Spikenard [N] [S]

(Heb. nerd), a much-valued perfume (Cant 1:12 ; Deuteronomy 4:13 Deuteronomy 4:14 ). It was "very precious", i.e., very costly ( Mark 14:3 ; John 12:3 John 12:5 ). 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.

These dictionary topics are from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Spikenard". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .
Spikenard [N] [E]

(Heb. nerd ) is mentioned twice in the Old Testament viz. in ( Solomon 1:12 ; Song of Solomon 4:13 Song of Solomon 4:14 ) The ointment with which our Lord was anointed as he sat at meat in Simons 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 John 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 Marys offering (300 pence=$45) may beat 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 this would equal at least $300 or $400.-ED.)

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Spikenard'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.


spik'-nard (nerd; nardos (Song of Solomon 1:12; 4:14); neradhim; nardoi (Song of Solomon 4:13), "spikenard plants"; nardos pistike (Mark 14:3; John 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.

E. W. G. Masterman

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'SPIKENARD'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.