views updated May 18 2018


The smearing or pouring of an unctuous substance, especially olive oil, on a person, both as a utilitarian practice and as a symbolic ceremony. It was an ancient custom among various peoples, particularly in the Near East. Of special interest here is the custom of anointing as described in the Bible and the medieval ceremony of anointing high dignitaries in Church and State when they entered upon their offices. (For the religious ceremony of anointing as an essential or a secondary part in the administration of the Christian Sacraments, see anointing of the sick, i, ii.)

In the Bible. The anointing of persons and objects with oil or an unctuous substance was a frequent occurrence in the Bible. It had both a secular use and a religious use and significance.

Secular Use. Anointing had many uses in biblical times. Its sanitary and therapeutic benefits were recognized at an early date. Palestine, with its semitropical and dry climate in the summer, made the smearing of oil on one's body almost a necessity, if not for health at least for comfort. Because of exposure to the sun and wind people used olive oil, sometimes scented, as a body lubricant after bathing (Ru 3.3; Ez 16.9; Dn 13.17; Ps 103[104].15). Mourners abstained from ointment (2 Sm 14.2; Dn 10.3) since it was a sign of joy (Is 61.3; Mt 6.7). Oil bases were used for perfumed cosmetics (Dt 28.40; Jdt 10.3; 2 Sm 14.2). As a sign of respect a host anointed the head of a guest (Mt 26.7; Lk 7.46; Ps 22[23]).5). The anointing of the feet of a guest had a special significance of humble devotion and respect (Lk 7.28, 46; Jn 12.3). Released captives were clothed, fed, and anointed (2 Chr 28.15). Various ointments were used for curing wounds and bruises (Is 1.6; Mk 6.13; Lk 10.34). Corpses were anointed in preparation for burial (Mk 16.1; Lk 23.56; Jn 19.39; see burial, ii).

Religious Use. Both persons and objects were anointed for religious purposes. It would appear that the notion of a constitutive blessing was basic to this custom, which belonged to the process of setting apart either a person or thing for religious use. Jacob thus anointed the memorial pillar that he erected at Bethel (Gn 28.18; 35.14; see stones, sacred [in the bible]). The tent of meeting and its sacred furniture and utensils were anointed with an expertly prepared ointment (Ex 30.2233; 40.1011). There seems, however, to be no reason to believe that implements of war were anointed with sacred oil, though they were apparently smeared with oil or fat as a preservative (2 Sm 1.21; Is 21.5).

The practice of anointing persons was a ceremony usually performed on only priests and kings. The consecration of priests was prescribed in the rather late texts of Ex 28.4042; 29.146; 30.3033, where the evidence points to the limitation of consecration by anointing to the class from which the high priests came, while there was no anointing for the ordinary members of the priestly tribe of levi. The anointing of prophets is generally interpreted as analogical to that of kings (1 Kgs 19.16; Is 61.1). In poetry the whole people are called Yahweh's anointed (Ps 104[105].15).

Among the laypeople only the kings on their ascendance to the throne were consecrated by an anointing. A high priest or prophet anointed the head of the king, who henceforth was regarded as the anointed (māšiāh, whence Messiah) of the Lord (1 Sm 10.1; 16.13; 1 Kgs 1.39). The right of succession to the throne was assured by the ceremony of anointing (2 Kgs 9.3; 11.12; 23.30; 2 Chr 23.11). The consecration of Israelite kings was similar to that of their neighbors, but its significance rested in its particular Yahwistic religious meaning rather than in any borrowed elements of the rite. The kings of Israel were inviolable because they were the "anointed of Yahweh" (1 Sm 24.7; 26.9, II, 16, 23; 2 Sm 1.14, 16; 9.22). (see messiah; messianism.)

