Historic Jesus

Myrrh is a resinous substance that comes from the broken branches of a low shrub-like tree to be found in desert areas in the Middle East. The sap forms a hard ocher-colored resin that was gathered and used in a number of products. The oil used for anointing the ark and the tabernacle when they were consecrated (Exod. 30.23-33) contained myrrh. it was used in the purification rites for women and, because of its fragrant pleasing odor, as a base in cosmetic oils and perfumes. The magi included myrrh among their gifts to Jesus.

Myrrh has a powerful narcotic effect and was combined with wine as a painkiller and soporific. At his crucifixion, Jesus refused a mixture of wine and myrrh. Later he drank vinegar, or a fermented acidic drink commonly used by laborers and soldiers to quench their thirst.

Myrrh was also used to anoint a corpse. The powerful aroma counteracted the stench of decomposition. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea used a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes when they wrapped the body of Jesus in a linen shroud John 19.38-39). The women who went to the tomb probably included myrrh among the spices they brought as an expression of their love for Jesus.