Sept., Sgs 1:12; 4:13, 14.

Smith's Bible Dictionary


(Heb. nerd) is mentioned twice in the Old Testament viz. in Solomon 1:12; 4:13-14. The ointment with which our Lord was anointed as he sat at meat in Simon's house at Bethany consisted of this precious substance, the costliness of which may be inferred from the indignant surprise manifested by some of the witnesses of the transaction (See Mark 14:3-5; John 12:3; 12:5). (Spikenard, from which the ointment was made, was an aromatic herb of the valerian family (Nardostachys jatamansi.) It was imported from an early age from Arabia India and the Far East. The costliness of Mary's offering (300 pence equals $45 [A.D. 1884 ‐ BLB Ed.]) may be seen from the fact that a penny (denarius, 15 to 17 cents) was in those days the day‐wages of a laborer (Matthew 20:2). In our day [A.D. 1884 ‐ BLB Ed.] this would equal at least $300 or $400‐ED.)


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.