Religious Significance. The peculiar significance of the anointing of persons rested in their consecration to the service of the Lord. The Bible took this point for granted and did not dwell on it at length. The anointed was separated from others and placed directly under the authority of God. Among the few certain parallels in extra-biblical literature, the Amarna Letters (51.69; 34.51) record two ceremonies of religious investiture. The anointing of Hazael as king of Damascus by the prophet elisha might not have been a strictly religious rite despite the fact that the king became an instrument for the visitation of divine wrath upon unfaithful Israelites (1 Kgs 19.15). Although the enthronement of the king was a religious ceremony, the voice of, at least, the tribal leaders of the people had great weight in the selection or acceptance of a king (2 Sm 2.4, 7; 5.3; 1 Kgs 12.219; 2 Kgs 23.30). Some scholars have presumed that the original ceremony of the anointing of kings was at first secular in nature and then given a religious form. Israelite enthronement, however, always had a religious character. Its particular significance rested in the fact that the king became God's chosen one invested with His spirit and guarded by His special providence (1 Sm 10.1; 16.13). The king was thus a leader divinely endowed to carry out the wishes of Yahweh.

See Also: kingship in the ancient near east.

Bibliography: e. cothenet, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot et al. (Paris 1928) 6:701732. e. kutsch and g. delling, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 5:133032. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963), from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek 9295. r. de vaux, Ancient Israel, Its Life and Institutions, tr. j. mchugh (New York 1961) 103106, 398400. j. de fraine, L'Aspect religieux de la royauté Israélite (Rome 1954). a. r. johnson, Sacral Kingship in Ancient Israel (Cardiff 1955). d. lys, "L'Onction dans la Bible," Études théologiques et religieuses 29 (1954) 354. c. r. north, "The Religious Aspects of Hebrew Kingship," Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 50 (1932) 838. r. patai, "Hebrew Installation Rites," Hebrew Union College Annual 20 (1947) 143255.

[g. t. kennedy]

Anointing in the Middle Ages. The practice of anointing, derived from biblical tradition (1 Sm 10.6), which was in turn perhaps inspired by Egyptian and Canaanite practices (E. Kutsch, Salbung als Rechtsakt im alten Testament u. im alten Orient [Berlin 1963]), became an integral part of the enthronement ceremonies of kings, popes, and emperors during the high Middle Ages. Anointing was in effect the traditional procedure for transferring a man or object from a profane to a sacred status. Used in the first centuries of Christianity for the confirmation of catechumens and for ordination of priests and bishops, it was employed by the visigoths (M. Ferotin, "Le liber ordinum en usage dans l'église wisigothique," Monumenta ecclesiae liturgica, 5 [1904]) and the franks in ceremonies relating to their sovereigns.

Anointing in France. When, with papal approval pepin iii superseded the merovingians and was elected king of the Franks in 751, he had himself anointed by St. boniface to set the seal of legitimacy on his rule; this anointing was renewed by Pope stephen ii in 754 at saint-denis. Pope leo iii added coronation to this anointing for charlemagne in 800. Anointing and coronation were again combined in the ceremony performed at Reims in 816 for Emperor Louis the Pious. The head of the emperor was anointed with holy oil to indicate his status as protector of the Church. This rite was retained by the Carolingians and was renewed by the Capetians. As a consecrated person, gratia Dei Rex, the king of France exercised a thaumaturgic power; Charles X in 1825 was the last to claim its use. The Plantagenets exercised an analogous power in England, patterned upon the French example. The author of the Songe du Verger, however, was anxious to assert the independence of the king from the clergy and contended that the miracle-working power of kings was not derived from anointing. Anointing exalts the king above the laity and grants him status approximating that of priests (i.e., makes them sacerdotalis ministerii participes, said Guido of Osnabrüick [De controversia inter Hildebrandum et Heinricum, Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Libelli de lite (Berlin 1826) 1:467]). Enhanced as the custom was by legendary tales, it furnished a weighty argument in favor of the pretensions of the Capetians in Church affairs and bolstered the prestige of the French monarchy not only in France but even among foreign princes. For, according to legend, the holy oil used was of divine origin. Kept in the Abbey of saint-remi in Reims, it assured this city the privilege of being the site of all royal anointing and coronation, with the exceptions of King henry iv at Chartres, and napoleon i at Paris. The ritual followed in the coronation ceremonies is known from liturgical manuals, the Ordines ad consecrandum et coronandum regem. One of these ceremonials, drawn up at Reims toward the end of the reign of King louis ix (Ordo ad inungendum regem ) is particularly explicit (de Pange, Le roi, 374378). The coronation book of Charles V (1364) likewise gives a detailed description. The unction took place during combined anointing-coronation ceremonies in the cathedral. The king knelt, and the archbishop of Reims anointed him on the head, breast, shoulders, and elbows. The Traité du sacre, drawn up by the Carmelite Jean Golein in the entourage of Charles V (extracts, M. Bloch, Les rois, 478488), described the ritual and simultaneously explained its symbolism, stressing the religious character of royal power. The anointing ceremony in France generally enjoyed high political significance. It served to bolster the tenets of gallicanism, and even when critics challenged the basic concepts of anointing, it was to re-main, as Étienne Pasquier stated, "most fitting for every good citizen to accept them, for the sake of the majesty of Empire." Eager to stress the anointing of bishops as a rite superior to the anointing of princes, Pope innocent iii, in a letter (Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 271 v., indexes 4 v. [Paris 187890] 213:284) reproduced in the Compilatio III and in the Decretals of gregory ix (Corpus iuris canonici, ed. E. Friedberg [Leipzig 187981; repr. Graz 1955] X, declared that only bishops should be anointed on the head with chrism, while kings were to be anointed with holy oil on shoulders and arms only.

