Purchase and Preparation of Spices

THE QUERY COLUMN: Purchase and Preparation of Spices

discussion on what should be defined as "work" on Sabbath

Field Secretary, General Conference.

Does the purchase and preparation of spices by the women, as recorded in Mark 16:1 and, Luke 23:56, refer to two separate occasions, or did both writers refer to the same act of purchase before the Sabbath?

It is quite evident in Luke 23:56 that the women returned from the sepulcher and prepared spices and ointments. Then they rested the Sabbath day, according to the commandment. Hence, this purchase was before the Sabbath. In Mark 16:1 it mentions that they had bought sweet spices, and in the same verse the point of time is mentioned, or "when the Sabbath was past."

Some, in their attempt to harmonize these two experiences, feeling that they refer to the same event before the Sabbath, emphasize the expression "had bought." Of course, if this form of the verb could be maintained, there would be no problem, for when the Sabbath was past they came to anoint Christ with sweet spices they "had bought," and obviously this would refer to the purchase and preparation referred to by Luke before the Sabbath.

The pluperfect form of the verb, however, can hardly be maintained, for in the Greek text the form of the verb is in the Aorist, and that would call for the rendering, "they bought." It is precisely the same form of the verb as is referred to in Luke 23156, and "prepared" spices. Both terms, "bought" and "prepared," are in the Aorist. Luke mentions that they prepared spices, and Mark says they bought spices. It seems that this is the only allowable translation; and this would naturally mean, according to Mark, that they bought the spices after the Sabbath.

Practically all the translations render the verb in this form, not "had bought" but "bought." A. T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures in the New Testament, takes this position.

The only way to understand the truth emphasized in these two passages, it would seem, is to recognize that spices were bought both before and after the Sabbath, thus referring to two purchases instead of one. Note the following from A. T. Robertson, also in accord with this thought.

(i) On Luke 24:1 he remarks: "Mark 16:1 notes that they bought other spices after the Sabbath was over besides those which they already had (Luke 23:56)." (2) On Mark 16:1 he comments: "Bought spices. . . . They could buy them after sundown. . . . They had returned from the tomb after the watching late Friday afternoon and had prepared spices (Luke 23:56). Now they secured a fresh supply."

It should be observed also that, in John 19: 39, 40, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus came and anointed the body of Jesus and wrapped the body in spices. The record is as follows:

"There came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury." John 19:39, 40.

Observe that this was before the Sabbath, and on this A. T. Robertson remarks on John 19:39: "It was common to use sweet-smelling spices in the burial (II Chron. 16:14)."

It is evident also that the women bought spices before the Sabbath and even prepared them, but evidently did not use them. Whether they had insufficient for their purpose, or whatever may be the reason, it is evident also that they needed more, for they purchased some after the Sabbath, because they expected then to anoint the body of Jesus. Note the following from the Spirit of prophecy: "Taking with them precious spices to anoint the Saviour's body." — The Desire of Ages, p. 788. "Bringing sweet spices to anoint the body of Jesus." — Early Writings, p. 186.

Whichever view we take on this matter, whether referring it to one act of purchase or two acts of purchase, I fail to see any possible basis for a reference to a Thursday Sabbath in addition to the seventh-day Sabbath. It is evi dent that the Sabbath in Mark 16:1 must refer to the seventh-day Sabbath, because the first day of the week follows immediately.

It seems equally evident that the Sabbath of Luke 23:54, 56 must also refer to the seventh- day Sabbath, because in resting on it they rested on the Sabbath, "according to the commandment." Obviously the only Sabbath "according to the commandment" was the seventh- day Sabbath.


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Field Secretary, General Conference.

September 1950

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