Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity Online

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Named from the late Latin incensus (“burnt incense”), incense refers to the gum of trees that when burnt create sweet-smelling odors. Frankincense (olibanum in Latin with cognates in Hebrew, Greek, and other ancient languages) is generally considered the most significant, and comes from trees of the species Boswellia. Across most cultures of the ancient world, incense was used extensively as a perfume to counteract unpleasant smells or to create a pleasant, sweet-smelling environment. The earliest doc…

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Yates, Benedict, “Incense”, in: Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity Online, General Editor David G. Hunter, Paul J.J. van Geest, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte. Consulted online on 21 September 2023 <>
First published online: 2022

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