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TitleOlive Oil: Symbol of the Holy Ghost
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1994
AuthorsTvedtnes, John A.
EditorRicks, Stephen D., and John W. Welch
Book TitleThe Allegory of the Olive Tree: The Olive, the Bible, and Jacob 5
PublisherFoundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies/Deseret Book
CityProvo, UT/Salt Lake City
KeywordsHoly Ghost; Olive; Olive Oil; Olive Tree; Symbolism

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Olive Oil: Symbol of the Holy Ghost

John A. Tvedtnes

In both scripture and early Christian tradition, olive oil is symbolic of the Holy Ghost. This is because the Holy Ghost provides spiritual nourishment, enlightenment, and comfort, just as olive oil in the ancient Near East was used for food, light, and anointing. Olive oil remains a dietary staple in the Middle East and other Mediterranean countries, where it is used both for frying and for flavoring foods. The Bible mentions olive oil as food (Numbers 11:8; 1 Kings 17:12, 14, 16; 1 Chronicles 12:40; Ezra 3:7; Ezekiel 16:13, 19). Some food offerings consumed by the priests required the addition of olive oil.1 Olive oil is often listed with other vegetable foods, wheat, barley, and wine.2

Oil lamps are among the most frequently found items in archaeological excavations. The earliest were made from a round, flat piece of clay pinched up to form a bowl with one or more spouts. By the time of Christ, the bowl became nearly completely enclosed, with a hole on the top for adding oil and an extended spout. This was the kind of oil lamp used by the ten virgins in Christ's parable (Matthew 25:1-13). The top of the lamp, between the hole for the oil and the spout, was often decorated with a seven-branched representation of the tree of life. In the tabernacle of Moses and later in the temple at Jerusalem, the tree of life was symbolized by a seven-branched lampstand,3 the menorah of Judaism, described in Exodus 24:2 and 25.4

Olive oil has long been used to anoint one's skin. This was particularly important for a pastoral and agricultural people who spent much of their time out of doors in a hot, dry climate. This practice is mentioned in a number of Bible passages.5 Some Arabs still use olive oil to clean the skin, and it is an ingredient in some soaps. Newborn babes are still washed, then anointed with olive oil.

The only time the ancient Israelites avoided anointing themselves with oil was when fasting or in mourning (2 Samuel 14:2). Daniel noted that he spent three weeks without pleasant bread, flesh, and wine, during which time he did not anoint himself (Daniel 10:3). The Lord promised through Isaiah to provide the "oil of joy for mourning" (Isaiah 61:3). Building on this theme, Christ admonished his disciples to wash their faces and anoint their heads when fasting (Matthew 6:17; 3 Nephi 13:17). Anciently, anointing the body was accompanied by a change of clothes as part of the natural process of cleansing oneself (see Ruth 3:3).6

Olive oil was also used anciently to dress wounds. It prevented drying of the skin and infection. The good Samaritan poured wine and oil into the wounds of the man he rescued in the desert (Luke 10:34). Isaiah also referred to this practice: "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment" (Isaiah 1:6). The use of oil in the treating of wounds undoubtedly played a role in its choice for ceremonial anointing of the sick by the early Christians (Mark 6:13; James 5:14-15).

Oil from the Tree of Life

Because it provided nourishment, light, and physical comfort, it is little wonder that olive oil came to be a symbol of life and of the spirit which gives life. But there are other reasons why olive oil came to have symbolic meaning. The olive tree lives for centuries rather than decades and, as a consequence, is a fit symbol for eternal life.7 Moreover, its oil keeps for a long period of time.

The pseudepigraphic Apocalypse of Sedrach 8:2 says that the Lord preferred the olive among the trees and the vine among fruit-bearing plants.8 According to 3 Baruch 4:6-13, Michael planted the olive tree, while Satan planted the vine in the garden of Eden and other angels planted other trees.9 The vine, by this account, was the tree of knowledge of good and evil.10 But, in response to Noah's prayer, God changed it to good, noting that "its fruit will become the blood of God."

In some early traditions, the olive tree is identified with the tree of life of Genesis 2:9 and 3:22.11Adam, on his deathbed, is said to have asked Eve and Seth to entreat God to send his angel into Paradise to give them a little of "the oil of life" from "the tree of his mercy" with which to anoint himself in preparation for death.12 Though they followed his instructions, the Lord told them that they could not take the oil "except in the last days."13

The Gospel of Philip hints that there is a tie between the tree of life and the olive tree: "But the tree of life is in the middle of the garden. However, it is from the olive tree that we get the chrism, and from the chrism, the resurrection."14 This implies that the tree of life or olive tree represents Christ, from whom the resurrection stems.15

Joseph Smith identified the tree of life with the olive tree when he designated D&C 88 (see preface) as an "olive leaf. . . plucked from the Tree of Paradise, the Lord's message of peace to us." In Jewish lore, the tree of life is sometimes considered to be an olive tree, around which is entwined the vine, often believed to be the tree of knowledge.16

Ceremonial Anointing

In ancient Israel, olive oil compounded with specific spices was used for ceremonial anointing. It was forbidden to use this special "oil of holy ointment" for mundane anointings (Exodus 30:22-33; 31:11; 37:29; 39:38; 40:9-15). Moses used the oil to anoint the tabernacle and its accoutrements (Exodus 30:26-29; 40:9-11; Leviticus 8:10-11),17 just as his ancestor Jacob had anointed the covenant altar (KJV "pillar") he constructed at Beth-el (Genesis 28:18; 35:14).

Ancient Israel's leaders—kings, prophets, and priests—were anointed with olive oil as part of their initiation into a new role. The early Syriac Father Aphrahat wrote that, with the coming of Christ, "darkness departed from the mind of many . . . and the fruiting of the Light-giving Olive, in which is the Signing of the Mystery of Life, whereby Christians, priests, kings and prophets are made perfect . . . illuminates the darkness, anoints the sick and converts penitents by its hidden mystery."18 Murray noted that "the signing of the Mystery of Life" is a Syriac idiom referring to pre-baptismal anointing.19 The text continues by noting that those who return to God are illuminated and become leaven to the world, good wheat in a field of tares.20

The earliest ceremonial anointing recorded in the Bible is that of Aaron and his sons, who were anointed as part of their consecration to the priesthood. The procedure is described in Exodus 29:

And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water. And thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the coat, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the curious girdle of the ephod: And thou shalt put the mitre upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the mitre. Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him. And thou shalt bring his sons, and put coats upon them. And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest's office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute. (Exodus 29:4-9; see also Exodus 28:41; 30:30; 40:12-15; Leviticus 8:12-13, 30; 21:10-12; Psalm 133:1-2.)

