Washings and Anointings

Ritual anointings were a prominent part of religious rites in the biblical world. Recipients of the anointing included temple officiants (Exodus 28:41), prophets (1 Kings 19:16), and kings (1 Samuel 16:3; 1 Kings 1:39). In addition, sacral objects associated with the Israelite sanctuary were anointed (Exodus 30:22-29). Of equal importance in the religion of the Israelites were ablutions or ceremonial washings (Exodus 29:4-7). To ensure religious purity, Mosaic law required that designated individuals receive a ritual washing, sometimes in preparation for entering the temple (Exodus 30:17-21; Leviticus 14:7-8; Leviticus 15:5-27).

The washings and anointings of the biblical period have a parallel today in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In response to a commandment to gather the saints and to build a house "to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments, washings, and anointings" (TPJS, p. 308), these ordinances were introduced in the Kirtland Temple on January 21, 1836 (HC 2:379-83). In many respects similar in purpose to ancient Israelite practice and to the washing of feet by Jesus among his disciples, these modern LDS rites are performed only in temples set apart and dedicated for sacred purposes (D&C 124:37-38; HC 6:318-19).

Many symbolic meanings of washings and anointings are traceable in the scriptures. Ritual washings (Hebrews 9:10: D&C 124:37) symbolize the cleansing of the soul from sins and iniquities. They signify the washing-away of the pollutions of the Lord's people (Isaiah 4:4). Psalm 51:2 expresses the human longing and divine promise: "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (cf. Psalms 73:13; Isaiah 1:16).

The anointing of a person or object with sacred ointment represents sanctification (Leviticus 8:10-12) and consecration (Exodus 28:41), so that both become "most holy" (Exodus 30:29) unto the Lord. In this manner, profane persons and things are sanctified in similitude of the messiah (Hebrew "anointed one"), who is Christ (Greek "anointed one").
Washings and Anointings by Donald W. Parry

Cyril of Jerusalem-Washing and Anointing Ceremony

Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 313 – 386) writes of the washing and anointing ceremony thusly...

You were true imitators of Adam, the first man to be created, who was naked in the Garden and was not ashamed.

Then, when you were stripped, you were anointed with exorcised oil , from the very hairs of your head to your feet, and were made partakers of the good olive-tree, Jesus Christ. (New Advent)

Having therefore become partakers of Christ, you are properly called Christs, and of you God said, Touch not My Christs, or anointed. Now you have been made Christs, by receiving the antitype of the Holy Ghost; and all things have been wrought in you by imitation, because you are images of Christ. He washed in the river Jordan, and having imparted of the fragrance of His Godhead to the waters, He came up from them; and the Holy Ghost in the fulness of His being lighted on Him, like resting upon like. And to you in like manner, after you had come up from the pool of the sacred streams, there was given an Unction [anointing], the anti-type of that wherewith Christ was anointed; and this is the Holy Ghost; of whom also the blessed Esaias, in his prophecy respecting Him, said in the person of the Lord, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me: He has sent Me to preach glad tidings to the poor… (New Advent)

He was anointed with … what is called the olive oil of exaltation (agalliaseos elaio—a coronation figure) … while you were anointed with myrrh (scented oil), making you companions and copartners (koinonoi kai metochoi) with Christ.

You were anointed on your brow and your other sense-organs, and so while the body is anointed in outward appearance with myrrh, the soul (psyche) is sanctified by the life-bestowing Holy Spirit. First of all you were anointed on the brow (metopon, forehead and eyes, lit. “space between the eyes”) to free you from the shame which completely involved the First Man when he fell, and that you might clearly perceive (or reflect, katoptrizisthe), the glory of the Lord with wide-open mind (lit. with uncovered face). Then your ears that you might receive the hearing ears of the mysteries of God…. Next come the nostrils, that upon receiving the holy ordinance you may say: “We are the sweet odor of Christ to God among the saved.” After that (you were anointed) on the breast (tastethe, “the seat of feeling, passion and thought,” Liddell and Scott), that, clothed with the breastplate of righteousness, you may stand against the wiles of the Devil—(countering his evil thoughts with good ones).

As Christ after his baptism … went forth to confront the Adversary, so you after your holy baptism and mystic anointing, were clothed in the armor of the Holy Ghost to stand against the opposing … power.

It is because you are worthy of this holy anointing (chrism) that you are called Christians…. it is by following this road that you have advanced to the point of earning that title.

