Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

A Brother’s Wisdom 86

JesusJames*.jpg We are looking at the last passage in James, James 5:13-20.

James urges the messianic community to summon elders to pray over the sick:

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.

The word “sick” means just about what you and I think it does: sick. Probably sick enough though to stand out from ordinary sickness that humans both expect and typically recover from; in fact, the passage goes on to use words that may well indicate the person is seriously sick — perhaps near death. The elders, which shows there is some kind of leadership over messianists in the communities to which James writes, are to pray and anoint with oil.


It was also customary in the ancient world to
anoint someone with oil. Such an act could be more medicinal, procedural and connected to the natural
healing process, as in Isaiah 1:6 when he speaks of wounds: “they have not been
drained, or bound up, or softened with oil.” The same is found in the parable
of Good Samaritan: “He went to him and bandaged his
wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal,
brought him to an inn, and took care of him” (Luke 10:34).
A text in Josephus about Herod makes this most clear:



struggling as was with numerous sufferings, he clung to life, hoped for
recovery, and devised one remedy after another. Thus he crossed the Jordan to
take warm baths as Callirrhoe … . There, the physicians deciding to raise the
temperature of his whole body with hot oil, he was lowered into a bath full of
that liquid, whereupon he fainted and turned up his eyes as though he were
dead. His attendants raising an uproar, their cries brought him to himself … (War 1.657-658).



But, anointing with oil was also used for
healing supernaturally through the power and grace made available in Christ and
through the Spirit.
Thus, Mark
6:13: “
They cast out many demons, and anointed with
oil many who were sick and cured them.”
Forks appear in the road once we leave
the obvious and general of this discussion. James’ words could involve the oil
being symbolic of consecration of the person to God (e.g., Exod 28:41; Acts 4:27;
10:38; 2 Cor 1:21) or the oil could be seen sacramentally, something that
mediates God’s healing grace. This is clearly developed in the history of the
Church (in the Euchelaion), which led
to such Roman Catholic practices as “extreme unction” and the “anointing of the

Comments read comments(3)
post a comment

posted July 14, 2009 at 2:17 pm

I was a little surprised that you gave no room for a spiritual interpretation.
Time and space fail me now, but a pretty good case could be made for this person being spiritually (not physically) sick.

report abuse

Scot McKnight

posted July 14, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Jonathan, I find the view unconvincing.

report abuse


posted July 14, 2009 at 5:13 pm

This is why I love James. From connecting faith and works, to caring for those without others to care for them, to economic presumption, to use of the tongue, to godly wisdom, to healing the sick. James knows the Cure to what ails us.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog ...

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the ...

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: ...

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's ...

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or ...

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.