The initiation of the priests was comprised of washing, anointing, and clothing in special garments. Two of these—washing and clothing—were repeated each time the high priest entered "the holy place" (Leviticus 16:3-4).21 The pseudepigraphic Testament of Levi describes the initiation of Aaron's ancestor in terms very reminiscent of those described above:

And I saw seven men in white clothing, who were saying to me, "Arise, put on the vestments of the priesthood, the crown of righteousness, the oracle of understanding, the robe of truth, the breastplate of faith, the miter for the head, and the apron for prophetic power." Each carried one of these and put them on me and said, "From now on be a priest, you and all your posterity." The first anointed me with holy oil and gave me a staff. The second washed me with pure water, fed me by hand with bread and holy wine, and put on me a holy and glorious vestment. The third put on me something made of linen, like an ephod. The fourth placed . . . around me a girdle which was like purple. The fifth gave me a branch of rich olive wood. The sixth placed a wreath on my head. The seventh placed the priestly diadem on me and filled my hands with incense, in order that I might serve as priest for the Lord God. And they said to me, "Levi, your posterity shall be divided into three offices as a sign of the glory of the Lord who is coming."22

The Bible describes the anointing of several individuals as king in ancient Israel. These include Abimelech,23 Saul (1 Samuel 9:16; 10:1; 15:1, 17), David (1 Samuel 16:1-13; also 2 Samuel 2:4, 7; 3:39; 5:3; 12:7; 1 Chronicles 11:3; 14:8), David's sons Absalom (2 Samuel 19:10), Adonijah, and Solomon (1 Kings 1:33-35, 39; 5:1; 1 Chronicles 29:22), Hazael and Jehu (1 Kings 19:15-16; 2 Kings 9:1-13; 2 Chronicles 22:7), Joash (2 Kings 11:12; 2 Chronicles 23:11), and Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:30). Adonijah and Solomon were anointed at springs (En-Rogel and Gihon), which may imply that washing was part of the ceremony, perhaps accompanied by investiture in royal garb. The Book of Mormon also speaks of kings being anointed (Jacob 1:9; Ether 6:22, 27; see also Ether 9:4, 14-15, 21-22; 10:10, 16).

David recalled his anointing in his most famous psalm: "thou anointest my head with oil" (Psalm 23:5; cf. Psalm 45:7 [cited in Hebrews 1:9]; 89:20; 92:10). It was he who first used the term "the Lord's anointed" (the Hebrew from which we get Messiah) to denote the king.24

"Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm," the Lord commanded through the psalmist (Psalm 105:15; cited in 1 Chronicles 16:22). The prophet Isaiah declared, "The Lord hath anointed me to preach" (Isaiah 61:1, see also verse 3).25 In 1 Kings 19:16, we read that Elijah was told to anoint Elisha as prophet in his stead. More recently, the Lord called Joseph Smith "mine anointed one" (D&C 121:16; 124:76; 135:3; cf. 124:57, 91).

In his vision of the future temple, Zechariah saw two olive trees beside the candlestick, which is a representation of the tree of life, with its seven branches (Zechariah 4:2-3).26 When he asked the angel what the trees meant, he was told that "these are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth" (Zechariah 4:11-14).27 The fact that the angel spoke of Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:6-10) leads us to believe that this Jewish governor, of the royal line, was one of the two. The other was likely the high priest, Joshua, who is termed "the branch" (Zechariah 3:8; 6:11-13). In a similar vision of the future temple, John was told that the "two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth" were "two witnesses" or "prophets" who should defend the Jews against their enemies in the last days before being slain and then restored to life (Revelation 11:1-12). Thus, we have the offices of prophet, priest, and king represented in these related visions.

The Messiah

The term Messiah derives from a Hebrew word generally rendered "anointed (one)" in the King James Bible. It is the Old Testament equivalent of the New Testament Christ, which derives from the Greek word also meaning "anointed (one)." In John 1:41, the term Messias is defined as Christ (cf. John 4:25). It was intended to identify Christ as the legitimate king of Israel.28 As the anointed one, Christ is prophet,29priest,30 and king.31 Indeed, he is "king of kings, and lord of lords" (Revelation 19:16).

When announcing his messianic mission (Luke 4:16-21), Jesus cited part of the following passage from Isaiah 61:1, 3, 10:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me . . . to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. . . . I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels.

By declaring his anointing to preach, Jesus identified himself as a prophet and also as the expected Messiah or king of the Jews. The Isaiah passage refers to investiture with the "garments of salvation" and "the robe of righteousness" as part of the anointing process, just as we have seen in the anointing of Israelite priests.

The royal nature of the Messiah is found in Psalm 45:6-7, one of the royal psalms, which Hebrews 1:8-9 cites in reference to Jesus Christ: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."

Peter and John, praying in the presence of the Sanhedrin, cited Psalms 2:2 (where the KJV Old Testament has "his anointed" while KJV Acts 4:26 reads "his Christ"), and spoke of "thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed" (Acts 4:27; cf. 10:38).32

The term Messiah is found but once in the Old Testament of the King James Bible, in Daniel 9:25-26. Daniel wrote of the time when Israel would "anoint the most Holy" (Daniel 9:24).

Washing and Anointing

To Latter-day Saints, it is significant that Aaron and his sons were washed, anointed, and clothed in priestly garments at the tabernacle. These initiatory ordinances are associated in modern times with the temple (D&C 109:35, 53, 80; 124:39) and represent a call to the royal priesthood33 in the kingdom of God.34 It further symbolizes purification and the leaving behind of earthly cares while entering the Lord's house.

The Lord told Moses that the people were to "sanctify themselves" and to "wash their clothes" in preparation for meeting the Lord and becoming a "kingdom of priests" (Exodus 19:5-11). But they became neither kings nor priests, for they rejected the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood necessary to obtain that blessing (D&C 84:19-25).35 This privilege was reserved for people of a later dispensation, to whom Peter wrote, "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people" (1 Peter 2:9).36

The Lord instructed the Laodiceans to clothe themselves in white raiment and to anoint their eyes (Revelation 3:18). Speaking of Jerusalem as his bride, he declared through Ezekiel, "Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work . . . and I girded thee about with fine linen," and other bridal apparel (Ezekiel 16:9-13).37

This cleansing was particularly important when entering the temple. We read, for example, that David washed, anointed himself, and changed his apparel before going into the house of the Lord (2 Samuel 12:20). Similar purificatory ordinances were performed for prophets brought into the presence of God:

The Lord said to Michael: "Take Enoch and extract (him) from his earthly clothing. And anoint him with the delightful oil, and put (him) into the clothes of glory." And Michael extracted me from my clothes. He anointed me with the delightful oil; and the appearance of that oil is greater than the greatest light, its ointment is like sweet dew, and its fragrance like myrrh; and its shining is like the sun. And I gazed at all of myself, and I had become like one of the glorious ones.38

The shining appearance of Enoch following his anointing reminds us that one of the major uses of olive oil anciently was in lamps.


