Jesus embalmed?

I was given the book A Year With Mary by Paul Thigpen, copyright 2015 by St. Benedict Press, in which page 251, first paragraph states,

“Mary, with the body of her Son locked in her arms, was absorbed in grief. The holy disciples, fearful that the poor mother might die of grief, approached her to take the body from her arms, to bear it away for burial. This they did with gentle and respectful force and having embalmed it, they wrapped it in linen cloth already prepared”.

I’ve never heard of Jesus being embalmed in all my 12 years of Catholic schooling, and every query online, including this forum, refudiates this concept. Yet this book is from a well known apologetics author. Where does this “embalming of Jesus” originate from, and how can it be eradicated from future publications?

It comes from this passage in the Gospel of John:

Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom.

  • John 19:39-40

According to Oxford Dictionaries:


  1. Preserve (a corpse) from decay, originally with spices and now usually by arterial injection of a preservative.
  1. *archaic *Give a pleasant fragrance to.

In the modern world we think of embalming as injecting a deceased body with many chemicals. In the ancient world some cultures would remove organs from the deceased. In ancient Judaism they did neither, they simply anointed the deceased body with oils and spices to cover the smell of decomposition.

Some say that Jesus was embalmed since anointing his body with myrrh, aloes, and spices does meet the technical definition of embalming, however as you point out, it can be a bit misleading.

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