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We hear Jesus saying in Lk 4:18:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

We see a number of chosen persons in OT getting anointed for specific purposes, for instance, Aaron in Exodus and David in 1 Samuel. There was a prescribed procedure for the anointment. Now, the name Christ or Messiah literally means 'anointed'. But we do not see the Gospels mentioning his physical anointment, though his Baptism is narrated. Was Jesus physically anointed by someone? Are there any apocryphal writings or scholarly views available on the topic?

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    Physical anointing with oil, was always a symbol of the holy spirit. The anointing of Messiah was the real thing, not by oil but by the father anointing him with the Spirit istelf, without measure and his declaration that ‘this is my son who I am well pleased with’. Not sure a lesser anointing physically would be recorded because Jesus already received the greatest anointing possible. Math 3:17. Mary did anoint his feet Matt 26:6 but that is not the limd of ‘calling to ministry’ kind of anointing as occurred when he was anointed with the Spirit.
    – Mike
    Apr 22 at 5:04
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    And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. Luke 3:22. Yes, Jesus was anointed by the Father. And it was 'physical' for there was a bodily shape involved.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 22 at 9:09
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    Jesus is anointed in the Gospels. Luke 7:36-50 and John 12:1-8 are the typical passages cited. There is an article on Wikipedia about this here.
    – Corbin
    Apr 22 at 18:58

4 Answers 4

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And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. [Luke 3:22 KJV].

Yes, Jesus was anointed by the Father. And it was 'physical' for there was a bodily shape involved.

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It's a good question but there are no writings that describe Jesus being anointed with oil in the way Samuel anointed David. However the common denominator between the four gospels is John the Baptiser and there's a possibility that his role is comparable to that of Samuel. He saw the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus which was for him the sign, that Jesus is the messiah.

Why was this sign needed for him? It reminds us of the event when Samuel went to Jesse of Bethlehem to anoint the next king of Israel. Jesse presented all his sons to Samuel except David, none of them were chosen by God. Samuel had to wait for a sign and only got it from God when David was presented. So it's very likely that when John was given a sign that Jesus is the chosen messiah, he very likely anointed him with oil in front of all that were present as witnesses.

One aspect that would corroborate this idea is that early documents of the church father record the wording of the voice from heaven differently from what we have in our gospels today: instead of saying "This is my beloved son, in whom I'm well pleased" they quote "You are my son, today I have begotten you" which is a coronation verse taken from Psalm 2. (One of the oldest Coptic translations of the Codex Syriac/Sinaiticus has this wording and it is also quoted in in reference to Luke 3:22 in a letter of Clement of Alexandria, also Justin Martyr in the 'Dialogue with Trypho' quotes it like this)

We also have evidence in our current version of the New Testament: in the letter to the Hebrews, this exact same expression is used (see Heb 5:5). Now, if the wording originally was "You are my son, today I have begotten you" then the baptism scene most likely was the scene where Jesus was anointed to be the King of the Jews.

The charge levelled against Jesus when he was crucified was that he is the "King of the Jews" (Rome would not tolerate a rival king, and since Jesus was the King of the Jews, Pilate had no choice but to have him crucified).

Some accused him to have appointed himself to be king, which would be true if he hadn't been anointed by a recognised authority, like a prophet or priest. The inclusion of John the Baptiser in all four gospel is therefore of crucial importance but it seems that the significance of it has gone lost over the centuries. It is therefore my opinion that it can be safely inferred from the evidence that John the Baptiser anointed Jesus to be King of Israel.

