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Anointing with oil is medicinal

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By Prof Raphael Nyarkotey Obu

Charismaticism is as old as the church. The word charismatic is from the Greek word, which connotes gift. The Charismatic Movement is a movement that believes in the exercise of the charismata in the life of the believer.

The use of the anointing oil is paramount in the Christian faith. However,  eminent medical professionals do prescribe oils in clinical settings. This means that medical science believes in healing with oil. So why should people complain when Pastors also anoint their congregants with oils?

For instance, in the medical sector, doctors prescribe cod liver oil as a remedy for consumption, and there is plenty of testimony to prove that its virtues have not been overrated, but it has always been taken internally. Recent research made by Dr. Simpson, of Edinburgh, the first applier of chloroform as an anesthetic agent, goes far to prove that when oil is applied to the outside of the person it acts both as a curative and preventive of disease, and there is therefore some prospect of the ancient Oriental practice of oil-anointing.

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He believes that anointing with oil is an excellent thing for consumptive people. Cod liver oil is supposed to be the “best because it is the strongest and only for its loathsome taste he believes it would be more abundantly used.

I once listened to a message by Rev. Eastwood Anaba on signs and Tokens. In the message, he explained God can use anything to do what He wants to do.  Be it water, saliva, or even sand. Signs and tokens are part of the way of life of the Christians.

Science cannot explain, or understand how He works. I am a believer, as well as a scientist, but God’s ways are beyond human comprehension.

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In Mark 6:13 and James 5:14-15: “Anointing sick people with oil is referred to twice in the New Testament. Mark 6:13 says: “And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil. James 5:14-15, also says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.

I believe in it as a Christian because anointing oil is medicinal. It is also a symbol of God’s power to heal, and symbolic of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit (the breath) of Christ.

Also, in medicine, there is something that we call a placebo. If you have two sick individuals, and you give one placebo and the other the real agent that will cure that illness, the person who received the placebo, thinking that it was the original thing could get well because his faith in the drug was strong, even though the drug was more or less a symbol, and did not really cure him. Is anointing with oil just a spiritual exercise or has a scientific basis?  I herein explore in this article.

Anointing

According to the New World Encyclopedia, the pouring of oil on an item or body part, often the head is called anointing. It states further that the process is employed in several sacraments of the Orthodox and Catholic Christian churches and is exercised ritually by many other religions and ethnic groups – (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Anointing: accessed March 4, 2009).

The frequency with which the oil is supposed to be poured on an item or body part is not stated and the definition does not confine the use of the anointing oil to specific places. Among the Hebrews, anointing was of three kinds: ordinary, sacred, and medical. Ordinary anointing with scented oils was a common phenomenon (Ruth 3:3) which was discontinued during times of mourning.

The purpose of sacred anointing was to dedicate a thing or person to God. Jacob anointed the stone he had used for a pillow at Bethel (Gen 28:18). Medical anointing was customary for the sick and wounded (Is 1:6) (Tenney: 1987:63).

People and objects are anointed to mark the introduction of a sacramental or divine influence, a holy emanation, spirit, or power. Anointing can also be used as a mode of ridding persons and things of dangerous spiritual influences, such as diseases and especially demons –(http: // www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Anointing: accessed March 4, 2009). This is perhaps an indication of the reason why some Charismatic and Neo-prophetic churches use anointing oil so that the divine influence would be brought to bear on their situations.

Anaba (1996: 56) defines anointing as the supernatural ability of God that is given to a person, to enable him or her to undertake an assignment for God, at a particular place, at a particular time, and in a definite manner. Anaba further posits that when the anointing comes upon a person, his or her natural inabilities are displaced and the only thing that matters is the power of God on the life of the person. Anaba’s definition of anointing appears to be the belief of many people whose lives have been influenced by his ministry. However, the position of some members of Charismatic and Neo-Prophetic churches today is that anointing makes the difference in any situation, therefore suggesting that anointing is not only to enable people to undertake assignments for God but also to bring the presence of God into any situation and place to achieve whatever the people believe God for. Anaba (2000:40) states that the anointing is active, efficient, and operative. Therefore one cannot conceal the activity of the anointing as it will show itself forth. He further suggests that the anointing is a superior force stronger than the resistance of one’s weakness.

Oyedepo (2005:313-406) talking about the practical dimensions of the anointing mentioned anointing for battle, anointing for conquest, anointing for wealth, anointing for enthronement, and anointing for restoration. Hemry & Lynnes (2007: 7) say anointing oil in itself possesses no mystical properties.

He further explains that Jesus operated these ministries because he was anointed by the Holy Spirit. When the prophet Samuel anointed David with the sacred anointing oil in the presence of his father and brothers, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. It again appears that some sections of the church believe that when a person is anointed with oil the Spirit of the Lord comes upon that person in power to fulfill the purpose of God in their life.

