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.

  3. Joseph kuzara

    While doing a search on this matter, i was confused as to why the women would take the time to buy the spices and prep them for anointing jesus,when i know Jesus was anointed head and toe with expensive spikenard perfume six days prior these events and joseph and Nicodemus prepped the body in spices infused with linen according to custom. Mark 14:3-8 and matthew 26:6-12 john 12:3 john 19:31-42

    I guess the only thing i could think of is that they didnt understand the resurrection and bought extra spices thinking He would be im thier a long time.

    • Joseph kuzara

      This should help solidify why the women prepared extra spices and oil after his body was already prepared according to custom. It was out of assumption,He was not gonna rise.

      John 20:1(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

      Wonder if the girls knew He was anointed for burial before the day of preperation.

    • For me the buying of spices is only a means to an end because it would lead them to something phenomenal, something greater which they will discover, an empty tomb. [6] And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.(Mark 16:6). The main reason a dead body was anointed with spices was to control the smell of decomposition. Jews did not practice embalming, and the funeral spices were a way to help minimize unpleasant odors. At the tomb of Lazarus, when Jesus asked for the stone to be rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, Martha objected: “By this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days” (John 11:39). The spices the women brought to Jesus’ tomb were intended to eliminate such an odor and honor the body of Christ. The fact that the women brought spices to anoint Jesus’ dead body showed they did not expect Jesus to literally rise from the dead.

  4. Koteli Letamo

    Exactly what happened when jesus was in the grave was he annointed or not and why was he annointed if so

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