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  • Thanks, Tasso. My question is focussed on the anointment as mentioned in Lk 4:18 that is, for the mission of proclaiming of the Gospel. True, Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit, but was there a physical manifestation for it ?By that count, appearance of the Dove at Jesus' Baptism is relevant. Apr 22 at 9:06
  • The Coptic recension (as per your own citation of a mixup with the Psalm and Hebrews in regard to the Gospel) is deeply flawed. See Herman Hoskier's extensive work Codex B and its Allies explaining that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus have only been providentially preserved in order to demonstrarte the falsity of that recension.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 22 at 11:18
  • Lk 4:18 quotes Isaiah 61:1-2,. The way the commas are set in both versions of the text, it appears that the anointing was the condition for the mission in this particular event. I don't think it speaks about another anointing.
    – Tasso
    Apr 22 at 16:21
  • He saw the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus which was for him the sign, that Jesus is the messiah. The chronology is reversed here. John first named Jesus Messiah ("You want baptism from me? I need baptism from you!") and only later, during the baptism, John and others saw Holy Spirit as dove. Apr 23 at 15:33
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Yes, there are two* accounts in the Gospels where Jesus was physically anointed with oil.

The first as told in Matthew, 26:6-7:

6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, 7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.

The second as told in John, 12:3:

Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

There are differences between the accounts and the anointing prescribed in the Law of Moses, which might make either episode inapposite to the question, but that might have significance as a difference between Jesus' teaching and what was taught before:

  • the anointer was a woman, not a Priest
  • in the one event his feet, not his head, were anointed

* Four accounts total, one in each Gospel. See Wikipedia: Anointing of Jesus (thanks to commenter @Corbin ) for more discussion and citations.

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  • Thanks, David. The event in John 12 happens towards the end of Jesus' public life, and he says to Judas who had made an issue of the prize perfume used : " Then said Jesus :" Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. ". My question is related to Lk 4:18 which speaks of the beginning of Jesus' Ministry. Apr 25 at 1:36
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Christ was physically anointed into the three offices of priest, prophet, king. There was the shadow and the reality.

In addition, He was anointed physically with oil into His death.

Baptism Shadow

And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water. … Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him. Exo 29:4, 7

Baptism Reality

And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. Mt 3:15

And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. Heb 5:4-5

Prophet Shadow

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; Isa 61:1

Prophet Reality

And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. Lk 3:22

And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, … And Jesus returned [from 40 days of testing] in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. Lk 4: 1, 14

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, Lk 4:18

King Shadow

Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Psalm 2:6-7

King Reality

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Mt 3:16-17

And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. Mk 1:15

[on Triumphal Entry Sunday before death, they] 0o9Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. John 12:13

Death

As mentioned in another answer, Christ was anointed prior to His death.

There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. ... For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Mt 26:7, 12

And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. ... She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Mark 14:3, 8

Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. ... Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. John 12:3, 7

Conclusion

So, to answer the OP, Christ was physically anointed at not only His water baptism, but also with the Spirit, since the Spirit was both seen and heard. It accomplished a tri-fold purpose. One into the Melchizedekian priesthood as High Priest. Two physically anointed as Prophet. Three physically anointed as King.

Lastly, Christ was anointed for His death.

EDIT TO ADD In reference to the comment about Psalm 2, here is the explanation for the physical anointing as King. see source

  1. The king thus constituted [verse 6] declares the fundamental law of His kingdom, in the avowal of His Sonship, a relation involving His universal dominion. this day have I begotten thee--as 2Sa 7:14, "he shall be My son," is a solemn recognition of this relation. The interpretation of this passage to describe the inauguration of Christ as Mediatorial King, by no means impugns the Eternal Sonship of His divine nature. In Act 13:33, Paul's quotation does not imply an application of this passage to the resurrection; for "raised up" in Act 13:32 is used as in Act 2:30 3:22, &c., to denote bringing Him into being as a man; and not that of resurrection, which it has only when, as in Act 2:34, allusion is made to His death ( Rom 1:4 ). That passage says He was declared as to His divine nature to be the Son of God, by the resurrection, and only teaches that that event manifested a truth already existing. A similar recognition of His Sonship is introduced in Hbr 5:5, by these ends, and by others in Mat 3:17 17:5. -source, JFB-
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  • Paul refers 'Thou art my Son this day I have begotten thee' to the resurrection of Christ. Not the baptism. Acts 13:33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee..
    – Nigel J
    Apr 22 at 22:17

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