Anointing in England. The ritual dates at least from the time of King Egbert of Mercia at the Council of Chelsea (787). His anointing, doubtless patterned after Frank-ish practice, became normal for the whole of Anglo-Saxon England and became part of the coronation ceremony (see the Egbert Pontifical, 9th century; ed. Publications of the Surtees Society 27 [1853]). In the course of time certain variations were introduced into the rite. Thus, in the reign of King Henry I only the head of the king was anointed. The unction of shoulders and arms appeared at the end of the 12th century, but already in 1154 henry ii had been anointed on the head, breast, and arms. In the 13th century, Henry III adopted the Reims ceremony as a pattern for the coronation of the English sovereign at westminster abbey (Richardson, 136150).

Anointing in the Empire. The Carolingian tradition was maintained both for the German king and for the emperor, and although both offices were most often held by one and the same person, a distinction was maintained between royal and imperial anointing.

Royal Anointing. In conformity with biblical and Carolingian tradition the German king required anointing, the ceremony that conferred on him supernatural graces for the exercise of his functions, and that, according to the theology of the 12th century, possessed a sacramental character. The king was exalted above the laity; he was rex et sacerdos. Anointing imprinted upon the king a quasi-indelible character, which, during the investiture struggle, was set forward as the reason no king could be deposed. Although Henry I (r. 919936) refused anointing, his son otto i received it (936), and the tradition was respected thereafter (Sachsenspiegel, Ldr. III, 52.1). It was united to the coronation ceremony that was held at aachen. Until 1028 the archbishop of Mainz had the privilege of crowning and anointing; after this it became the right of the archbishop of Cologne, on whom the diocese of Aachen depended (C. Vogel, Ephemerides liturgicae [1960], 153, n.25, 155; Pontifical romano-germanique, 1:252254). After the Great Interregnum (125073) anointing and coronation of the king lost their importance.

