I read a couple of articles about this subject. Apparently, there is a general agreement that, in some cases in the Bible, oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. They say it's a metaphor.

I couldn't find an article or paper that says the opposite. The Bible verses most commonly used are 1 John 2:19-21, and the parable of the 10 virgins. But, hermeneutically speaking, I don't see the connection of oil with the Holy Spirit.

What I understand from the parable is that having oil means to be ready for the coming of Jesus. Of course, filled with the Holy Spirit is necessary to be ready. But one thing takes you to the other, not necessarily symbolizes the other.

About the annointing in 1 John 2, I think the apostle is talking about the office that the Spirit gave us, not oil as a symbol.

Ye have an unction ('anointing' chrisma) from the Holy One [1 John 2:20 KJV]

The closest passage could be Joel 2 and Acts 2's pouring of the Spirit, but here the metaphor may not necessarily means oil.

Am I misinterpreting the text?

Thanks in advance for your help. It will be really appreciated.

  • 1
    Welcome to SE-BH. Please see the Tour and the Help, as to the purpose and the functioning of the site, and see the archive of questions and answers as to how this plays out in practice. I have edited just to demonstrate how to quote and highlight a referenced text. Please feel free to rollback if you wish.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 5 at 7:41
  • Hello and welcome to the site. Unfortunately this type of question is off-topic on this site. Instead we need questions to be tightly focused on one particular passage. You could edit this to focus specifically on 1 John 2, but it wouldn't be asking exactly the same thing as it doesn't refer to oil.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 6 at 1:20

2 Answers 2


The Holy Spirit is sometimes represented by the metaphor of oil,

  • Luke 4:18 - “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed,
  • Acts 10:38 - how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him.
  • 2 Cor 1:21, 22 - Now it is God who establishes both us and you in Christ. He anointed us, placed His seal on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a pledge of what is to come.
  • 1 John 2:20 - You, however, have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.
  • 1 Sam 16:13 - So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. Then Samuel set out and went to Ramah.

Thus, there is a general association of the rite/metaphor of anointing with oil and the reception of the Holy Spirit.


Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him. [Exodus 29:7 KJV]

And he poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head, and anointed him, to sanctify him [Leviticus 8:12 KJV]

In Exodus we read of the command to anoint the High Priest (and only the High Priest) with oil and in Leviticus we read of this being carried out.

The oil was poured upon the head and it's purpose was to 'sanctify' or set apart.

It is very clear that when Jesus rose up out of the water of baptism, at the hand of John the Baptist that what descended upon him was a visible resemblance of a dove :

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. [Matthew 3:17 KJV]

It is also clear from the psalm that this anointing is not for just the High Priest but is, as a matter of Headship, for all the body :

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; [Psalm 133:1,2 KJV]

The unity is a unity of spirit. From the head, down to the skirts of the garments, that is to say covering the whole body, is the anointing.

The anointing is upon the head. Not directly to the body.

Thus is Christ anointed, who is marked out (by the Father from heaven) as the beloved Son, by the descent of the Holy Spirit.

Those who are in Christ, within the body of Christ, receive that anointing, by faith.

Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? [Galatians 3:2 KJV]

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