The tie between temple washing and baptism is emphasized in the book of Revelation, where the cleansing from sins through Christ's Atonement is said to result in a royal calling for his followers:

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6.)

In baptism, we take upon ourselves the name of Christ (2 Nephi 31:13), becoming "Christians" or "anointed ones." Paul wrote that, in baptism, we bury our old sinful man and rise a new man in Christ (Romans 6:3-9; Colossians 2:12-13; cf. Mosiah 18:14; D&C 76:51). Symbolically, baptism initiates us into the celestial kingdom, where we become as God. The same is true of washing and anointing in the temple. Like baptism, the washing is designed to cleanse the initiate from sins.39 At the same time, he or she receives a garment to give protection from Satan by continually reminding the person of his or her true identity.

The commingling of baptism with anointing and investiture with the garments of the priesthood shows the close tie made between baptism and the temple washing in ancient times. It is found in some pseudepigraphic works. The Hellenistic Synagogal Prayer on behalf of the Catechumens implores, "Grant them (the) washing of regeneration, the garment of incorruption."40 The Apocalypse of Sedrach 14:6 speaks of those who are "baptized with my baptism and anointed with my divine myrrh."41

Early Christianity, lacking the benefit of the temple (which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70), began to connect the ordinance of baptism with the temple washing ceremony. This resulted in a transfer of related elements of the temple ceremony to the baptismal service.42

By the third century A.D., the Christian baptismal ceremony had become very elaborate and contained a number of elements drawn from the temple (some of them indirectly through contemporaneous mystery religions). It began with a formal renunciation of Satan by the candidates. Then official exorcists shouted to drive out demons or evil spirits. This was followed by triune immersion, in the name of each member of the Godhead. Mosheim wrote, "On coming from the fount, the newly baptized tasted a mixture of milk and honey, in symbolism of their condition as new-born babies in Christ. To that succeeded anointing with oil," designation with the cross, and the use of salt. The initiates "returned home, adorned with crowns, and arrayed in white garments, as sacred emblems; the former, of their victory over sin and the world; the latter, of their inward purity and innocence."43 At some periods, the eucharist or sacrament of the Lord's Supper was offered immediately after baptism.

In his Catechetical Lectures, Cyril of Jerusalem gave the full account of a baptismal ceremony at Easter. In the baptistry vestibule, facing westward, the proselytes renounced Satan, then turned to the east (the place of light) and declared their belief in the Trinity and in one baptism. They then entered the inner chamber of the baptistry, took off their clothes, and were anointed with oil "from the hairs of your head to your feet." The oil had been exorcised and was considered to be "a charm to drive away every trace of hostile influence." They then went into the pool and were asked to affirm their belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. This was followed by triune immersion. Then they were anointed on the forehead, then the ears, nostrils, and breast. The preacher then declared to them, "Having been accounted worthy of this holy chrism, ye are called Christians." Then they were dressed in white garments and given the Eucharist. Cyril explained that the anointing symbolized the anointing of Christ, Aaron, and Solomon, as well as the anointing by the Holy Spirit.

Features found in the baptismal ceremony of about A.D. 200 can be compared to temple rites: The three questions concerning the proselyte's belief, the confession of faith, and the taking of an oath of fidelity are reminiscent of the basic laws taught in the temple. The three immersions are paralleled by the washing, while anointing is found in both ceremonies, and the initiate is dressed in white clothing. The renunciation of Satan is likewise found in both ceremonies. The use of salt in the early baptismal ceremony parallels the salting of sacrificial meats in the ancient temple (Leviticus 2:13).

In the period A.D. 313-476, new features were added to the baptismal ceremony. Insufflation after exorcism of the devil was patterned after Christ's breathing on the Twelve when he told them to receive the Holy Ghost (John 20:22). The priest uttered the Aramaic word epphetha ("open") in the ears of the proselyte (like anointing the ears to hear). The sign of the cross made anciently on the forehead and chest are also reminiscent of washing and anointing. Indeed, christening in many churches is performed by making the sign of the cross on the forehead with holy water.

Most of these elements are tied together in the Gnostic Gospel of Philip:

It is from water and fire that the soul and the spirit came into being. It is from water and fire and light that the son of the bridal chamber [came into being]. The first is the chrism, the light is the fire. I am not referring to that fire which has no form, but to the other fire whose form is white, which is bright and beautiful, and which gives beauty. . . . Truth did not come into the world naked, but it came in types and images. One will not receive truth in any other way. There is a rebirth and an image of rebirth. It is certainly necessary that they should be born again through the image. The [bridegroom] and the image must enter through the image into the truth: this is the restoration. It is appropriate that those who do have it not only acquire the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, but that they have acquired it on their own. If one does not acquire the name for himself, the name ("Christian") will also be taken from him. But one receives them in the aromatic unction of the power of the cross. This power the apostles called "the right and the left." For the person is no longer a Christian but a Christ. The Lord [did] everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber.44

Of the various symbolic elements mentioned here, perhaps the most significant for the temple is the anointing ("unction" or "chrism"), whereby one becomes a "Christ" or "anointed one." Baptism in memory of his burial and resurrection (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12), followed by the anointing and eating the eucharist or emblems of the sacrament, are an initiation designed to bring godhood to the participant. Also of interest in this passage is that the oil is likened to the Spirit. In the pseudepigraphic Acts of Thomas 26-27, the apostle baptized a group of converts, then "sealed" them by pouring oil on their heads and calling on the Holy Ghost to come upon them.45

A survey of early literature indicates that the temple ceremony of washing is a symbolic repetition of baptism in water, cleansing the initiate of sin, while the garment which protects the initiate represents the Holy Ghost, and the anointing oil symbolizes the baptism of fire (for oil was used in lamps to make light anciently). This is discussed in more detail below.

