Mark 16:1, Anointing the Body of Jesus

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 

//Here’s a befuddling topic. Did Jesus’ body ever get anointed for burial? This seems to be a significant theological event, but the Gospels don’t seem to agree.

Let’s start with Mark, the first Gospel written. Mark says that after Jesus was buried, probably on Saturday night (the Sabbath officially ended at sunset on Saturday evening), spices were prepared by some women, and that the next morning they went to anoint the body. Jesus had been wrapped days before in a linen shroud, unanointed.

Matthew tells the same story as Mark, so let’s move to Luke. In this version, the women note where Jesus is laid, and go home to prepare spices before the Sabbath (they rest on the Sabbath, according to the law). Then, they go to the tomb on Sunday morning. Like Mark, they find Jesus’ body missing, so he goes unanointed.

John tells an entirely different story:

Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. –John 19:39-40

Thus Jesus is anointed before his burial, with seventy-five pounds of spices! John not only contradicts the Synoptic version, indicating that Jesus was indeed anointed, but makes a point of describing it as a burial fit for a king! On Sunday, Mary Magdalene knows not to bring spices to the tomb, for Jesus’ body has already been anointed.

Is there some way to synchronize these stories?



  1. In John, did Nicodemus wash the body before annointing it? Is it “in accordance with Jewish burial customs” not to wash a body soaked in blood before annointing it? Rather kidding than talking seriously this may a be (purely humorous) way to synchronize the accounts – another annointing was required, preceded with washing, after the body had been annoinred unwashed. But of course neither Mark, Matthew nor Luke mention any praparations for the washing, just the spices, like if the body was already washed by Nicodemus, rather than annointed.

  2. Betsy Whisman

    A good book to read that takes the six accounts of Jesus’ death in the Bible and makes them all work together in a logical way is “The Resurrection Report” by William Proctor. You can find it through Amazon.

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