Imperial Anointing. Imperial coronation and anointing were reintroduced when Otto I, already king of Germany (936), became emperor (962). From this time forward the two ceremonies were performed at St. Peter's in Rome, even during the period of the avignon papacy, when Emperors Henry VII (1312) and Charles IV (1355) were anointed and crowned in Rome by cardinals. It was this twin ceremony that created the emperor and introduced him into the ordo clericalis. At first the imperial anointing closely imitated episcopal anointing, but the imperial ceremony was gradually modified to eliminate any confusion between the two and to circumvent any unfounded pretensions on the part of the emperor with respect to the Church. The 12th-century Roman pontifical (Andrieu, Pontifical romain 1:251, 253; 2:383, 389) describes the anointing ceremony thus: "using blessed oil, the bishop of Ostia is to anoint him on the right arm and between the shoulder blades." While performing the anointing the bishop is to recite the consecration prayer in which he declares that the emperor has been constitutus ad regendam ecclesiam (on the ritual, see Andrieu, Ordines romani, 4:459, 503; and C. Vogel, Pontifical romano-germanique, 1:263266). The anointing between the shoulder blades instead of on the head, and with merely blessed oil instead of chrism, which was used for bishops, underscored the inferiority of the imperial anointing, while the increasing precision of sacramental theology denied sacramental character to imperial anointing. For their part, the theorists treating of imperial power were at pains to assert their independence of the pope and declared that imperial power was acquired prior to the coronation ceremony, that the anointing conferred only the name and not the imperial power (gerhoh of reichersberg, De investigatione Antechristi 1:40; Braunschweiger Reichsweistum of 1252). The Sachsenspiegel, however, (Ldr. III, 52.1) and the golden bull of 1356 still made imperial power depend on pontifical anointing, and imperial coronations continued to be held in Rome until 1452.

Anointing and Consecration of the Pope. In the Middle Ages anointing was only one of the ceremonies marking the enthronement of a pope; in fact, it was required only in order to confer on him episcopal consecration. Consequently, anointing was part of the enthronement ceremonies only when the pope-elect was not already a bishop. This was the case with each new pope during the period in which the law, forbidding the transfer of bishops from one see to another, was strictly observed (Roman Synod of 769; Ordo Romanus IX, c. 5). But from the 11th century the pope was usually chosen from among the bishops, and thus the episcopal consecration was rarely a necessary part of the enthronement.

It was, however, the example of the episcopal consecration of the new pope that had inspired the imperial ritual, and the symmetry of imperial and papal enthronement was to symbolize and justify an equality of powers. The description of the papal rite given by the liber diurnus (no. 57) probably goes back to the 6th century, and this text remained the basis of the ordinatio pontificis until the 13th century. The Ordo Romanus IX, c. 5 (first half of 9th century, reproduced with slight variations in the Collection of deusdedit 2.13 [ed. W. von Glanvell, 240]), described a similar ceremony, and though it is not an official document, it probably represents the practice followed from the 10th to the 11th centuries. The Romano-German Pontifical no. 71, composed shortly after 950 by a monk of St. Alban in Mainz (cf. Ordo XL B in C. Vogel, Pontifical romano-germanique 1:245), kept the formula of the Liber diurnus 57, with a few additions. The Roman Pontifical of the 12th century, ch. 33 (Andrieu, ibid. 1:249) remains faithful to that of the 10th century. The Ordo Romanus XIV (ibid. 2:380382) gives a description of the rite as it was observed between approximately the 7th and the end of the 13th century: prior to consecration the new pope was merely the electus. Consecration took place at St. Peter's the Sunday following the election. As was necessary prior to the 11th century, the new pope was consecrated bishop during the Mass, between the Kyrie and the Gloria, by the bishop of Ostia (L. Duchesne, ed., Liber pontificalis, v. 12 [Paris 188692] 1:202, 360; 2:175). After prostrating himself before the confessio of St. Peter and then at the altar, the pope-elect was helped to his feet by the consecrating bishops, who placed the open gospel book on his head and shoulders and then recited the prayer of consecration while laying their hands upon his head. The prayer preserved in the Romano-German Pontifical (Andrieu, Pontifical romain 1:147) refers to a "heavenly" anointing; but texts prior to the 10th century fail to indicate a physical anointing of the pope-elect. The consecration was effected simply by the laying-on of hands and reciting the appropriate prayer.