Anciently, a new name played a role in washing and anointing and receiving of a garment; similarly, names are important in baptism. The name of the individual receiving the ordinance is pronounced, and he or she is baptized "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19; D&C 20:73) and thereby takes upon himself or herself the name of Jesus Christ.46 In one of the Nag Hammadi documents we read, "I shall pronounce my name as I receive baptism [now] (and) for ever among the living (and) holy [names], and in the [waters], Amen."47 In yet another passage, we read:

The baptism which we previously mentioned is called "garment of those who did not strip themselves of it," for those who will put it on and those who have received redemption wear it. It is also called "the confirmation of the truth which has no fall." In an unwavering and immovable way he grasps those who have received the restoration while they grasp him. (Baptism) is called "silence" because of the quiet and tranquility. It is also called "bridal chamber" because of the agreement and the individual state of those who know that they have known him. It is also called "the light which does not set and is without flame," since it does not give light, but those who have worn it are made into light. They are the ones whom he wore. (Baptism) is also called "the eternal life," which is immortality; and it is called "all that which it is."48

Finally, in connection with the early Christian practice of mingling temple rites with the baptismal ceremony, we note the following: "It is fitting for [thee at this time] to send thy Son [Jesu]s Christ and anoint us so that we might be able to trample [upon] the [snakes] and [the heads] of the scorpions and [all] the power of the Devil."49

The anointing, either by oil or the Spirit which it symbolizes, is designed to protect the recipient from the devil.50 As noted above, third-century Christians, at the time of baptism, were anointed and called upon to renounce the devil.

Through baptism, we are symbolically reborn as children of Christ. In a sense, then, baptism and anointing of proselytes was like the washing and anointing of newborn babies. Significantly, the dead were typically washed and anointed, symbolizing a transition into yet another state. In some traditions, such as that of the Mandaeans, a couple being married are washed, anointed, and clothed in white robes (reminding us of the term "bridal chamber" often used to describe initiation ceremonies).51

Sacrament of the Lord's Supper

In baptism, we take upon ourselves the name of Christ (2 Nephi 31:13), becoming "Christians" or "anointed ones." The baptismal covenant is renewed in the sacrament, when we again take upon us the name of Christ by symbolically eating his flesh and blood and receiving the promise of his spirit (D&C 20:77; Moroni 4:3). This is what Jesus meant when he spoke of eating his flesh and drinking his blood (John 6:47-58). Anthropologists have often noted how, in various cultures throughout the world, people believe that by eating the flesh of certain animals, one can take on the character of those animals. Among cannibals, the eating of human flesh is done not for nourishment but in an attempt to gain the strength of the slain enemy. Thus, eating Christ's flesh symbolically gives us his qualities.

Because olive oil is also used as a food, it is not surprising to see it associated with the bread and wine (or water) of the sacrament. This association is also due to the fact that the sacrament is a renewal of the baptismal covenant, as is clear from the prayers offered on the bread and wine or water.52 One Nag Hammadi text refers to "the bread and the cup and the oil."53 The same text continues:

Spiritual love is wine and fragrance. All those who anoint themselves with it take pleasure from it. While those who are anointed are present, those nearby also profit (from the fragrance). If those anointed with ointment withdraw from them and leave, then those not anointed, who merely stand nearby, still remain in their bad odor. The Samaritan gave nothing but wine and oil to the wounded man. It is nothing other than the ointment. It healed the wounds, for "love covers a multitude of sins."54

The presence of the sacrament (eucharist) at the time of baptism, along with anointing, in early Christian practice, continues to be reflected to some extent today. For example, in the Roman Catholic Church, it is believed that, at a certain point in the mass, when the prayer calling for the descent of the Holy Ghost on the eucharist has been completed, the Holy Ghost is present on the altar. The Holy Ghost, of course, is generally connected with baptism, since water baptism is sealed by confirmation and receiving of the Holy Ghost.55 But its presence at the time of the sacrament is also confirmed in the Latter-day Saint sacramental prayer, where there is a promise of the Spirit to all who eat and drink. Again, this is because the sacrament is a renewal of the baptismal covenant.

Interestingly, at the last supper, Jesus associated the sacrament with the washing of feet, which is a part of the washing and anointing ceremony56 (John 13:1-5; see also D&C 88:140-41). Not long before that special meal, he had been anointed at Bethany preparatory to his death and burial (Matthew 26:12-13; cf. Mark 14:8-9; Luke 7:37-39, 44-46; John 12:3-4).

The connection between the sacrament and anointing with oil and receiving the garment and the new name is found in the pseudepigraphic story of Joseph and Aseneth. At one point, Joseph speaks of the man who will "eat blessed bread of life and drink a blessed cup of immortality and anoint himself with blessed ointment of incorruptibility."57

Prior to her conversion, Aseneth receives a blessing from Joseph. Laying his right hand on her head, he declares for her:

And let her eat your bread of life, and drink your cup of blessing, and number her among your people, that you have chosen before all (things) came into being, and let her enter your rest which you have prepared for your chosen ones, and live in your eternal life for ever (and) ever.58

Receiving the bread and the cup of the sacrament of the Lord's supper, in this story, is symbolic of conversion to the Lord and of being chosen to eternal life. Anxious to learn the meaning of Joseph's words, Aseneth prays, and the Lord sends to her his chief angel. The messenger declares to her:

Behold, from today, you will be renewed and formed anew and made alive again, and you will eat blessed bread of life, and drink a blessed cup of immortality, and anoint yourself with blessed ointment of incorruptibility. . . . And your name shall no longer be called Aseneth, but your name shall be City of Refuge.59

Thus, along with rebirth, the emblems of the sacrament and anointing, the young woman received a new name. So, too, in early Christianity, proselytes were given new names, as are Jewish proselytes and babies christened in various churches. An interesting feature of the story of Aseneth is that it was the angel who bestowed the new name, as in several biblical stories.60

The angel also gave to Aseneth a honeycomb which he said was made from dew and came from paradise,61 much as early Christian converts were given honey after baptism. The honeycomb is the "bread of life":

And the man stretched out his right hand and broke a small portion off the comb, and he himself ate and what was left he put with his hand into Aseneth's mouth, and said to her, "Eat." And she ate. And the man said to Aseneth, "Behold, you have eaten bread of life, and drunk a cup of immortality, and been anointed with ointment of incorruptibility."62

Following their marriage, Aseneth sang a hymn of praise, in which she recalled the angel's visit in terms that remind us of both the sacrament and temple marriage: "And to the chief of the house of the Most High, and gave me to eat bread of life, and to drink a cup of wisdom, and I became his bride for ever and ever."63

The use of the honeycomb with the bread and wine, emblems of the body and blood of Christ, is significant. Compare Jesus' statement that he was the "bread of life" from heaven (John 6) with the description of the heavenly manna as honey-flavored (Exodus 16:31). The heavenly books eaten by John (Revelation 10:9-10) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:3) were sweet to the taste (see also Psalm 119:103). The tie with oil is strengthened by the statement in Numbers 11:8 that manna tasted like "fresh oil." In the next verse, it is compared to dew.

