What Was “an Alabaster Case”?
On two occasions, Jesus Christ was anointed with perfumed oil. This happened once at the house of a certain Pharisee in Galilee (Luke 7:37, 38) and again in the home of Simon the leper at Bethany. (Matt. 26:6, 7; Mark 14:3) In each instance, the costly oil was poured from an alabaster case.
Such small flasklike perfume vessels originally were made of a stone found near Alabastron, Egypt. The stone itself is a form of calcium carbonate (not to be confused with modern alabaster, a hydrated calcium sulfate). Usually the original alabaster is white, but sometimes it has streaks of other colors, since it is a stalagmite formation.
Depicted here is an ancient Hellenistic alabaster flask from Egypt. The women who anointed Jesus on the occasions just mentioned each had “an alabaster case” of expensive perfumed oil. Those vaselike containers may well have been similar to this one bearing the inscription “cinnamon.”