# Kreeft’s Case Against the Swoon Theory – Part 10: The Weight of the Spices in John 19:39

In my discussion of **Objection #4** against the *Swoon Theory* in Part 9 of this series, I made the following claim:

It turns out that 30 liters of a 50/50 mixture of these substances would weigh **about 28 to 38 pounds.**

The “substances” referred to here are the myrrh and aloes that Nicodemus allegedly brought to the tomb of Jesus to prepare Jesus’ body for burial, according to John 19:39.

Here is how one NT scholar characterizes the “myrrh and aloes” that were allegedly brought to Jesus’ tomb:

Mixture of myrrh and aloes was well known among Jews. Myrrh is a fragrant resin, often used by Egyptians in embalming, but by Jews rendered into powdered form; so also aloes are a powdered aromatic sandalwood.

Word Biblical Commentary: John, 2nd edition, by George Beasley-Murray, p. 359

So, the myrrh was a fragrant resin that was rendered into powdered form. Interestingly, myrrh resin in powdered form is readily available today. You can even purchase it online from Amazon:

According to the NT scholar Beasley-Murray (quoted above) “aloes” in John 19:39 refers to “a powdered aromatic sandalwood”. That too can be easily obtained online from Amazon:

However, the term “aloes” is ambiguous, as indicated in the *HarperCollins Bible Dictionary*:

HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, revised edition, p.25

aloes…any plant of the genus Aloe. The aloes mentioned in the Bible are not the bitter, medicinal plant with which we are all familiar, but a fragrant wood of either an eaglewood or sandalwood tree used as perfume. In Ps. 45:8 and Song of Sol. 4:14, it is listed along with other fragrant spices such as myrrh and cassia. Some sholars think that the aloes brought for Jesus’ burial in John 19:39 do refer to the medicinal aloes, which were used by the Egyptians in embalming.

So, “aloes” could refer either to a substance derived from a certain type of “bitter, medicinal plant”, or it could refer to “a fragrant wood of either an eaglewood or sandalwood tree”.

The quote from NT scholar Beasley-Murray above interprets “aloes” in John 19:39 as a reference to “a powdered aromatic sandalwood.” But another NT scholar, Keener, thinks “aloes” in John 19:39 is a reference to a product from a medicinal plant:

Aloe is a Semitic word used of perfume in the OT (Ps 45:8…; Prov 7:17; Song 4:14). Probably these came from the Aloe vera of south-western Arabia…

The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 2, by Craig Keener, footnote 835, p.1163

*Aloe vera* can come in powdered form, and it too is readily available today. You can order Aloe vera powder from Amazon:

Because of the ambiguity of the term “aloes” in John 19:39, we will need to consider two different questions:

Q1: How much would 15 liters of myrrh (i.e. powdered myrrh resin) combined with 15 liters of powdered sandalwood weigh?

Q2: How much would 15 liters of myrrh (i.e. powdered myrrh resin) combined with 15 liters of powdered Aloe vera weigh?

15 LITERS OF POWDERED MYRRH RESIN & 15 LITERS OF POWDERED SANDALWOOD

First, we need data on the density of powdered myrrh resin. One company that sells myrrh powder from India is called *Amazon Discovery *(not to be confused with *Amazon*). This company provides a physical analysis of their myrrh powder that includes density:

The density is listed as .55 grams per milliliter. One liter = 1,000 milliliters. That means that one liter of this myrrh powder would weigh 1,000 x .55 grams = 550 grams. If myrrh powder weighs 550 grams/liter, then 15 liters of myrrh powder would weigh 15 x 550 grams = 8,580 grams = 8.58 kilograms = **18.9 pounds.**

In addition to the above physical analysis of myrrh gum powder sold by *Amazon Discovery*, I found an Etsy ad for 1 pound of myrrh gum powder, and it stated that there are about 3 cups of powder in one pound of myrrh gum powder:

3 cups = .71 liters. Thus, .71 liters of myrrh gum powder weighs about 1 pound. Therefore, 15 liters of myrrh gum powder would weigh more than 15 pounds, namely 15/.71 pounds = **21.1 pounds.** This estimate is fairly close to the previous estimate of **18.9 pounds**. So, I will just use *the average between these two estimates*:

(21.1 pounds + 18.9 pounds)/2 = 40.0 pounds/2 = 20.0 pounds.

Therefore, a reasonable estimate is that *15 liters of myrrh gum powder* weighs *about 20 pounds.*

How about powdered sandalwood? How much would 15 liters of powdered sandalwood weigh? One particular brand of powdered sandalwood comes in a one-pound quantity, and the dimensions of the package are given in the Amazon product description:

8 inches x 6 inches x 2 inches = 96 cubic inches. 96 cubic inches = 1.573 liters. So, 1 pound of powdered sandalwood has a volume of about 1.573 liters. Thus, 15 liters of powdered sandalwood will weigh *less than* 15 pounds. Specifically, the weight of 15 liters of powdered sandalwood = (15 liters/1.573 liters) pounds = **aprox. 9.536 pounds**.

