Monday, April 09, 2012

The Pentecostal Doctrine of Faith-Healing and James 5:14-20, part 3

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The oil of James 5:14-20 is medicinal.  Medicinal oil was very frequently used in ancient times.  In James 5, since “anointing” (aÓlei÷yanteß) is a participle dependent upon the imperative “let them pray” (proseuxa¿sqwsan), the use of medicine, as the oil is here used as a medical instrument, is required.  Faith Cure advocates and Pentecostals who contend that one must follow the procedure of James 5:14-15 in healing, but either reject the use of medicine or affirm that its use is only optional, disobey James 5.  Nobody has been led by the Holy Spirit to reject the use of the best medical means available for healing because of James 5:14-15, since the Spirit required the use of medicine in the passage.  Nonetheless, while both prayer and medicine are enjoined, the emphasis of James is on prayer rather than upon the medical anointing with oil, since “let them pray” is the specific command and “anointing” is a subordinate participle.  Sometimes good medical means are not available, but the believer always can and should pray.

“The word aleipsantes  (‘anoint’) is not the usual word for sacramental or ritualistic anointing. James could have used the verb chrio if that had been what he had in mind. The distinction is still observed in modern Greek, with aleipho  meaning ‘to daub,’ ‘to smear,’ and chrio meaning ‘to anoint.’ Furthermore, it is a well-documented fact that oil was one of the most common medicines of biblical times. See Isaiah 1:6 and Luke 10:34. Josephus (Antiq. XVII, 172 [vi. 5]) reports that during his last illness Herod the Great was given a bath in oil in hopes of effecting a cure. The papyri, Philo, Pliny, and the physician Galen all refer to the medicinal use of oil. Galen described it as ‘the best of all remedies for paralysis’ (De Simplicium Medicamentorum Temperamentis  2.10ff). It is evident, then, that James is prescribing prayer and medicine. . . . In answer to ‘the prayer offered in faith,’ God uses the medicine to cure the malady” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, on James 5:14-15).

“The oil specified was olive oil (elaion) which was freely available . . . [and] was used for dietetic, toilet and medical purposes.  There is no indication that the oil needed to be specially consecrated fro its use in anointing the sick.  Two different words are used for the application of oil in the New Testament.  Aleipho is the humbler one and usually means to apply oil for toilet purposes (Matt. 6.17, Luke 7.46).  Chrio is the ritual and official word for anointing and is used only in the figurative sense of anointing by God.  Here in James the humbler word is used. . . . [A]n analysis of the usage of the verb aleipho in the New Testament appears to support the medical view [of James 5:14] rather than the religious one. . . . It is never used in the gospels of anointing for a religious purpose, but only for toilet or medical purposes. . . . Anointing with oil . . . was used only for the healing of physical disease in the New Testament. . . . James was saying that normal medical methods should be used in the name of the Lord and based on prayer . . . we may translate [the relevent] clause in verse 14 as ‘Giving him his medicine in the name of the Lord.’ . . . James held that healing should be a combination of medical and non-medical methods, and in illustration referrred to a contemporary medical method of anointing with oil which he said should be used in the name of the Lord and with prayer. . . . [In] James’ reference to anointing with oil . . . he is here recommending the employment of both physical and non-physical methods of healing. . . . [Methods of] medical healing . . . are God’s gifts to suffering humanity and are to be used in healing the sick” (pgs. 338-339, 343, “Healing in the Epistle of James,” John Wilkinson. Scottish Journal of Theology 24 (1971) 326–45).