In this connection, we note that the four streams that flowed from the tree of life in the garden of Eden are said to have consisted of honey, milk, oil, and wine—all elements associated with early Christian baptism.64

Ephrem made the rivers a type of the flowing of oil in prebaptismal anointing.65 He also noted that the river of Eden was divided into four parts as a symbol of "the outpouring of oil. . . . That [river] waters the garden of delights; this one gives light to the Holy Church. That [river] makes trees flourish; this one, bodies. For that of Eden has four names, proclaiming rivers; and the oil has three names, trumpets of baptisms." This, wrote Murray, refers to baptismal anointing in the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.66 In this connection, it is reminiscent of the parallel between the members of the Godhead and the emblems of baptism (water, spirit, and blood) in the late addition to 1 John 5:6-9.67

Ephrem declared, "The olive is the symbol of Christ, for from him spring milk, water and oil; milk for babes, water for young men and oil for the sick. Likewise the 'Olive' gave these also, water and blood, in his death, and gave oil in [or by] his death."68

Aphrahat, Ephrem, and Cyril of Jerusalem used olive symbolism to denote Christ as the source of the sacraments. This is because of the importance of the prebaptismal anointing in the Syrian Church. Murray noted that Aphrahat's mention of perfection coming by the anointing is paralleled in Hippolytus's Traditio Apostolica 5, "unde unxisti reges sacerdotes et profetas, which is still recited in the Roman rite in the Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday."69

Anointed with the Holy Ghost

At the time John baptized Jesus, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power" (Acts 10:37-38). St. Basil, commenting on this passage, cited Isaiah 61:1 ("The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me") as a reference to the descent of the Holy Ghost on the newly-baptized Christ. Indeed, Jesus related the Isaiah passage to his own mission (Luke 4:16-21). St. Basil also cited Psalm 45:7 ("Therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows") and indicated that the two passages refer to the role of the Holy Ghost in baptism.70

An early pseudepigraphic work agreed with St. Basil: "And when he is come forth of the water of Jordan, then shall he anoint with the oil of mercy all that believe on him, and that oil of mercy shall be unto all generations of them that shall be born of water and of the Holy Ghost, unto life eternal."71

Similar thoughts are expressed in the pseudepigraphic Gospel of Philip: "Jesus revealed [himself at the] Jordan: it was the [fulness of the kingdom] of heaven. He who [was begotten] before everything was begotten anew. He [who was] once [anointed] was anointed (a)new. He who was redeemed in turn redeemed (others)."72

The same text indicates that we are "begotten again" through the baptisms of water and the Holy Spirit. "We are anointed through the Spirit. . . . For this reason it is fitting to baptize in the two, in the light and the water. Now the light is the chrism."73 The explanation continues:

The chrism is superior to baptism, for it is from the word "chrism" that we have been called "Christians," certainly not because of the word "baptism." And it is because of the chrism that "the Christ" has his name. For the Father anointed the Son, and the Son anointed the apostles, and the apostles anointed us. He who has been anointed possesses everything. He possesses the resurrection, the light, the cross, the Holy Spirit. The Father gave him this in the bridal chamber;74 he merely accepted [the gift].75

The text also discusses the role of the spiritual and physical elements by saying, "It is through water and fire that the whole place is purified—the visible by the visible, the hidden by the hidden. There are some things hidden through those visible. There is water in water, there is fire in a chrism."76

The comparison of the chrism or anointing with oil with the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost seems very appropriate. Washing and anointing go together like baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is called baptism by fire. Anciently, the oil was used to make fire in lamps and is hence a symbol of fire and also of the Spirit. This is why the Holy Ghost is often compared to anointing with oil and why, in early Christianity, anointing followed baptism.77

While the oil provides food and light and is also used to clean and protect the skin, the Holy Ghost fulfills similar functions for the spirit, teaching it, cleansing it from sin, and providing the light by which we can see our path.

Joseph Smith also noted the connection between anointing and receiving the Holy Ghost. During the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, he prayed, "Let the anointing of thy ministers be sealed upon them with power from on high. Let it be fulfilled upon them, as upon those on the day of Pentecost" (D&C 109:35-36), when the Holy Ghost fell upon the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-4). The anointings in the Kirtland temple were specifically designed to prepare the participants to be "endowed with power from on high" (D&C 38:32, 38; 43:15-16; 95:8-9; 105:10-12, 33), reminding us that the pentecostal experience of the apostles was a fulfillment of Jesus' promise that they would be "endued with power from on high" and become witnesses of him, beginning in Jerusalem (Luke 24:47-49; Acts 1:4, 8; cf. 2 Timothy 1:6-8). This returns us to Acts 10:37-38, where we read that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power."

Saint Jerome cited a passage from the Gospel According to the Hebrews to the effect that the ancient prophets had been "anointed of the Holy Spirit" (Against Pelagius 3.2).78

Paul wrote, "Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). The parallel between anointing and the Spirit in this passage is also assumed by John in his first epistle:

But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. . . . And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. . . . But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence. . . . If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. (1 John 2:20, 25, 27, 28, 29.)

John clearly had in mind the Holy Ghost, through which we are reborn and which Jesus had indicated would teach the apostles of all things (John 14:26; 16:13; see D&C 93:28).79 This identification is confirmed by a revelation given to Joseph Smith in which the "Comforter" or "Holy Spirit of promise" of John 14 "is the promise which [is given] unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom" (D&C 88:3-4). John's epistle makes this same point concerning the role of the Holy Ghost.

In the revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord further indicated that the washing ceremony, which Jesus had performed just before promising the Holy Ghost to his apostles (John 13) is necessary in order to realize the promise:

And I give unto you, who are the first laborers in this last kingdom, a commandment that you assemble yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean; That I may testify unto your Father, and your God, and my God, that you are clean from the blood of this wicked generation; that I may fulfil this promise, this great and last promise, which I have made unto you, when I will. (D&C 88:74-75.)

This assurance, according to Joseph Smith, comes "by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood" (D&C 131:5). The Lord declared to him that we can be "sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise through him whom I have anointed" (D&C 132:7, 18-19), once again tying the Holy Ghost to anointing.

