In Jam. 5:14, it is written,

ΙΔʹ ἀσθενεῖ τις ἐν ὑμῖν προσκαλεσάσθω τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους τῆς ἐκκλησίας καὶ προσευξάσθωσαν ἐπ᾽ αὐτὸν ἀλείψαντες αὐτὸν ἐλαίῳ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου TR, 1550

Why does James write (use) ἀλείψαντες (lemma: ἀλείφω) rather than, say, χρίσαντες (lemma: χρίω)? What is the difference between these two verbs that would lead him to prefer ἀλείφω over χρίω in this particular context?


χρίω seems to apply generally to anointing in the sense of consecrating, whereas ἀλείφω refers to a simpler anointing with oil. In the Septuagint, χρίω appears 76 times and in all but a few (e.g. Ezekiel 16:9 LXX) has the former sense. ἀλείφω, on the other hand, seems to have a simpler meaning of simply covering with oil. It is also the word used in some places to mean "plaster" (e.g. Ezekiel 13:10 LXX).

Some Christian traditions (e.g. Eastern Orthodoxy) maintain that James 5:14 refers to the Mystery (or, in Roman Catholic terminology, "Sacrament") of Unction (healing). This understanding would relate, for example, the anointing with oil described by James (ἀλείφω) to the "pouring of oil" to bind wounds in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30ff).

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