Leviticus

Leviticus 8: 1-12, states that the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests was carried out by Moses as was enjoined by Jehovah after the publication of the Laws and sacrifice. This consisted of the 11 consecration of the persons themselves to the office of the priesthood by washing, clothing, and anointing. The washing was a symbol of the putting away of filth, a form of spiritual cleansing, without which no one could draw near to God. The clothing was a symbol of the priest’s endowment with the character required for the discharge of the duties of his office, the official costume being the outward sign of installation in the office which he was to fill. Anointing oil was a fitting symbol of the Spirit, or spiritual principle of life, by its power to sustain and fortify the vital energy; Anointing oil which was prepared according to divine instructions, was, therefore, a symbol of the Spirit of God as the principle of spiritual life which proceeds from God and fills the natural being of the creature with the powers of divine life.

Anointing with oil was therefore a symbol of endowment with the Spirit of God for the duties of the office to which a person was consecrated. The holy vessels that were to pass from them to the people who came to the sanctuary were also furnished in a symbolical sense with powers of the divine Spirit, on these grounds; the consecration of the holy things was associated with the consecration of the priests. The notion that even vessels and inanimate things in general, can be endowed with divine and spiritual powers was widely spread in antiquity

Science

Roland Owusu Ansah’s (2011) thesis titled “The Usage of Anointing Oil in some Charismatic and Neo-Prophetic Churches in Kumasi in the Context of Leviticus 8:1-12, and James 5:14-15” examined how and for what purposes anointing oil is used among Charismatic and Neo-Prophetic churches in Ghanaian Christianity and found that most of the prophets had given some names to the anointing oil they use. (Onyame w4 tumi [God is powerful], dade1 bi twa dade1 mu [one metal is sharper than another metal], and me kwan so hann [light for my path],odumgya[fire quencher], nkuto ?power? [shea butter power], atentam [wrestling]). The akwankyer1 (direction) given for the use of the oil differed from one prophet to the other and from one church to the other.

 It was discovered that people who use anointing oil believe in the potency of the medium. It recommends that Christianity must be potent for the people to believe that it works, therefore, the church would have to consider its practices again in the light of this and that the church ought to use oil that is indigenous with the environment it is situated in.

Other arguments believe that we cannot see and touch the atoms, electrons, and subatomic particles, and as we get progressively smaller, we enter into the world of quantum physics. We, as intelligent beings, can use our abilities, without believing in God, to set a bone or staunch bleeding, and because God sustains His physical laws, that action brings healing. So too, we can use our abilities via God’s quantum laws to impact and bring benefit to others.

 Research(Bengston & Krinsley. 2000; Sicher et al.1998) has demonstrated that when we pray with love and focused intention, our choice to focus our energy toward the goal of healing another has, on a quantum level, an actual physiological healing effect upon the one prayed for.

For instance, a study by Bengston & Krinsley(2000) titled “The Effect of the “Laying On of Hands” on Transplanted Breast Cancer in Mice published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration found a positive response with the cancer cells after the preacher layed hands. In this study, Bengston treated these mice for 1 hour per day for 1 month. The tumors developed a “blackened area,” then they ulcerated, imploded, and closed, and the mice lived their normal life spans. This demonstrated the effect of anointing by laying hands on breast cancer cells.

Additionally, when we pray for another while being in the room with the one being prayed for, this is a relational experience, which allows the sick one to experience the comfort, love, affection, and concern of those praying. Cole et al.(2011) study also found that human connection calms stress circuitry alters gene expression to improve immune function, and turns on cancer-fighting genes.

Take home

Timothy R. Jennings(2018), M.D, believes in the power of the anointing and explained that anointing with oil:

o Scripture has symbolic and literal physical uses and applications. Both are useful in this setting. We see the symbolism in the anointing of priests or kings (Exodus 29:7) or Psalm 23:5, where David prays, “You anoint my head with oil,” referring to the cleansing of his mind and heart via the Holy Spirit. We see the literal in the story of the Good Samaritan, who poured oil on the injured man’s wounds (Luke 10:34)

o In the passage in James, he is referring to both. The oil represents known medicinal. The Bible is essentially saying, “If someone is sick, clean the wounds and apply remedies known to work.”

o But also anoint with symbolic oil, because this can have healing benefits for those who believe. Anointing with symbolic “holy” oil does not create a magical event, but it enhances the power of the mind—what some call the “placebo effect.” The placebo effect is not fake; it is the healing impact that the mind exerts upon the body when one believes the intervention will work. This healing impact is real and measurable. The brains of people who receive sugar pills but believe they are pain pills will release brain-produced endorphins and enkephalins, which are brain-produced opiates that cause real physical pain relief. But if the person knows it is a sugar pill, the brain will not release the endorphins or enkephalins.

Putting all of this together, I believe that James is saying that we should bring every intervention that has a positive healing impact to bear to help the sick:

o Apply known healing remedies, but also, if the patient is a believer, anoint with holy oil to bring their mind and their trust in God to bear.

o But don’t stop with that—pray! Invite God’s healing presence and supreme will be involved, while you simultaneously exert your power of love and goodwill via God’s quantum design, focusing your efforts on the sick one’s health and wellness.

Our God is the God of creation, and everything He asks us to do always has a rational, logical, reasonable basis—even if we don’t always understand it. Superstitions do not come from God; they come from misunderstanding and magical thinking. What James is instructing here is no magical or superstitious belief, but good, sound compassionate healing principles, solidly grounded in God’s design for life!

The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, a Medical Journalist, an author, and a science writer. E. mail: [email protected].  Visit-profnyarkotey.com

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