In one of the so-called Odes of Solomon, it is the Spirit that brought the writer before the Lord, where he was anointed:

[The Spirit] brought me forth before the Lord's face, and because I was the Son of Man, I was named the Light, the Son of God. . . . For according to the greatness of the Most High, so she made me; and according to his newness he renewed me. And he anointed me with his perfection; and I became one of those who are near him. And my mouth was opened like a cloud of dew.80

The opening of the mouth is mentioned in Psalm 51 in connection with purificatory washing, and can be tied to an ancient Egyptian ceremony.81 The mention of dew in connection with the anointing is found elsewhere. In the Slavonic 2 Enoch 6, Enoch is shown "the treasuries of the dew, like olive oil."82 Another pseudepigraphic work notes that when "the Anointed One" comes, vines will yield abundantly and winds will "bring the fragrance of aromatic fruits and clouds at the end of the day to distill the dew of health."83

In another text, the apostle Thomas anoints a group of women who have changed their clothes, then baptizes them and gives them bread and wine, saying, "Let us receive the dew of thy goodness." He indicated to them that the oil was from the same tree (olive) of which the cross had been made. He also compared their new clothing with the linen cloth in which Christ's body was wrapped, asking the Lord that they might be "girt about with thy power."84

We noted earlier that, in the fourth century A.D., baptism was accompanied by insufflation and an exhortation to open the ears. The basis for this practice was Jesus' breathing on his apostles and commanding them, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:22). St. Ignatius tied this practice to Christ's anointing:

For this end did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured upon his head, that he might breathe immortality unto his church. Be not ye anointed with the evil odour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; let him not lead you away captive from the life which is set before you.85

Like the lamp, the oil symbolically makes Christ the "light of the world" (John 1:4-8; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46; Mosiah 16:9; cf. Hebrews 1:3). A Syriac text, speaking of the tree of life, equates it to Christ: "The good tree is there in that world of light. . . . He is the Tree of Life, giving life to all things by his fruits."86 The fruits are identified with the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-25. At the end of Homily XXIX, "On the discipline of the Body," the tree of life is identified with the life-giving Spirit.87

In Doctrine and Covenants 88:5-13; 93:2, it is Christ who provides light. This is generally considered to be a power other than the Holy Ghost, which Christ asked the Father to send on his disciples. The spirit is considered to be the source of life in the Coptic document entitled "The Paraphrase of Shem," where the Lord speaks of "my beautiful garment of light," also called "my universal garment," and says that he was "wrapped in the light of the Spirit," his garment being "from the power of the Spirit." He adds, "For I am a helper of everyone who has been given a name . . . and I gave the eternal honor."88

In three Old Testament passages, the Hebrew text reads that "the Spirit clothed" someone (Judges 6:34; 1 Chronicles 12:18; 2 Chronicles 24:20). The King James translators, not understanding the idiom, rendered all three passages "the Spirit came upon" someone. In this, we are reminded of the passage in Pseudo-Philo 20:2-3, where Joshua dons the garments of Moses and is stirred by the same Spirit that Moses had possessed.89

The identification of the Holy Ghost with oil, which provides enlightenment, is clear in a modern revelation explaining the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).90 The five wise virgins, who kept their lamps supplied with oil, are the ones who "have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide" (D&C 45:57). "The power of my Spirit quickeneth all things. Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom" (D&C 33:16-17).

St. Basil wrote, "Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory."91

Basil undoubtedly had Paul's words to the Philippians in mind: "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15). But Paul borrowed the concept from Christ, who instructed his disciples, "Ye are the light of the world. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). This light is Christ (3 Nephi 18:24).


