Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
More from the MailBag
07/19/2005 - James White
1 John 2:20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. - Anointing is done with oil and the laying on of hands. Only in confirmation have I seen this come to pass. This is a physical transferance of a grace promised by God,
1 John 2:27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. - Same comment affirmed with the phrase "from Him", ensuring the reader knows who was the power behind the anointing.
Here our Roman Catholic correspondent indicates that the anointing from the Holy One referenced in the Bible in 1 John is actually a reference to the Roman Catholic sacrament of confirmation, and that it indicates a "physical transference of a grace promised by God." However, the sacrament of confirmation was unknown in the primitive church. As Roman Catholic sources themselves admit, it is the result of "development" over time, and that before Tertullian not explicit mention of it as a sacrament separate from baptism is to be found. But beyond this, the texts in question do not refer to a physical act involving oil: the anointing is the Holy Spirit Himself. As Smalley notes in the Word Biblical Commentary, 106:
But, accepting this symbolic meaning of “anointing,” might John’s term cri/sma have had its origin in a ritual source, for example baptism? It is true that in v 27 the gift of cri/sma is linked to a particular moment (o] evla,bete, “which you received,” aorist); and that in Acts the gift of the Spirit is associated with baptism (2:38; cf. 8:16–17; 10:44–48). However, although ritual anointing became part of the Christian baptismal liturgy in due course (cf. Tertullian, de Baptismo 7), and was eventually popular among gnostic sects (see de la Potterie, “Anointing,” 80 n.4), there is no evidence that this practice was current, in either orthodox or heretical circles, during the first century (see further Marshall, 153–54; but on the other side see Nauck, Tradition, 94–95, 147–82). There are strong reasons, moreover, for interpreting cri/sma in a spiritual sense, rather than connecting its derivation with baptism. (a) The context of v 18–29 demands it; (b) the further use of the term in v 27 (twice) concerns the reception of (doctrinal, spiritual) truth; (c) the image of God’s seed “remaining” in the Christian at 3:9 perhaps forms a parallel to the notion in this v of God’s indwelling Spirit acting as teacher and guide in all matters of truth.