Anointing, a term used in the Torah and the New Testament, can refer both to people and objects such as oil. This week's clergy clarify what it means to be anointed.
The Rev. Kit Robison, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Baldwin:
Anointing of a person or oil really is used in the same way. It is about setting things apart for God. One is being given a gift by God, a gift before God. When we anoint people with oil, we're praying for them. The anointing is lifting them up, lifting the situation up to God.
I don't doubt that some people misunderstand the concept of anointed oil. We do say a blessing over the oil. The oil is a mechanism you hold onto while you say your prayers, but it is really the prayers and God doing the healing. That is different from what people think of as the old-fashioned concept of snake oil, which actually was supposed to have healing powers. It is the prayer that holds the power, and God who holds the power, not the oil.
It is much like we use water for Baptism and bread and wine for Communion. None of those things have power on their own. It is the power that is given to them by God and to us through them by virtue of prayer. Prayer is the way we communicate with God. When we anoint people with oil to heal them, we're asking God to heal them.
The other use of anointing has nothing to do with oil. It is conceptually similar, but it is that someone has received a blessing, power or gifts from God. A physical element is not involved, but it is still anointing. There are examples in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, Aaron and his sons were anointed to be priests. The anointing of the spirit for the purpose of teaching and ministry is from the New Testament.
Pastor Pete O'Leary, The Christian Church at Holbrook:
There is confusion, and people think it is some magical thing. When you try to find out what something means, at least from my perspective, you have to go back to the root word, to anoint. I go into the Bible and see how it is being used in Scripture in the Old and New Testaments.
There is both a Hebrew and a Greek definition, and both are the same. It means to rub or to place oil on, to consecrate someone or something. There are examples of the literal aspect of anointing in the Old Testament. The first, most significant anointing with oil is in Exodus 29 with Aaron and his sons when they were consecrated to be priests. Saul (1 Samuel 9) is anointed to be king of Israel, as King David (1 Samuel 16) was later. That is an example of the literal aspect that people get confused.
From a New Testament perspective, go to Jesus Christ. In the Greek translation, the name Christ means "the anointed one." It is not like God anointed him with oil. He consecrated him for a purpose. Christ says, "The Lord God anointed me to bring salvation." Luke (Luke 4:18) writes that the Lord anointed Christ with the Holy Spirit and power. Jesus set the standard. Paul refers in Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:21) of us being anointed by God in the same way, with the seal of ownership, and his spirit being placed in our hearts. We become disciples of God.
Pastor Kevin Profeta, associate pastor, Full Gospel Tabernacle, Massapequa
Anointing means to be set apart and be called by God. The anointed oil is symbolic of the spirit of God coming upon us. When God anointed someone, it was to empower them and strengthen them, to set the person apart and provide them with the wisdom that was going to be needed for the person's coming life.
We do give out anointed oil as an outward sign of God's power. We also have people who bring oil in to be anointed. Understand, the oil is an outward sign of power. The oil itself doesn't have the power. It is an outward sign of the fullness of the Holy Spirit coming into our lives, as our comforter. The New Testament explains that we're all filled with the Holy Spirit, but you have to have faith and believe. Just splashing oil or water on yourself is not enough. You have to have the understanding.
We believe the anointed oil is a transferring of the power of God. There was priestly oil in the temple that had things added to it that had specific purposes. The praying over the oil is an agreement and an acknowledgment, a setting apart. We do believe in anointing oil, but the oil in and of itself is nothing. It is the symbolic spirit of God.