  1. The list of references is too long to include here, but see, for example, the following chapters: Exodus 29; Leviticus 2; 6; 7; 9; 14; 23; 24; Numbers 6; 7; 8; 15; 28; 29.
  2. Again, the list is too long to include here.
  3. The King James Bible routinely uses the word candlestick when a lampstand is meant and candle when a lamp is meant. Candles, common to Jacobean England, were not used in the ancient Near East.
  4. Oil for this lampstand is mentioned in Exodus 25:6;Exodus 27:20; 35:8, 14, 28; 39:37; Leviticus 24:2; Numbers 4:9, 16.
  5. See, for example, Deuteronomy 28:39-40 (cited in Micah 6:15); 2 Chronicles 28:15; Psalms 104:15; Amos 6:6; and cf. Deuteronomy 33:24.
  6. In Acts of Thomas 5, the attendees at a wedding banquet anoint the top of the head, the nostrils, the ears, the teeth, and around the heart. The anointing and dressing of brides in white clothing is mentioned in Pseudo-Philo 40:6.
  7. A few olive trees remain in the remote valleys of the Tassili n'Ajjer mountains of southern Algeria, some of which may be as old as three to four thousand years. Because of the slow maturation of the olive tree, the Arabs say that one plants olive trees not for oneself, but for one's grandchildren. Olive trees and humans mature after about the same amount of time.
  8. James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. (Garden City: Doubleday, 1983), 1:611.
  9. From the parable in Judges 9:8-15, one has the impression that both the olive tree and the vine were considered to be noble and worthy of being anointed to reign over the trees.
  10. Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:667, n. 4q, notes that the tree is identified as the vine by the second-century sages: R. Meir (TB Sanhedrin 70a) and R. Judah b. Ilai (Genesis Rabbah 15:7) and that it is mentioned in Apocalypse of Abraham 23:5 and the Palea Historica (ed. Vassiliev, p. 190). In the Apocalypse of Abraham 23:1-10, the fruit of the tree with which Eve was tempted is described as "like the appearance of a bunch of grapes of the vine" (ibid., 1:700). According to Apocalypse of Moses 20, Eve ate the fruit of the fig tree (in ibid., 2:281, n. 20d, Charlesworth notes the various traditional identifications of this tree).
  11. Origen, Contra Celsum VI, 27. Cf. Hippolytus, Traditio Apostolica V, 2. In the Babylonian Talmud, see TB Ḥagigah 12b; Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer 35. In the Jerusalem Talmud, see Berakot 1:9b.
  12. Life of Adam and Eve 36:1-2 (cf. Apocalypse of Moses 9:1-3), in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:272-73, who notes that "MSS E1 and E2 add 'a branch' after 'give me'." The tree of life is often said to have exuded a delightful odor. One pseudepigraphic work quotes the Lord as saying of the returning Israelites that "the tree of life shall give them fragrant perfume, and they shall neither toil nor become weary" (4 Ezra 2:10-12 in ibid., 1:527; the version in KJV Apocrypha, 2 Esdras 2:11, says "They shall have the tree of life for an ointment of sweet savor").
  13. Life of Adam and Eve 40-42 (cf. Apocalypse of Moses 13:1-4). The story is also found in the Latin A and Greek versions of the Descent of Christ 3 (Latin B chapter 4). Adam's children are said to have anointed themselves with his body after he died (Life of Adam and Eve 11:13; 12:7). According to a number of sources, the tree of life is for the pious in the world to come (4 Ezra 2:12; 1 Enoch 25:4-5; Testament of Levi 18:11; Revelation 2:7;Revelation 22:14; Lekah Genesis 2:9). According to the Book of the Rolls f.96b, Christ was anointed with myrrh from the garden of Eden, which had been preserved along with paradisiacal incense and gold brought by the wise men.
  14. Gospel of Philip 2:3, 73, in James M. Robinson, gen. ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 144.
  15. For this identification, see my article, "Borrowings from Zenos," in this volume.
  16. For the significance of this, see my articles, "Borrowings from Zenos," and "Vineyard or Olive Orchard?" in this volume.
  17. The sacred oil seems to have been used to purify various sorts of impurities. In Leviticus 14:12-29, for example, we read that the priest used it to cleanse lepers.
  18. Aphrahat, Demonstrations XXIII, in Robert Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition (Cambridge University Press, 1975), 115 (see Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, chapter 3, "The Vineyard, the Grape and the Tree of Life").
  19. Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, 115 and n. 2.
  20. Ibid., 115.
  21. See also the descriptions of the high priest in Leviticus 21:12 and Numbers 35:25. The provision for modern anointings of literal descendants of Aaron is made in D&C 68:20.
  22. Testament of Levi 8:2-11, in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:791.
  23. In the case of Abimelech, the anointing is couched in Jotham's parable of the trees (Judges 9:8, 15).
  24. 1 Samuel 2:35;1 Samuel 24:6, 10; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Samuel 1:14, 16;2 Samuel 19:21; 22:51; 23:1; 1 Chronicles 16:22; 2 Chronicles 6:42; Psalms 2:2;Psalms 18:50; 20:6; 45:7; 84:9; 89:20, 38, 51; 105:15; Lamentations 4:20; Habakkuk 3:13. In Isaiah 45:1, the term is applied prophetically to Cyrus, king of Persia. From 2 Nephi 25:18, some have assumed that only Jesus could be called by the term Messiah. While it is true that only he brings salvation, the term, meaning "anointed one," has been applied to many people anciently in the Hebrew Bible.
  25. Christ cited this passage in reference to his own mission (Luke 4:18; see D&C 138:42), as we shall see later.
  26. Even in Mesopotamian art, the tree of life is often depicted with seven branches. It appears thus on Jewish lamps of the Herodian (Roman) period.
  27. In this case, the word messiah does not appear in the text. The Hebrew reads, literally, "sons of the shining."
  28. The wise men, seeking the newborn Jesus, asked after the "king of the Jews" (Matthew 2:2). Following his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (patterned on the royal processions of old), Christ was asked by Pilate if he were "the king of the Jews" (Matthew 27:11; Luke 23:3). During Christ's trial, Pilate called him by this title (Mark 15:9, 12; John 18:33, 39;John 19:14-15)-a fact not lost on the Roman soldiers who dressed Christ as a king and mocked him ( John 19:3). The official charge of which Jesus was found guilty and for which he was executed was being "king of the Jews" without the consent of Caesar and the Roman senate (Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19).
  29. Christ is the prophet foreseen by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15-16. See Acts 3:2;Acts 7:37; 1 Nephi 22:21; 3 Nephi 20:23.
  30. Christ's role as high priest is discussed in Hebrews 2:17;Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; 5:6; 6:20; 7:24; 10:21. In 1 Peter 2:25, he is called the shepherd and bishop of souls.
  31. Jesus is termed a king in Revelation 1:5;Revelation 3:7; 5:5; 17:14; 19:16; 22:16. See also Matthew 2:6;Matthew 21:5; 27:42. He was given the usual royal welcome ( Zechariah 9:9; cf. 1 Kings 1:32, 38) when he entered Jerusalem riding on the ass (Matthew 21:1-9), which is probably what prompted Pilate to consider him the king of the Jews for purposes of trial.
  32. The washing and anointing of Christ's feet is a subject of importance in the gospels (Mark 14:8; Luke 7:37-38, 46; John 1:2; John 12:3.), as is the fact that the women at the tomb intended to anoint him for burial ( Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1).
  33. In D&C 132:41, sealing in marriage is called "the holy anointing." In D&C 131:2, it is termed "an order of the priesthood."
  34. As we prove ourselves worthy and become kings, Christ becomes "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords" (Revelation 19:16). That the heirs of the celestial kingdom become kings is indicated by the fact that they will receive crowns, sit upon thrones (Revelation 3:21), and rule the nations (Revelation 1:26-27).
