Unction

UNCTION (ŭngk’shŭn, Gr. chrisma, anointing). The act of anointing, in the KJV found only in 1John.2.20. In 1John.2.27 the Greek is translated “anointing.”


A term for anointing with oil, used at baptism (and confirmation), ordination, coronations, consecrations of churches, on dead bodies, and on the sick. Called “chrism,”* it was linked with baptism almost universally from early times until the Reformation. It originally meant the consecration of Christians to the royal priesthood. It was also associated with the Spirit, especially when “laying on of hands” was dying out, signifying the gift of the Spirit at Christ's baptism.

For unction of the sick, the NT warrant was Mark 6:13; James 5:14f. Early references are many, and from the fifth century it is even more often cited, until Bede* could represent the rite as well established. The term “extreme unction” appeared first in Peter Lombard,* and from the twelfth century it was commonly regarded as a preparation for death, though in the Latin Rite it looks hopefully “for the health of body and soul.” From the thirteenth century it was numbered among the seven sacraments.* Aquinas* expounded the medieval doctrine, and official Roman Catholic teaching was established at the Council of Trent.*

The Greek Orthodox Church called the rite Euchelaion (“oil of prayer”). When administered in full the ceremony is very long, involving seven priests. Primarily aimed at physical cure, it is also frequently received as a preparation for Communion, even by those not ill. Other Eastern Churches have the rite, though it has gone out of use among the Ethiopians and Nestorians.

In Anglican usage, the First Prayer Book (1549) permitted anointing if the sick desired it. Later versions omitted it, though the Nonjurors* restored it. The Scottish and American prayer books (1929) and others make provision for it.

See F.W. Puller, The Anointing of the Sick in Scripture and Tradition (1904).


UNCTION (χρι̂σμα, G5984). The act of anointing; used of the effect of the Holy Spirit’s presence upon the believer (1 John 2:20 KJV; ASV Anointing; RSV Been Anointed). In 1 John 2:27 the same Gr. word is tr. Anointing in the KJV, ASV, and RSV.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

unk’-shun: The the King James Version translation of chrisma (1Joh 2:20), which the Revised Version (British and American) renders "anointing," as the King James Version renders the same word in 1Joh 2:27.