John 12:

3 Then Mary took about a pint of expensive perfume, made of pure nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.

Matthew 26:

14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Mary's expensive perfume was worth how many pieces of silver?

  • 1
    Thirty pieces of silver was the compensation for the loss of a servant, Exodus 21:32. Of the ointment, the text says merely 300 dinari. Who is asserting the equivalent of a year's wages ? What version are you quoting from, please ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 15:40

2 Answers 2


The perfume was worth quite a bit more than 30 pieces of silver (assuming Judas' appraisal of its value was in the right ballpark).

We aren't told what type of silver coin was used to pay Judas - let's consider 4 options:

A day's wages were roughly 1 drachma (~4.3 grams of silver)

  1. Tyrian shekel: 14 grams = 3.26 day's wages. Multiplied by 30 shekels = 98 day's wages

  2. Antioch stater: 15 grams = 3.49 day's wages. Multiplied by 30 staters = 105 day's wages

  3. Ptolemaic tetradrachm: 13.5 grams = 3.14 day's wages. Multiplied by 30 tetradrachms = 94 day's wages

  4. Athenian tetradrachm: 17.2 grams = 4 day's wages. Multiplied by 30 tetradrachms = 120 day's wages

Even if Judas was paid in the most valuable of the four, the Athenian tetradrachm, his fee for betrayal was only about a third the value of the perfume, which would have been worth:

  • ~91 pieces of the same silver coin if we use 365 day's wages
  • 75 pieces of the same silver coin if we use 300 day's wages (implied but not explicitly stated by the Greek, indicating "300 denarii")

Coin conversions from Wikipedia


There are a number of factors here.

  1. Exodus 21:32 - the loss of a servant as mentioned by Nijel J.
  2. Leviticus 27:4 - This symbolizes the redemption price of a bride, which was 30 shekels at that time. If the person is a female, the valuation shall be thirty shekels.

What follows next is from Jewish tradition, specifically regarding marriages. There are multiple steps involved in a Jewish marriage, and a good many are actually sprinkled through the ministry of Jesus. One of the steps involves a dowry for the bride. In Jesus's time, this would've been 30 pieces of silver. Another part of Jewish tradition is a gift of perfume is often used to anoint the bridal bed prior to consummation, which some traditions say that is how Mary came to possess the perfume. These are the elements of the a Jewish wedding that specifically relate to your question. They are essentially steps that Jesus is taking to marry his Bride (the Church). There are other elements in his ministry, but for the sake of space and specifics of your question, I won't elaborate unless requested.

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