occurs only in the New Testament in connection with the box of "ointment of spikenard very precious," with the contents of which a woman anointed the head of Jesus as he sat at supper in the house of Simon the leper ( Matthew 26:7 ; Mark 14:3 ; Luke 7:37 ). These boxes were made from a stone found near Alabastron in Egypt, and from this circumstance the Greeks gave them the name of the city where they were made. The name was then given to the stone of which they were made; and finally to all perfume vessels, of whatever material they were formed. The woman "broke" the vessel; i.e., she broke off, as was usually done, the long and narrow neck so as to reach the contents. This stone resembles marble, but is softer in its texture, and hence very easily wrought into boxes. Mark says ( 14:5 ) that this box of ointment was worth more than 300 pence, i.e., denarii, each of the value of sevenpence halfpenny of our money, and therefore worth about 10 pounds. But if we take the denarius as the day's wage of a labourer ( Matthew 20:2 ), say two shillings of our money, then the whole would be worth about 30 pounds, so costly was Mary's offering.
from the Arabic al bastraton , a whitish stone or from Alabastron , the place in Egypt where it is found. It occurs only in ( Matthew 26:7 ; Mark 14:3 ; Luke 7:37 ) The ancients considered alabaster to be the best material in which to preserve their ointments. The Oriental alabaster (referred to in the Bible) is a translucent carbonate of lime, formed on the floors of limestone caves by the percolation of water. It is of the same material as our marbles, but differently formed. It is usually clouded or banded like agate, hence sometimes called onyx marble. Our common alabaster is different from this, being a variety of gypsum or sulphate of lime, used In its finer forms for vases, etc.; in the coarser it is ground up for plaster of Paris. The noted sculptured slabs from Nineveh are made of this material.
In modern mineralogy alabaster is crystalline gypsum or sulphate of lime. The Greek word alabastron or alabastos meant a stone casket or vase, and alabastites was used for the stone of which the casket was made. This stone was usually crystalline stalagmitic rock or carbonate of lime, now often called oriental alabaster, to distinguish it from gypsum. The word occurs in the Bible only in the three passages of the Synoptic Gospels cited above. See BOX.
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