John 19:39

John 19:39

And there came also Nicodemus
To the cross, at the same time as Joseph did; who, whether they were brethren, as some conjecture, and met here by consent, since one prepared one thing, and another, for the interment of Christ, is not certain. This Nicodemus is thought to be the same with Nicodemus ben Gorion, the Talmudists speaks of, who, they say F21, was one of the three rich men in Jerusalem; as this appears to be a rich man, from the large quantity of myrrh and aloes he brought with him, and which must be very costly. Moreover, they say F23, that he had another name, which was Boni; and they themselves observe F24, that Boni was one of the disciples of Jesus, as this Nicodemus was, though a secret one, as Joseph: this is he

which at the first came to Jesus by night;
who, when Christ first entered on his ministry, or when he first came unto him, came to him by night to discourse with him about his Messiahship, doctrine, and miracles, ( John 3:1 John 3:2 ) for being one of the Pharisees, a ruler of the Jews, and a Rabbi or master in Israel, he was ashamed or afraid to converse publicly with him; however, he went away a disciple; and though he did not openly profess him, he loved him, and believed in him, and now being dead showed his respect to him:

and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound
not himself, but by his servants. This mixture of myrrh and aloes together, and which was a very large quantity, and exceeding costly, was not designed the embalming of his body, and preserving it from putrefaction; for he was not embalmed, though myrrh and cassia and other odours were used in embalming F25; but for perfuming it, and in honour and respect unto him: it was sweet smelling myrrh, and an aromatic spice called "aloe" he brought, and not the common aloe. Nonnus calls it the "Indian aloe", which was of a sweet odour; for which reason it was brought. These are both reckoned with the chief spices, ( Song of Solomon 4:14 ) . Myrrh was one of the principal spices in the anointing oil and holy perfume, ( Exodus 30:23 Exodus 30:34 ) . It is a kind of gum or resin called "stacte", that issues either by incision, or of its own accord, out of the body or branches of a tree of this name, which grows in Arabia and Egypt; and being of an agreeable smell, was used at funerals: hence those words of Martial F26 "---& olentem funera myrrham"; and so Nazianzen, speaking of his brother Caesarius, says {a},

``he lies dead, friendless, desolate, miserable, (smurnhv) (olighv hxiwmenov) , "favoured with a little myrrh".''

And so the aloe was used to perfume, and to give a good scent, ( Proverbs 7:17 ) and Christ's garments are said to smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, ( Psalms 45:8 ) . Some have thought, that this was a mixture of the juice of myrrh, and of the juice of the aloe plant, and was a liquid into which the body of Christ was put: but this will not so well agree with the winding of the body in linen, with these in the next verse, where they are called spices. A Jew F2 objects to this relation of the evangelist as unworthy of belief: he affirms, that this was enough for two hundred dead bodies, and that it could not be carried with less than the strength of a mule, and therefore not by Nicodemus. In answer to which, it is observed by Bishop Kidder {c}, that we having nothing but the Jew's own word for it, that this was enough for two hundred bodies, and a load for a mule; and that it should be told what was the weight of the (litra) , or pound, mentioned by the evangelist, ere the force of the objection can be seen; and that it is a thing well known, that among the Jews the bodies of great men were buried with a great quantity of spices: it is said of Asa, that "they buried him in his own sepulchre which he had made for himself, in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odours, and divers kinds of spices", ( 2 Chronicles 16:14 ) . To which may be added, what is before observed, that this was not brought by Nicodemus himself, but by his servants; and what they did by his orders, and he coming along with them, he may be said to do. Just as Joseph is said to take down the body of Jesus from the cross, wind it in linen, and carry it to his sepulchre, and there bury it; this being done by his servants, at his orders, or they at least assisting in it; and as Pilate is said to put the title he wrote upon the cross, though it was done by others, at his command.


F21 T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 56. 1.
F23 T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 20. 1.
F24 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 43. 1.
F25 Herodotus in Euterpe, c. 86.
F26 L. 11. Epigr. 35.
F1 Epist. 18. p. 78l. Tom. I.
F2 Jacob Aben Amram, porta veritatis No. 1040. apud Kidder, Demonstration of the Messiah, part 3. p. 65, 66. Ed. fol.
F3 Ib.