The break between Rome and Byzantium and the concurrently growing influence of the Franks in the 9th and 10th centuries explain the introduction of anointing at Rome in the first half of the 10th century. Anointing was in fact unknown to the Oriental liturgy, while in the Frankish liturgy it was employed for bishops, priests, and princes. Inspired by imperial practice, papal anointing took place immediately after the consecration prayer, which had previously alluded to a celestial anointing. Holy chrism was used in anointing the head of the pope, whereas the emperor was thence-forth anointed only on the arms and neck with oil used in exorcism. The rite of papal consecration, however, never developed beyond this point, because the disappearance of the ban on episcopal translation in the 11th century generally brought an end to the rite of anointing in the ceremony of papal enthronement (see L. Duchesne, ed., Liber pontificalis, 2:296 ; Ordo Romanus XII [Censius, c. 1192] in J. Mabillon, Musaeum italicum 2:165 ; and Ordines Romani XIII [1275] and XIV [1311]).

Bibliography: t. godefroy, Le Cérémonial de France, 2 v. (Paris 1649). r. poupardin, "L'Onction impériale," Moyen âge 18 (1905) 113126. m. bloch, Les Rois thaumaturges (Strasbourg 1924). p. e. schramm, "Die Krönung bei den Westfranken und Angelsachsen von 878 bis um 1000." Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Kanonistische Abteilung 23 (1934) 117242; "Die Krönung in Deutschland bis zu Beginn des salischen Hauses (1028)," ibid. 24 (1935) 184332; "Der König von Frankreich: Wahl, Krönung, Erbfolge und Königsidee vom Anfang der Kapetinger (987) bis zum Ausgang des MAs," ibid. 25 (1936) 222354; 26 (1937) 161284; Der König von Frankreich, 2 v. (2d ed. Weimar 1960). h. w. klewitz, "Die Krönung des Papstes," Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Kanonistische Abteilung 61 (1941) 96130. j. de pange, Le Roi très chrétien (Paris 1949). e. eichmann, Die Kaiserkrönung im Abendland, 2 v. (Würzburg 1942); Weihe und Krönung des Papstes im Mittelalter (Munich 1951). c. a. bouman, Sacring and Crowning Anointing of Kings and the Coronation of the Emperor before the 11th Century (Groningen 1957). Ordines coronationis imperialis, ed. r. elze, Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Fontes Iuris Germanici 9 (1960). h. g. richardson, "The Coronation in Medieval England," Traditio 16 (1960) 111202. m. andrieu, Les "Ordines Romani" du haut moyen-âge, 5 v. (Louvain 193161). m. andrieu, Le Pontifical Romain au moyen-âge, 4 v. (Rome 193841). c. vogel, "Précisions sur la date et l'ordonnance primitive du Pontifical romano-germanique," Ephemerides liturgicae 74 (1960) 145162. c. vogel and r. elze, eds., Le Pontifical romano-germanique du dixième siècle, 2 v. (Studi e Testi 226, 227; 1963). Also profitable are the articles in Sacral Kingship (Studies in the History of Religions 4; Leiden 1959).

[j. gaudemet]


views updated Jun 11 2018


ANOINTING . The anointing of persons and objects with oil was widespread in ancient Israel and its environment for both practical and symbolical reasons. Its most practical usage was cosmetic, and for medicinal purposes (see *Cosmetics).

Aside from its cosmetic and therapeutic functions, anointment was an important component of ritual formularies. The anointment of vassals was not a mere ceremonial trapping: "As oil penetrates your flesh, so may they [the gods] make this curse enter into your flesh" (D.J. Wiseman, The Vassal-Treaties of Esarhaddon (1958), lines 622–4, p. 78; cf. Ps. 109:18; for the use of oil in the making of a covenant, see Hos. 12:2; see McCarthy in bibl.). The main role of symbolic anointment in the ancient Near East, however, was to solemnize formally an elevation in legal status: the manumission of a slave woman, the transfer of property, the betrothal of a bride, and the deputation of a vassal. Israel continued the Syrian and Anatolian practice of anointing the king (El Amarna Letter 51:4–9, see below). The consecration of a priest involved anointing, a practice attested at Emar in Central Syria in the thirteenth century b.c.e. The Bible also requires anointing for the rehabilitation of persons afflicted with certain skin diseases. The above cases indicate that in Israel symbolic unction took place in the cult but not in legal proceedings. The attribute mashi'aḥ ("anointed") came to designate the king and the high priest and, by extension, other divinely appointed functionaries who were not anointed at all, e.g., the prophets (i Kings 19:16b, 19b; Isa. 61:1), the patriarchs (Ps. 105:15), and even foreign kings (i Kings 19:15; Isa. 45:1; cf. ii Kings 8:7). This figurative use of mshḥ is not a late development since it is already attested in Ugaritic (76:ii, 22–23; cf. Ps. 89:21 and 25). Eventually it was applied to the messiah (the very word being taken from the Hebrew "anointed").

