Domingo, 03 de Março de 2024
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'Annoynted' Christians

Anointing sick people with “holy oil” became common among the evangelical community. And not only the sick but anyone who needs some kind of help from God. One just needs to ask for prayer and there comes a pastor and his little bottle of oil ready to spill it over the supplicant’s forehead.

How did this practice arise? That's easy: the Bible. The Old Testament indeed speaks of anointing the sick. Striking, however, is how much value modern evangelicals give to the use of oil when this subject is so little mentioned in the Bible. A Pentecostal lady even came to me and said that anointing the sick is the main mission given by God to his people!!! Can you believe that?

As usual, such things always come hand-in-hand with superstition. People obviously believe that the use of oil truly and supernaturally heals and that’s why such practice is so popular. According to many people’s view, anointing is kind of a ritual, a gospel version of witch doctoring, full of superstitions associated with talismans, potions and mantras.

It's a shame that God’s people, through sheer ignorance, go down a path of superstition, believing in gospel sorcery and taken by so empty illusions. So let us try to correct some of these ideas, even though the mind of most "believers" today is closed to learn anything. All they want are fantastic experiences and empty promises, no matter what the Bible really teaches.

Well, anyway, let’s go on ... For starters we need to draw attention to the fact that anointing of the sick appears only twice in the New Testament: Mark 6:13 and James 5:14. This alone shows that this practice is not essential to promote healing. In fact, the Gospels narrate no cure in detail performed by anointing oil. Jesus healed many people without anointing one. Lucas, in his two books (the Gospel of Luke and Acts), even reporting numerous cases of sick being freed, says nothing about this practice. This is curious, because Luke was a physician (Col. 4:14) and would certainly give special attention to something strongly related with curing diseases. Matthew, Paul, Peter and John did not say anything about it either…

It is a fact that only two verses mention the use of oil throughout the NT what makes it clear that healing diseases did not require anointment. Thus, the remaining question is: If the anointing oil was not necessary to heal the sick, why does Mark 6:13 and James 5:14 speak of it?

A contextualized study about this practice in biblical times make clear, at first, that anointing a sick person with oil would bring them ease and refreshing – a simple way of granting some well-being to the bedridden one, who was grieved by the disease. Indeed, Psalms 23.5 and 133.1-3 show the invigorating value of anointing. In these texts, spilling oil on someone’s head is seen as something that brings pleasure. And it is very likely that Mark and James refer to it. If that is the case, instead of anointing the sick, modern pastors should find current ways to bring relief to them. That would meet James’ teaching much better than greasing someone’s head with cheap oil.

Another reason why Mark and James mention anointing is the symbolism associated with it. To anoint someone had the main meaning of setting aside for a specific purpose according to the Jewish mindset. So, Mark and (specially) James wrote against that background and probably talked about anointing to symbolize one’s separation and special need for God’s attention (that could also be true to symbolize God’s attention towards the sick). That way, to anoint the sick was as if the elder said: “We see you apart from others – someone who should receive special care from the Lord”.

James simply had humanitarian and symbolic goals in mind so he never said that anointing was necessary to heal the sick. Instead, he says: "And the prayer of faith shall save the sick..." (v.15). For him, anointing did not perform any miracle. It only brought relief and symbolized the special place the elders gave the ailing before God in their prayers.

In conclusion, we shall list the truths below:

1. The Bible rarely mentions the practice of anointing the sick. Only two verses refer to it, which shows that it is not required.

2. Anointment with oil is not necessary to cure sick people. In fact, no account specifically about cure is connected to such practice in the NT. The case of Mark 6:13 must be understood in the light of the next item.

3. The rarely mentioned use of oil in the NT had merely symbolic and humanitarian goals: to bring wellness to the sick and to symbolic separate him as special target of God’s favor.

Therefore, nothing justifies the great emphasis evangelicals give to anointment with oil today. Nor the tales they associate with it. To be honest, pastors should take into account the few biblical mentions to it plus our people’s inclination to mysticism and should avoid this practice. Knowing it is not something mandatory, they shouldn’t risk promoting superstition in the mind of people who are not familiar to biblical times’ manners.

Pr. Marcos Granconato

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