We read in Jn 19: 38-40 how Jesus's body was embalmed before his burial:

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds (45.36 kilograms) . They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews

We also see in Lk 24: 1 how the women disciples of Jesus visited his tomb on Sunday :

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.

In the case of Lazarus, we do not see the mention of re-embalming of the body . Had it been done, Martha would have told Jesus that Lazarus was dead and cold in the tomb, rather than saying that his body would stink (Jn 11:39). That implies that the women disciples of Jesus went to his tomb on Sunday morning, to perform a Jewish ritual which was optional.

My question therefore is: According to Catholic scholars, did the women disciples of Jesus go to his tomb on Sunday morning, to perform an optional Jewish ritual?

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    If you don't get an answer, it's possibly simply a matter of timing. Jesus died at about 3pm. Following that, the soldiers had to confirm the death, a request had to be made to remove the body, the body had to be taken down and transported, and the tomb had to be prepared and sealed, all in time to allow people to return to their homes before 6pm for the Sabbath. The women might simply have wanted to do a better job than what had been rushed through the first time. Commented Mar 9, 2022 at 15:28
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    Agreed, but Jesus'body had been embalmed with 45.36 kilogram of spices before he was buried. Not a bad measure by today's standards . There is a possibility that the women carried spices just to give fragrance to the air in the tomb. Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 10:01

1 Answer 1


In early Jewish beliefs, the tomb would have remained open for three days, but no longer as the body would have decayed and begun to stink.

The tomb, however, was not immediately closed over the dead. During the first three days it was customary for the relatives to visit the grave to see whether the dead had come to life again (Massek. Sem. viii.; see Perles, "Leichenfeierlichkeiten," p. 10, and Brüll, "Jahrb." i. 51). -Jewish Encyclopedia-

Thus, it was so with Lazarus. It was past the three days and the belief was the body had begun to decompose.

Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

So, what about the women who go Sunday morning? The old joke was to finish and perfect the job the men had done, but the reality was to accomplish their understanding of who Jesus was; that is, the King. The King required more spices than a "servant".

But thou [Zedekiah king of Judea] shalt die in peace: and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings which were before thee, so shall they burn odours for thee; and they will lament thee, saying, Ah lord! for I have pronounced the word, saith the LORD. Jer 34:5

And they buried him [Asa the king of Judea] in his own sepulchres, which he had made for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odours and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries' art: and they made a very great burning for him. 2 Chron 16:14

Their realization began at Lazarus' house about a week earlier.

Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. ... Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. John 12:3, 7

This annointing was followed the next day at His triumphal entry on Sunday wherein they proclaimed Him king.

Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him [Jesus Christ], and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. John 12:13

It is quite the contrast between those proclaiming Him king and those preparing for His burial.

So, to answer the OP, while Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus had buried Jesus with a large amount of spices, for the women, it was not enough; indeed, it could never be enough for the King of kings.

  • It is customary for the Jews to to visit their deceased ones'graves on days when prayer is especially appropriate. This includes the Shloshim (thirtieth day from burial), on every Yartzeit (anniversary of passing), and on the days leading into Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Some also visit on the day before Rosh Chodesh (start of the new Hebrew month), and on the fifteenth day of each month.Since Jesus reportedly died on the 14th day of Nisan , and the next day 15th being Sabbath day, his friends made the customary visit to the grave on Sunday, which was but for the Sabbath, due on Saturday. Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 9:36

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