Sunday, October 10, 2010

Who anointed Jesus to make him the Christ?

Jesus' last name is not "Christ".  The word "christ" means "anointed one".  Being anointed indicated God's hand in the matter choosing a person for a special role.  Thus, the term "Jesus Christ" says, "Jesus, the Anointed one of God."

Since humans do not have the mind of God, sometimes the person chosen to be anointed caused people to scratch their heads a bit and wonder.  For example, Jesse had lots of older, larger, stronger sons whom humans found to be logical choices for Israel's second King.  Instead the Lord directed Samuel to anoint David (1 Samuel 16), Jesse's youngest, weakest son and a harp-playing shepherd. Jesus, the poor son of a carpenter who died the most humiliating death of his time, was another choice that might seem illogical to humans.

But what about the people chosen as instruments of the Holy Spirit who perform the anointing?  Were they logical choices?  In David's case, scripture clearly indicates that the judge Samuel anointed him.  The judges were religious political rulers so that might seem very logical. 

But, who anointed Jesus to make him the Christ?  Scripture only records Jesus permitting women to anoint him (Luke 7:36-38 and Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13, John 12:1-8).  As noted in the biblical commentary footnotes of the US Council of Catholic Bishop's online Bible, the anointing of Jesus' head by Mary Magdalene indicates a regal messianic anointing.  Was the selection of Mary Magdalene to anoint Jesus another humanly illogical choice?

Church leaders establish and use a rule in justifying the all-male clergy that goes something like this.  "If scripture records Jesus only interacting with one gender for a particular thing, then Jesus must have wanted that thing reserved for that gender for all eternity."  Only women anointed Jesus and scripture only records Jesus commissioning the male apostles to anoint for purposes of healing.

Wouldn't consistent application of church leaders' own rule lead to the conclusion that only women should anoint people for things like baptism, confirmation and especially ordination? Wouldn't consistent application of their own rule restrict male clergy to anointing people for healing purposes such as in the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick?  Or is this rule applied relativistically depending upon the situation?  Since Pope Benedict has been a big critic of relativism, I would think he would find these questions very compelling.


  1. I know I find these questions quite compelling. I know it is not possible to know the mind of God. I also know that we must be open to answer the call of God even if it seems illogical. God won't lead us astray.

  2. Following Baptism by John, God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit?

  3. Yes, the Holy Spirit is always what anoints via a human's gesture. My question was about which humans can perform the human gesture of anointing. In the Catholic Church this is reserved for ordained men outside of emergency baptisms....(baptism, confirmation, ordination, anointing of the sick) I just was wondering why that is since Jesus only permitted women to anoint him.

  4. Well, indeed an interesting question. The good reverend at First Cong'l gave an interesting sermon about Mary anointing Jesus, head and feet, then drying his feet with her hair. The twist was that he equated 'feet' as a biblical euphemism for 'private parts.'

    So, the sermon also presumes a very erotic undertone to anointing by Mary. He didn't address readings in the following weeks where Jesus washed the Apostles 'feet', etc.