The verb "anoint," aleipho, appears in Matt 6:17; Mark 6:13; 16:1; Luke 7:38, 46; John 11:2; 12:3; James 5:14.  In all of these texts, the anointing is not ceremonial, with the sole possible exception of Mark 6:13;  but note even on that verse:  “Oil was used medicinally in OT times (Is. 1:6; Jer. 8:22; 51:8) as in other ancient societies, and the action of the Samaritan in pouring oil and wine on the wounds of the traveller in Jesus’ parable (Lk. 10:34) was probably common practice. It may be, therefore, that the disciples’ use of oil was purely a pragmatic, medical measure” (The Gospel of Mark : A Commentary on the Greek Text, R. T. France, on Mark 6:13).  Note also in the LXX Ruth 3:3; 2 Samuel 12:20; 14:2; 2 Kings 4:2; 2 Chronicles 28:15; Esther 2:12; Daniel 10:3; Micah 6:15; Judith 16:8 (however, note also Genesis 31:13; Exodus 40:15 (yet also note cri√sma later in the verse); Numbers 3:3).  Contrast the ceremonial emphasis in the New Testament uses of cri÷w: Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38; 2 Corinthians 1:21; Hebrews 1:9, an emphasis which is the strongly dominant use in the LXX (Exodus 28:41; 29:2, 7, 29, 36; 30:26, 30, 32; 40:9–10, 13; Leviticus 4:3; 6:13; 7:36; 8:11–12; 16:32; Numbers 6:15; 7:1, 10, 84, 88; 35:25; Deuteronomy 28:40; Judges 9:8, 15; 1 Samuel 9:16; 10:1; 11:15; 15:1, 17; 16:3, 12–13; 2 Samuel 1:21; 2:4, 7; 5:3, 17; 12:7; 19:11; 1 Kings 1:34, 39, 45; 5:15; 19:15–16; 2 Kings 9:3, 6, 12; 11:12; 23:30; 1 Chronicles 11:3; 14:8; 29:22; 2 Chronicles 23:11; 36:1 Psalm 26:1; 44:8; 88:21; 151:4; Hosea 8:10; Amos 6:6; Isaiah 25:6; 61:1; Jeremiah 22:14; Ezekiel 16:9; 43:3; Sirach 45:15; 46:13; 48:8), although there are a few exceptions, some of which are only possibly exceptions, or alternative uses (such as painting a house, Jeremiah 22:14; cf. also Deuteronomy 28:40; Isaiah 25:6; Jeremiah 22:14; Ezekiel 16:9; 44:3; Judith 10:3).  Thus, while it is true that anointing with oil at times is used to represent the Holy Spirit, one would expect cri÷w rather than aÓlei÷fw in James 5:14 if pneumatic typology was the intended emphasis.

For examples of the medical use of oil, note in Josephus:
But now Herod’s distemper greatly increased upon him after a severe manner, and this by God’s judgment upon him for his sins: for a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly as it augmented his pains inwardly; for it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating, which he could not avoid to supply with one sort of food or other. His entrails were also exulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, farther, his privy member was putrified, and produced worms; and when he sat upright he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. It was said by those who pretended to divine, and who were endowed with wisdom to foretell such things, that God inflicted this punishment on the king on account of his great impiety; yet was he still in hopes of recovering, though his afflictions seemed greater than anyone could bear. He also sent for physicians, and did not refuse to follow what they prescribed for his assistance; and went beyond the river Jordan, and bathed himself in warm baths that were at Calirrhoe, which, besides their other general virtues, were also fit to drink; which water runs into the lake called Asphaltitis. And when the physicians once thought fit to have him bathed in a vessel full of oil, it was supposed that he was just dying; but, upon the lamentable cries of his domestics, he revived; and having no longer the least hopes of recovering, he gave order that every soldier should be paid fifty drachmae; and he also gave a great deal to their commanders, and to his friends, and came again to Jericho, where he grew so choleric, that it brought him to do all things like a madman; and though he were near his death, he contrived the following wicked designs.

168 ÔHrw¿dhØ de« meizo/nwß hJ no/soß e˙nepikrai÷neto di÷khn w±n paranomh/seien e˙kprassome÷nou touv qeouv puvr me«n ga»r malako\n h™n oujc w—de pollh\n aÓposhmai√non toi√ß e˙pafwme÷noiß th\n flo/gwsin oJpo/shn toi√ß e˙nto\ß proseti÷qei th\n ka¿kwsin  169 e˙piqumi÷a de« deinh\ touv de÷xasqai÷ ti aÓp∆ aujtouv ouj ga»r h™n mh\ oujc uJpourgei√n kai« eºlkwsiß tw◊n te e˙nte÷rwn kai« ma¿lista touv ko/lou deinai« aÓlghdo/neß kai« fle÷gma uJgro\n peri« tou\ß po/daß kai« diauge÷ß paraplhsi÷a de« kai« peri« to\ h™tron ka¿kwsiß h™n nai« mh\n kai« touv ai˙doi÷ou shvyiß skw¿lhkaß e˙mpoiouvsa pneu/mato/ß te ojrqi÷a e¶ntasiß kai« aujth\ li÷an aÓhdh\ß aÓcqhdo/ni te thvß aÓpofora◊ß kai« twˆ◊ puknwˆ◊ touv a‡sqmatoß e˙spasme÷noß te peri« pa◊n h™n me÷roß i˙scu\n oujc uJpomenhth\n prostiqe÷menoß. 170 e˙le÷geto ou™n uJpo\ tw◊n qeiazo/ntwn kai« oi–ß tauvta proapofqe÷ggesqai sofi÷aˆ pro/keitai poinh\n touv pollouv dussebouvß tau/thn oJ qeo\ß ei˙spra¿ssesqai para» touv basile÷wß  171 kai÷per de« meizo/nwß h£ aÓnti÷scoi a‡n tiß talaipwrou/menoß e˙n e˙lpi÷di touv aÓnasfalouvntoß h™n i˙atrou/ß te metape÷mpwn kai« oJpo/sa aÓrwga» uJpagoreu/seian crhvsqai mh\ aÓpotetramme÷noß potamo/n te pera¿saß ∆Iorda¿nhn qermoi√ß toi√ß kata» Kallirro/hn auJto\n paredi÷dou a‚per su\n thØv e˙ß pa¿nta aÓrethØv kai« po/tima¿ e˙stin e¶xeisin de« to\ u¢dwr touvto ei˙ß li÷mnhn th\n aÓsfaltofo/ron legome÷nhn  172 kaÓntauvqa toi√ß i˙atroi√ß dokhvsan wJ/ste aÓnaqa¿lpein aujto/n kaqeqei«ß ei˙ß pu/elon ple÷wn e˙lai÷ou do/xan metasta¿sewß e˙nepoi÷hsen aujtoi√ß tw◊n de« oi˙ketw◊n oi˙mwghØv crwme÷nwn perienegkw»n kai« mhd∆ h¢ntina aÓmfi« touv swqhsome÷nou e˙lpi÷da e¶cwn toi√ß stratiw¿taiß aÓna» penth/konta dracma»ß e˚ka¿stwˆ keleu/ei nemhqhvnai  173 polla» de« kai« toi√ß hJgemo/sin aujtw◊n kai« fi÷loiß toi√ß aujtouv e˙dwrei√to kai« parhvn au™qiß e˙pi« ÔIericouvntoß me÷laina¿ te aujto\n hØ¢rei colh\ e˙pi« pa◊sin e˙xagriai÷nousa wJ/ste dh\ teleutw◊n pra◊xin toia¿nde e˙pinoei√. (Antiquities 17:168-173)