  35. Cf. Exodus 20:18-19; see also D&C 107:18-19. See John A. Tvedtnes, The Church of the Old Testament, 2d ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1980), 35-37. Brigham Young said, "If they had been sanctified and holy, the children of Israel would not have travelled one year with Moses before they would have received their endowments and the Melchisedec Priesthood" (JD 6:100).
  36. Hebrews 12:28-29, citing Deuteronomy 4:24 (cf. Exodus 19:18), also alludes to the events at Sinai: "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire." The fire is, of course, also a feature of oil when used in lamps.
  37. Clementine Recognitions, IV, 35-36, identifies the wedding garment of Matthew 22:11-12 with baptism.
  38. 2 Enoch 22:8-9, in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:138-39. Cf. 2 Enoch 56:2, and see Moses 7:2-4.
  39. The water, in this case, representing the blood of Christ, in which we are to wash our garments. See Revelation 7:14;Revelation 19:8; 1 Nephi 12:10-11; Alma 5:21-27;Alma 13:11-13; 3 Nephi 27:19-20; D&C 88:85.
  40. Apostolic Constitutions 8:6:6, in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:688.
  41. Apocalypse of Sedrah 14:6, ibid., 1:613.
  42. For some of these ideas, see Hugh Nibley, "Christian Envy of the Temple," in Mormonism and Early Christianity, vol. 4 in The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M.S., 1987), 391-434.
  43. Johann Lorenz von Mosheim, An Ecclesiastical History from the Birth of Christ to the Beginning of the Eighteenth Century, trans. Archibald MacLaine (London: Tegg, 1842), 1:261-62.
  44. Gospel of Philip 2:3, 67, in Robinson, Nag Hammadi Library in English, 140.
  45. Montague Rhodes James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University, 1955), 375-76.
  46. For this reason, the baptism of infants at the time of naming was an easy transition in Christianity.
  47. Melchizedek 9:1, 16, in Robinson, Nag Hammadi Library in English, 402.
  48. The Tripartite Tractate 1:5, 128-29, in ibid., 93-94.
  49. A Valentinian Exposition, On the Anointing, 11:2, 40, in ibid., 440.
  50. In the pseudepigraphic Acts of Thomas 25, the apostle asks the Lord to cleanse his converts "with thy washing and anointing them with thine oil from the error that encompasseth them." James, The Apocryphal New Testament, 375.
  51. See Ethel S. Drower, The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran (Oxford: Oxford University, 1937). The Mandaean priests dress the bridegroom in a white robe and apron for the wedding ceremony. The Mandaeans, who claim to be descended from the disciples of John the Baptist, perform baptism for both the living and the dead. Standing in the water with the priest, the candidate raises his right hand and takes an oath, then crouches in the water three times. He is then given bread and water and is anointed with oil.
  52. Cf. the covenant of baptism (2 Nephi 31:13; Mosiah 18:8-13; 3 Nephi 12:1-7) and the covenant of the sacrament (D&C 20:77; 3 Nephi 18:6-7, 10-11; Moroni 4:3).
  53. Gospel of Philip 2:3, 75, in Robinson, Nag Hammadi Library in English, 145.
  54. Gospel of Philip 2:3, 77-78, in ibid., 146-47. The quote at the end of the passage is from 1 Peter 4:8.
  55. The Holy Ghost is also connected with resurrection, of which baptism is a symbol, and hence the easy transition in Catholicism, for example, to the belief that the body and blood of Christ are "resurrected" on the altar by being transformed from the wafer and wine.
  56. Clergy of the Eastern Orthodox churches continue the practice, and it was reinstituted in the Roman Catholic Church by Pope John XXIII a mere three decades ago.
  57. Joseph and Aseneth 8:5, in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:211-12.
  58. Joseph and Aseneth 8:9, in ibid., 2:213.
  59. Joseph and Aseneth 15:5, 7 (cf. 19:5), in ibid., 2:226.
  60. Cf. the naming of John the Baptist (Luke 1:13, 59-63) and of Jesus (Matthew 1:21, 24; Luke 1:31) before they were born, and the renaming of Abram/Abraham (Genesis 17:1-5) and Jacob/Israel (Genesis 32:27-28).
  61. Joseph and Aseneth 16:14, in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:227.
  62. Joseph and Aseneth 16:15-16, in ibid., 2:229.
  63. Joseph and Aseneth 21:21, in ibid., 2:238.
  64. 2 Enoch 8:5; Perek Gan Eden.
  65. Ephrem, On Virginity IV, 14.
  66. Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, 128.
  67. Cf. the birth of water and the Spirit in John 3:5-8 and see John 7:37-39, where Jesus, speaking in the temple during the feast of tabernacles (when water was poured on the altar and worn-out priestly clothing was soaked in olive oil and burned), mentions water and the Spirit.
  68. Diatessaron Commentary, 21,11, in Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, 125.
  69. Ibid., 116.
  70. Basil, On the Spirit 12.
  71. Descent of Christ 3 (Acts of Pilate, Latin A text), in James, Apocryphal New Testament, 127-28. According to the Book of the Rolls 98b-99a, water collected when the Holy Ghost hovers over it (as in Genesis 1:2 and at Christ's baptism), when mixed with oil, can be used to anoint the sick and those possessed by devils.
  72. Gospel of Philip 2:3, 70-71, in Robinson, Nag Hammadi Library in English, 142. Though the Bible does not mention an anointing at the time of Christ's baptism, it does note the descent of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:16-17; John 1:30-34), which is compared in the Gospel of Philip to the anointing with oil.
  73. Gospel of Philip 2:3, 69, in ibid., 141.
  74. The "bridal chamber" of the New Testament and early Christian works is the Holy of Holies of the temple or the celestial kingdom.
  75. Gospel of Philip 2:3, 74, in Robinson, Nag Hammadi Library in English, 144.
  76. Gospel of Philip 2:3, 57, in ibid., 135. This passage is immediately preceded by comments on the heavenly garments.
  77. We have already noted that water baptism was anciently accompanied by both anointing and the giving of a new name. But the term christen, meaning "to baptize" or "to name," originally referred to the anointing.
  78. I am indebted to Benjamin Urrutia for bringing this to my attention.
  79. The Holy Ghost, as the Testator, bears witness of Christ. Alma compared the word of God to the tree of life, which is nourished inside the believer by his faith, and explained the process by which one can gain a testimony of the truth of God's word (Alma 32:37-43).
  80. Odes of Solomon 36:3, 5-6, in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:765-66.
  81. See Benjamin Urrutia, "Psalm 51 and the 'Opening of the Mouth' Ceremony," in Sarah I. Groll, ed., Egyptological Studies (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1982).
  82. In Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:113.
  83. 2 Baruch 29:3-7, in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:630-31. The same document tells us that when the Lord reigns, "health will descend in dew" (2 Baruch 73:1-2, in ibid., 1:645). Early Jewish and Christian works tell of the Lord blessing Adam and Eve after the Fall with winds carrying the fragrance of Eden's trees. Numbers 11:8-9 describes manna falling as dew and having the taste of "fresh oil." The oil used to anoint Aaron is compared to dew in Psalm 133:2-3.
  84. Acts of Thomas 156-58, in James, Apocryphal New Testament, 432-33.
  85. Epistle of St. Ignatius to the Ephesians 17, in A. Cleveland Coxe, The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo: Christian Literature, 1885), 56.
  86. Memra 21, Liber Graduum, in Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, 129. According to 4 Baruch 7:16-17 and Book of the Rolls f-103a, the tree of life fructifies all the other trees.
  87. Cited and discussed in Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, 129.
  88. The Paraphrase of Shem, 7:1, 12-13, in Robinson, Nag Hammadi Library in English, 313-14.
  89. In Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:329.
  90. The parable may have been based on Proverbs 13:9: "The light of the righteous rejoiceth; but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out."
  91. Basil, On the Spirit 15, in Blomfield Jackson, The Treatise de Spiritu Sancto: The Nine Homilies of the Hexaemeron and the Letters of Saint Basil the Great (New York: Christian Literature, 1895), 22.