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 (Matt. 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 (Matt. 20:2), say two shillings of our money,
then the whole would be worth about 30 pounds, so costly was
Mary's offering.