In Israel, anointment conferred upon the king the ru'aḥ yhwh ("the spirit of the Lord"), i.e., His support (i Sam. 16:13–14; 18:12), strength (Ps. 89:21–25), and wisdom (Isaiah 11:1–4; see *Messiah). The king absorbs divine attributes through unction. The anointment of the high priest served an entirely different function. It conferred neither ru'aḥ nor any other divine attribute. Moses, for example, transferred his powers (by hand-laying) upon a ru'aḥ-endowed Joshua (Num. 27:18–20), but when he transfers the high priest's authority from Aaron to his son Eleazar, these spiritual features are conspicuously absent (Num. 20:25 ff.). The high priest's anointment is otherwise designated by the verb kadesh (qaddesh; "to sanctify"). Indeed, the anointment "sanctifies" the high priest by removing him from the realm of the profane and empowering him to operate in the realm of the sacred, i.e., to handle the sancta, such as the oracle. The high priest was anointed in conjunction with the cult objects (Ex. 40:9–15), and the latter practice is found in the oldest portions of the Bible (anointment of pillars, Gen. 28:18; 31:13; 35:14). The story of Solomon's anointment by the high priest Zadok (i Kings 1:39) leads us to the assumption that the royal unction is a derivative of the unction of the high priest. The story could not be an interpolation of the priestly editors, since the latter would by their own laws have condemned Zadok to death (by God) for the crime of anointing a zar, a non-priest (Ex. 30:33). On the contrary, this incident complements the image of the king in the historical narratives: since he may officiate at the sacred altar like a priest (e.g., i Kings 3:4; 8:63–64), why should he not be similarly anointed with the sacred oil?

According to the priestly source, the sons of Aaron were anointed along with him. Though the word mashaḥ is used in Exodus (e.g., 40:15a), it means only that they received the sacred oil and implies nothing about the manner of its application. Indeed, the respective ceremonies differ sharply: the sons were sprinkled (hzh) after the sacrificial service (Ex. 29:21), whereas Aaron's head was doused (yẓk) separately, before the service (v. 7). Furthermore, whereas each succeeding high priest was anointed while his father was still in office (Lev. 6:15), the anointing of the first priests was never repeated; it was to be valid for their posterity (Ex. 40:15b). This concept is proven to be ancient, for it is found in the El-Amarna letters (51:4–9), where a vassal stakes his authority on his grandfather's anointment.

The leper was anointed on the eighth and concluding day of his purification ritual, but the oil was not sacred. The "waving" and the sevenfold sprinkling of the oil "before the Lord" (Lev. 14:12, 16), even before it can be used on the leper, are not rites of consecration but of purification; moreover, the indispensable verb mshḥ is tellingly absent. Perhaps even the "change of status" is operative: the ostracism of the erstwhile leper is ended, and he is free to reenter society. However, an apotropaic function may also be present.

[Jacob Milgrom]

In the Talmud

According to the Talmud the anointing oil was compounded only once in Jewish history, by Moses (Ex. 30:31–33), and the supply made by him sufficed for the whole period from the anointing of Aaron and his sons until the residue was hidden away by Josiah. Anointing oil was therefore not used for the kings and high priests after Josiah, and it was one of the five appurtenances used in the First Temple but not in the Second.

After the anointment of Aaron and his sons only high priests and the priest anointed for war (the appellation of the Talmud for the priest mentioned in Deut. 20:2 ff.; Mishnah Sotah 8:1) were anointed. Every high priest and "priest anointed for war" was anointed, the former even if he succeeded his father as high priest.

