Anointing

The application of oil (or similar substance) as a religious ceremony. In the OT, objects thus anointed included battleshields, sacred rocks, and tabernacle appurtenances, using unguents sternly forbidden elsewhere. Kings, priests, and prophets were solemnly anointed in God's name and presumed thereby to receive the Spirit. The enormity of slaying, even by command, the Lord's anointed remained. Symbolically, anointing is every believer's portion. Messiah is the Anointed One par excellence. In both Testaments, anointing symbolizes outpoured Spirit; experience remains potential, outward symbols are changed. Paganism too had its sacral anointings. Chrism, episcopally consecrated oil, is still used by Roman and Eastern churches for baptism, confirmation, ordination, and extreme unction, and by Anglicans for coronations and sporadically for the requesting sick. Roman Catholic extreme unction* is invalidly based on James 5:14f. which intended counsel to qualified apostles.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

a-noint’-ing: A distinction was made by the ancient Hebrews between anointing with oil in private use, as in making one’s toilet (cukh), and anointing as a religious rite (mashach).

1. Ordinary Use:

(1) As regards its secular or ordinary use, the native olive oil, alone or mixed with perfumes, was commonly used for toilet purposes, the very poor naturally reserving it for special occasions only (Ru 3:3). The fierce protracted heat and biting lime dust of Palestine made the oil very soothing to the skin, and it was applied freely to exposed parts of the body, especially to the face (Ps 104:15).



2. Religious Use:

Anointing as a religious rite was practiced throughout the ancient East in application both to persons and to things.

(1) It was observed in Canaan long before the Hebrew conquest, and, accordingly, Weinel (Stade’s Zeutschrift, XVIII, 50 ff) holds that, as the use of oil for general purposes in Israel was an agricultural custom borrowed from the Canaanites, so the anointing with sacred oil was an outgrowth from its regular use for toilet purposes. It seems more in accordance with the known facts of the case and the terms used in description to accept the view set forth by Robertson Smith (Religion of the Semites, 2nd ed., 233, 383 ff; compare Wellhausen, Reste des arabischen Heidenthums, 2nd ed., 125 ff) and to believe that the cukh or use of oil for toilet purposes, was of agricultural and secular origin, and that the use of oil for sacred purposes, mashach, was in origin nomadic and sacrificial. Robertson Smith finds the origin of the sacred anointing in the very ancient custom of smearing the sacred fat on the altar (matstsebhah), and claims, rightly it would seem, that from the first there was a distinct and consistent usage, distinguishing the two terms as above.

(2) The primary meaning of mashach in Hebrew, which is borne out by the Arabic, seems to have been "to daub" or "smear." It is used of painting a ceiling in Jer 22:14, of anointing a shield in Isa 21:5, and is, accordingly, consistently applied to sacred furniture, like the altar, in Ex 29:36 and Da 9:24, and to the sacred pillar in Ge 31:13: "where thou anointedst a pillar."


(4) Among the Hebrews it was believed not only that it effected a transference to the anointed one of something of the holiness and virtue of the deity in whose name and by whose representative the rite was performed, but also that it imparted a special endowment of the spirit of Yahweh (compare 1Sa 16:13; Isa 61:1). Hence the profound reverence for the king as a sacred personage, "the anointed" (Hebrew, meshiach YHWH), which passed over into our language through the Greek Christos, and appears as "Christ".


LITERATURE. Jewish Encyclopedia, article "Anointing"; BJ, IV, ix, 10, DB, article "Anointing," etc.

George B. Eager