Again, Josephus recorded concerning the death of Herod:

After this, the distemper seized upon his whole body, and greatly disordered all its parts with various symptoms; for there was a gentle fever upon him, and an intolerable itching over all the surface of his body, and continual pains in his colon, and dropsical tumors about his feet and an inflammation of the abdomen,—and a putrefication of his privy member, that produced worms. Besides which he had a difficulty of breathing upon him, and could not breathe but when he sat upright, and had a convulsion of all his members; insomuch that the diviners said those diseases were a punishment upon him for what he had done to the rabbis. Yet did he struggle with his numerous disorders, and still had a desire to live, and hoped for recovery, and considered of several methods of cure. Accordingly, he went over Jordan, and made use of those hot baths at Callirrhoe, which run into the lake Asphaltitis, but are themselves sweet enough to be drank. And here the physicians thought proper to bathe his whole body in warm oil, by letting it down into a large vessel full of oil; whereupon his eyes failed him, and he came and went as if he were dying, and as a tumult was then made by his servants, at their voice he revived again. Yet did he after this despair of recovery, and gave orders that each soldier should have fifty drachmae apiece, and that his commanders and friends should have great sums of money given them.

656 ⁄Enqen aujtouv to\ sw◊ma pa◊n hJ no/soß dialabouvsa poiki÷loiß pa¿qesin e˙meri÷zeto pureto\ß me«n ga»r h™n ouj la¿broß knhsmo\ß de« aÓfo/rhtoß thvß e˙pifanei÷aß o¢lhß kai« ko/lou sunecei√ß aÓlghdo/neß peri÷ te tou\ß po/daß wJ/sper uJdrwpiw◊ntoß oi˙dh/mata touv te h¡trou flegmonh\ kai« dh\ ai˙doi÷ou shpedw»n skw¿lhkaß gennw◊sa pro\ß tou/toiß ojrqo/pnoia kai« du/spnoia kai« spasmoi« pa¿ntwn tw◊n melw◊n wJ/ste tou\ß e˙piqeia¿zontaß poinh\n ei•nai tw◊n sofistw◊n ta» nosh/mata le÷gein  657 oJ de« palai÷wn tosou/toiß pa¿qesin o¢mwß touv zhvn aÓntei÷ceto swthri÷an te h¡lpizen kai« qerapei÷aß e˙peno/ei diaba»ß gouvn to\n ∆Iorda¿nhn toi√ß kata» Kallirro/hn e˙crhvto qermoi√ß tauvta d∆ e¶xeisi me«n ei˙ß th\n ∆Asfalti√tin li÷mnhn uJpo\ gluku/thtoß d∆ e˙sti« kai« po/tima do/xan de« e˙ntauvqa toi√ß i˙atroi√ß e˙lai÷wˆ qermwˆ◊ pa◊n aÓnaqa¿lyai to\ sw◊ma calasqe«n ei˙ß plh/rh pu/elon e˙klu/ei kai« tou\ß ojfqalmou\ß wJß teqnew»ß aÓne÷streyen  658 qoru/bou de« tw◊n qerapeuo/ntwn genome÷nou pro\ß me«n th\n fwnh\n aÓnh/negken ei˙ß de« to\ loipo\n aÓpognou\ß th\n swthri÷an toi√ß te stratiw¿taiß aÓna» penth/konta dracma»ß e˙ke÷leusen dianei√mai kai« polla» crh/mata toi√ß hJgemo/si kai« toi√ß fi÷loiß. (War 1:656-658)