On the other hand, from Solomon onward only kings of the Davidic dynasty whose succession was disputed or was in doubt were anointed (as was Jehu, see below). Where the succession was natural and undisputed no anointing took place. Thus Solomon was anointed on account of the rival claims of Adonijah (i Kings 1:39), Joash because of Athaliah (ii Kings 11:12), and Jehoahaz because Jehoiakim was his senior by two years (ii Kings 23:30).

This anointing of David and his descendants was by oil poured from a horn. For Saul, the only non-Davidic king to be anointed with oil, a cruse was used (i Sam. 16:13) since "his kingdom was not a lasting one."

The kings of the northern secessionist kingdom of Israel were not anointed with oil but with balsam, as was Jehoahaz of Judah since Josiah had hidden away the anointing oil. The statement that Jehu was anointed (with balsam) because of his dispute with Joram would appear to suggest that even in the case of the kings of Israel anointing took place only in the case of disputed succession but it would, of course, have applied to each usurping king and founder of a dynasty, though not to his descendants (cf. Ker. 5b with Hor. 11b).

In the anointing of kings the whole head was covered with oil ("in the shape of a wreath") whereas in the case of priests it was "in the shape of a chi." What is meant by "the shape of a chi?… the shape of Greek X" (the printed texts have "a Greek kaph," probably because of the opposition to the sign of the cross).

All the above data except where otherwise stated are to be found in Horayot 11b and 12a, and more compactly in the Jerusalem Talmud, Horayot 3:4, 47c.

[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]


E. Cothenet, in: dbi, supplément 6 (1960), 701–32; E. Kutsch, Salbung als Rechtsakt (bzaw, 87, 1963); K.R. Veenhof, in: bor, 23 (1966), 308–13; J. Licht, in: em, 5 (1968), 526–31; S. Paul, in: jnes, 28 (1969), 48–53; D.J. McCarthy, in: vt, 14 (1964), 215–21. add. bibliography: D. Fleming, The Installation of Baal's High Priestess at Emar (1992).


views updated May 29 2018



Pouring oil on a person symbolizes their elevation of status, especially in relation to God. In Israel, it was performed at the inauguration of kings, the consecration of priests, and the cleansing of lepers. The Hebrew term mashiaḥ (‘anointed one’) came to mean king or high priest, and was then transliterated into English as messiah.


In the New Testament anointing is found as a charismatic means of healing: see UNCTION. From early times anointing has also been used in the rites of baptism, confirmation, and ordination, as well as in the consecration of churches, altars, bells, etc. See also CHRISM.


views updated May 11 2018

unc·tion / ˈəng(k)shən/ • n. 1. formal the action of anointing someone with oil or ointment as a religious rite or as a symbol of investiture as a monarch. ∎  the oil or ointment so used. ∎ short for extreme unction. 2. archaic treatment with a medicinal oil or ointment. ∎  an ointment: mercury in the form of unctions. 3. a manner of expression arising or apparently arising from deep emotion, esp. as intended to flatter: he spoke the last two words with exaggerated unction.


views updated Jun 11 2018

Unction. The religious use of oil for anointing; and in Christian use specifically the rite of anointing of the sick. The practice has its authority in the New Testament (Mark 6. 13, James 5. 14 f.), and in the Middle Ages came to be numbered among the seven sacraments. In the early cents., it was connected with recovery from illness, but thereafter the rite became so closely connected with repentance and the whole penitential system that it was commonly postponed until death was approaching. Thus the name ‘extreme unction’ by which the rite was long known probably derives from its reception in extremis.


views updated Jun 27 2018

A. anointing as a rite or symbol XIV;

B. (after 1 John 2: 20) spiritual influence XIV; spiritual feeling XVII;

C. lubrication, ointment XVI. — L. unctiō, -ōn-, f. unct-, pp. stem of ung(u)- ere; see UNGUENT, -TION.
So unctuous greasy, oily XIV; fat, rich XV. — medL. unctuōsus.


views updated Jun 11 2018


of undertakers: a company of undertakersLipton, 1970.