A sort of stone, of fine texture, either the white gypsum, a sulphate of lime, or the onyx-alabaster, a hard carbonate of lime, having the color of the human nail, and nearly allied to marble. This material being very generally used to fabricate vessels for holding unguents and perfumed liquids, many vessels were called alabaster though made of a different substance, as gold, silver, glass, etc. In Mt 26:6-7, we read that Mary, sister of Lazarus, Joh 12:3, poured as alabaster box of precious ointment on Christ's head. Mark says "she brake the box," signifying probably, that the seal upon the box, or upon the neck of the vase of bottle, which kept the perfume from evaporating, had never been removed; it was on this occasion first opened. See SPIKENARD.
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 (Mt 26:7; Mr 14:3; Lu 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 (Mr 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 (Mt 20:2), say two shillings of our money, then the whole would be worth about 30 pounds, so costly was Mary's offering.
Not our gypsum, but the oriental alabaster, translucent, with red, yellow, and gray streaks clue to admixture of oxides of iron with a fibrouscarbonate of lime. A calcareous marble like spar, wrought into boxes or vessels, to keep precious ointments from spoiling (Pliny H. N., 13:8). Mr 14:3; "broke the box," i.e., broke the seal on the mouth of it, put there to prevent, evaporation of the odor (Lu 7:37).
A valuable calcareous spar, a hydro-sulphate of lime, used by the ancients for making vessels to hold valuable ointments. It is probable that 'breaking' ' the box means breaking the seal, to open the box. Mt 26:7; Mr 14:3; Lu 7:37.
from the Arabic al bastraton, a whitish stone or from Alabastron, the place in Egypt where it is found. It occurs only in
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.
ALABASTER, '??????????, the name of a genus of fossils nearly allied to marble. It is a bright elegant stone, sometimes of a snowy whiteness. It may be cut freely, and is capable of a fine polish; and, being of a soft nature, it is wrought into any form or figure with ease. Vases or cruises were anciently made of it, wherein to preserve odoriferous liquors and ointments. Pliny and others represent it as peculiarly proper for this purpose; and the druggists in Egypt have, at this day, vessels made of it, in which they keep their medicines and perfumes.
In Mt 26:6-7, we read that Jesus being at table in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came thither and poured an alabaster box of ointment on his head. St. Mark adds, "She brake the box," which merely refers to the seal upon the vase which closed it, and kept the perfume from evaporating. This had never been removed, but was on this occasion broken, that is, first opened.