Philo wrote:

Again: why need we seek for more in the way of ointment than the juice pressed out of the fruit of the olive? For that softens the limbs, and relieves the labour of the body, and produces a good condition of the flesh; and if anything has got relaxed or flabby, it binds it again, and makes it firm and solid, and it fills us with vigour and strength of muscle, no less than any other unguent.

ti÷ de« touv aÓpo\ thvß e˙lai÷aß e˙kqlibome÷nou karpouv ple÷on e¶dei zhtei√n pro\ß aÓlei÷mmata; kai« ga»r leai÷nei kai« ka¿maton sw¿matoß lu/ei kai« eujsarki÷an e˙mpoiei√, ka·n ei¶ ti kecalasme÷non ei¶h, sfi÷ggei pukno/thti kai« oujdeno\ß h∞tton e˚te÷rou ÔRw¿mhn kai« eujtoni÷an e˙nti÷qhsin. (Dreams 2:58)

Pliny, in his Natural History 23:39-53 discusses in detail the “medicinal properties of the various kinds of oil,” commenting on olive oil, green oil, castor oil, almond oil, laurel oil, myrtle oil, cypress oil, citrus oil, walnut oil, oil of balsamum, radish oil, sesame oil, palm oil, and many other types of oil, whether fresh or aged.  His discussion underscores the very significant medicinal use of oil in ancient medicine—sometimes in accordance with what God has enabled science to verify experimentally today, and sometimes not. 

Patristic references to the medicinal use of oil include: “Antony, the great monk . . . rejected the practice of anointing with oil, and the use of baths and of similar luxuries likely to relax the tension of the body by moisture.” (Ecclesiastical History, Sozomen, Book 1:13);  “Or what castle or house is beautiful and serviceable when it has not been anointed? And what man, when he enters into this life or into the gymnasium, is not anointed with oil? And what work has either ornament or beauty unless it be anointed and burnished?” (Theophilus of Antioch, Theophilus to Autolychus Book 1:12).  Compare also the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Kittell, on aÓlei÷fw.

Lightfoot records the following material concerning medical anointing with oil from Jewish sources:

R. Simeon, the son of Eleazar, permitted R. Meir to mingle wine and oil, and to anoint the sick on the sabbath.  And he was once sick, and we sought to do so to him, but he suffered us not.” [Talm. Jerus. In Berachoth, fol. 3, col. 1]
         “A tradition.  Anointing on the sabbath is permitted.  If his head ache, or if a scall come upon it, he anoints with oil.” [Id. In Maazar Sheni, fol. 53, col. 3
         “If he be sick, or a scall be upon his head, he anoints according to the manner.” [Talm. Bab. In Joma, fol. 77, 2.]
Lightfoot then comments:
[A]nointing with oil was an ordinary medical application to the sick. . . . Now if we take the apostle’s counsel, as referring to this medical practice, we may construe it, that he would have this physical administration to be improved to the best advantage;  namely, that whereas ‘anointing with oil’ was ordinarily used to the sick, by way of physic—he adviseth that they should send for the elders of the church to do it;  not that the anointing was any more in their hand, than in another’s, as to the thing itself, for it was still but a physical application—but that they, with the applying of this corporal phsyic, might also pray with and fro the patient, and apply the spiritual physic of good admonition and comforts to him.  Which is much the same, as if . . . . a sick person should send for the minister at taking of any physic, that he might pray with him, and counsel and comfort him. . . . [The] [A]postle, seeing anointing was an ordinary and good physic . . . directs them . . . to get the elders, or ministers of the church, to come tot the sick, and to add, to the medical anointing of him, their godly and ferbent prayers for him[.] (Pg. 316, The Whole Works of John Lightfoot, vol. 3, John Lightfoot, ed. John Rodgers Pitman.  London:  J. F. Dove, 1832.)

A search of the Talmuds of Jerusalem and Babylon will provide further evidence of the sort set forth by Lightfoot.

It is very noteworthy that the recorded and commended uses of oil for medicinal purposes in the Bible are those for which there is a rational scientific purpose (Luke 10:34; Isaiah 1:6, etc.).  The medically questionable or harmful uses that are mixed into discussions such as that of Pliny are not commended in the Bible.


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