A different brand of powdered sandalwood provided 13.4 ounces of powder in a package that measures 6.73 inches by 4.88 inches by 3.31 inches:

6.73 inches x 4.88 inches x 3.31 inches = 108.7 cubic inches = **1.7813 liters.**

13.4 ounces = **.8375 pounds**

Density = **.8375 pounds/1.7813 liters.**

15 liters x (.8375 pounds/1.7813 liters) = (15 liters/1.7813 liters) x .8375 pounds

= 8.4208 x .8375 pounds = **aprox. 7.052 pounds**

This weight is in the ballpark with the weight I previously calculated based on a different brand of powdered sandalwood. So, I will use the average of these two weights as my estimated weight for 15 liters of powdered sandalwood:

9.536 pounds + 7.052 pounds = 16.588 pounds.

16.588 pounds/2 = 8.294 pounds or **aprox. 8.3 pounds for 15 liters of powdered sandalwood.**

Therefore, 30 liters of a 50/50 mixture of powdered myrrh gum and powdered sandalwood is going to weigh about 20.0 pounds (for 15 liters of myrrh) plus 8.3 pounds (for 15 liters of sandalwood) = 28.3 pounds or **about 28 pounds.**

15 LITERS OF POWDERED MYRRH RESIN & 15 LITERS OF POWDERED ALOE VERA

But “aloes” in John 19:39 might well refer to *powdered Aloe vera* plant rather than to *powdered sandalwood*, and powdered Aloe vera might weigh less (or more) than powdered sandalwood. So, we also need to determine how much *15 liters of powdered Aloe vera* weighs.

Here is the product description for the *Nova Nutritions* package of Aloe vera powder shown in one of the above photos:

One pound of this Aloe vera powder fits into a package with these dimensions:

8.2 inches x 2.7 inches x 2.2 inches = 48.708 cubic inches

One liter is 61.0237 cubic inches. So, we can use that liter-to-cubic inches ratio convert the cubic inches of the package size into liters:

48.708 cubic inches x (1 liter/61.0237 cubic inches) = (48.708/61.0237) liters

= 0.79818169 liters

Therefore, one pound of this Aloe vera powder has a volume of less than a liter, more specifically:

1.0 pound/0.79818169 liters

We can use this ratio of pounds-to-liters to calculate how much 15 liters of Aloe vera powder would weigh:

15.0 liters x (1.0 pound/0.79818169 liters) = (15.0/0.79818169) pounds

= 18.7927 pounds or *about 18.8 pounds*

Therefore, 15 liters of this Aloe vera powder from Nova Nutritions would weigh **about 18.8 pounds.**

*Naturevibe* sells a 5-pound package of Aloe vera powder:

We can use the dimensions of the package to derive a pounds-to-liters ratio for this Aloe vera powder:

NOTE: The label on the package indicates the contents weigh 80 ounces/5 pounds. The product details information shows a weight of 5.15 pounds. I believe the extra 0.15 pounds is *the weight of the packaging*, and *the content of the package* (the powder) weighs **5.0 pounds**.

Package volume = 9.8 inches x 7.6 inches x 3.6 inches = 268.128 cubic inches

One liter is 61.0237 cubic inches, so we can use this equivalence to convert the volume of the package from cubic inches to liters:

268.128 cubic inches x (1 liter/61.0237 cubic inches)

= (268.128 cubic inches/61.0237 cubic inches) liters = 4.39383 liters

That is the volume in liters that is taken up by 5.0 pounds of this Aloe vera powder. So, each pound takes up less than one liter. We can divide the liters of the volume of the package by 5.0 to determine the volume of just one pound of this powder:

4.39383 liters/5.0 = 0.878766 liters

Now that we have determined that one pound of this powder has a volume of 0.878766 liters, we can use this ratio to calculate how much 15.0 liters of this Aloe vera powder would weigh:

15.0 liters x (1.0 pound/0.878766 liters) = (15.0 liters/0.878766 liters) pounds

= 17.06939 pounds or about 17.1 pounds.

Therefore, 15 liters of Naturevibe Aloe vera powder would weigh **about 17.1 pounds.** This is in the same ballpark as the estimated weight of 15 liters of Nova Nutritions Aloe vera powder, so I will average the two weights to determine my estimate of the weight of 15 liters of Aloe vera powder:

*18.8 pounds* + 17.1 pounds = 35.9 pounds

35.9 pounds/2 = 17.95 pounds or about 18.0 pounds

Therefore, 15 liters of Aloe vera powder weighs ** about 18.0 pounds**.

We have previously determined that 15 liters of myrrh powder weighs about 20.0 pounds, so we can conclude that a 30-liter container of a 50/50 mixture of myrrh powder (15 liters) and Aloe vera powder (15 liters) would weigh about 20.0 pounds plus about 18.0 pounds = **about 38.0 pounds.**

CONCLUSIONS

30 liters of a 50/50 mixture of myrrh powder and sandalwood powder would weigh *about 28 pounds.*

30 liters of a 50/50 mixture of myrrh powder and Aloe vera powder would weigh **about 38 pounds.**

Because the term “aloes” is ambiguous (between sandalwood powder and Aloe vera powder), the statement made in John 19:39 might well imply EITHER that Nicodemus brought ** about 28 pounds** of “myrrh and aloes” to the tomb of Jesus OR that Nicodemus brought

**of “myrrh and aloes” to the tomb. To make sure that we don’t go beyond what John 19:39 was intended to claim, we should use the lower figure and make the weaker claim that he brought “between**

*about 38 pounds***about 28 pounds**and

**about 75 pounds**of a mixture of myrrh and aloes to the tomb”. (The “about 75 pounds” upper limit is based on the alternative interpretation of the Greek word “litras” in John 19:39 as “libras”, i.e. Roman pounds).