When Moses received the order to make his brother a High Priest, after washing him with water he anointed him, and he was called a Christ, because of the anointing which was the type. Thus also Solomon, being called to the Kingship, was anointed after a bath in Gihon by the High Priest. For them it was a type (making them kings and priests), but for us it is not symbolical but real, since you really have been anointed by the Holy Ghost. The King (arche) of your salvation is Christ, for he is the true first-fruits and you are the unleavened bread. If the first-fruits (i.e., the priestly office) is holy, that holiness will be transferred to the unleavened bread (i.e., you too will become kings and priests)

Having put off the old man’s garment of sorrow, you now celebrate as you put on the garment of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Lecture 1)

Having been baptized in Christ and having put on Christ like a garment, you come to resemble (symmorphoi gegonate) the Son of God. (Lecture 3)

After you put off the old garments and put on those of spiritual white, you should keep them always thus spotless white. That is not to say that you must always go around in white clothes, but rather that you should be always clothed in what is really white and glorious, that you may say with the blessed Isaiah (61:10), “Let my soul exult in the Lord, for he hath clothed me in a robe of salvation and clothing of rejoicing.” (The word here used for “clothe” is endy, to place a garment on one, and is the ultimate source of our word “endowment,” derived in the Oxford English Dictionary from both induere, to invest with a garment, and inducere, to lead into or initiate.) (Lecture 4)

Clothing, Washing and Annointing

“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.” (Testament of Levi 8:2-10)

Also See:
Priestly Initiations in the Testament of Levi

To Anoint and Chrism

To anoint is a process employed ritually by many religions. People and things are anointed to symbolize the introduction of a sacramental or divine influence, a holy emanation, spirit, power or god.

Unction is another term for anointing. The oil may be called chrism.

The word is known in English since c. 1303, deriving from Old French enoint "smeared on," pp. of enoindre "smear on," itself from Latin inunguere, from in- "on" + unguere "to smear." Originally it only referred to grease or oil smeared on for medicinal purposes; its use in the Coverdale Bible in reference to Christ (cf. The Lord's Anointed) has spiritualized the sense of it, a sense expanded and expounded upon by St Paul's writings in his "Epistles". The title Christ is derived from the Hebrew Messiah and means literally; the anointed one.

Chrism (Greek word literally meaning "an anointing"), also called "Myrrh" (Myron), Holy anointing oil or "Consecrated Oil," is a consecrated oil used in the Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Old-Catholic churches, and some Anglican and Lutheran churches in the administration of certain sacraments and ecclesiastical functions.

Pure or scented olive oil, although typically not called chrism today, has been called chrism in the past, including oil used by Protestants and Restorationists in some forms of Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick and foot washing. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons, chrism was historically used in some of their temple ordinances.

Multiple early Christian documents discuss the "ordinance" or "several ceremonies...explained in the Apostolical Constitutions" of "chrism," including documents by Theophilus and Tertullian. The most detailed version of the practice is by Cyril of Jerusalem.

The Ordinances of Washing and Anointing

In the book The Holy Temple by Elder Boyd K. Packer, he tells how "the ordinances of washing and anointing are referred to often in the temple as initiatory ordinances. It will be sufficient for our purposes to say only the following: Associated with the endowment are washings and anointings--mostly symbolic in nature, but promising definite, immediate blessings as well as future blessings."
"Concerning these ordinances the Lord has said: "I say unto you, how shall your washings be acceptable unto me except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name?" (D&C 124:37)
"And again: "I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings...are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house." (D&C 124:39)
Elder Packer explains that, "In connection with these ordinances, in the temple the initiated were "clothed upon" in the garment and promised marvelous blessings in connection with it." He adds that it is important to pay attention to not only the "blessings promised but the conditions upon which they will be realized."

Also See:
Washing and Anointing

Washings and Anointings in Ancient Christianity

INITIATION. The individuals who toiled as pilgrims to reach the waters of life that flowed from the temple were not passive spectators. They came to obtain knowledge and regeneration, the personal attainment of eternal life and glory. This goal the individual attempted to achieve through purification (washing), initiation, and rejuvenation, which symbolize death, rebirth, and resurrection.

In Solomon's temple, a large bronze font was used for ritual washings, and in the Second Temple period, people at Jerusalem spent much of their time in immersions and ablutions. Baptism is one specific ordinance always mentioned in connection with the temple.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:13)

Also see:
The Anointing Horn

Ancient Church Father, Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril of Jerusalem details how ointment or oil was "symbolically applied to thy forehead, and thy other organs of sense" and that the "ears, nostrils, and breast were each to be anointed." Cyril states that the "ointment is the seal of the covenants" of baptism and God’s promises to the Christian who is anointed. Cyril taught that being "anointed with the Holy anointing oil [Chrism] of God" was the sign of a Christian (Christos means "anointed"), and a physical representation of having the Gift of the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost). He say's; "Having been counted worthy of this Holy Chrism, ye are called Christians, verifying the name also by your new birth. For before you were deemed worthy of this grace, ye had properly no right to this title, but were advancing on your way towards being Christians."

"When one is baptized one becomes a Christian," writes Cyril, "exactly as in Egypt by the same rite one becomes an Osiris" (Patrologiae Latinae 12:1031), that is, by initiation into immortality. The baptism in question is a washing rather than a baptism, since it is not by immersion. According to Cyril, this is followed by an anointing, making every candidate, as it were, a messiah. The anointing of the brow, face, ears, nose, breast, etc., represents "the clothing of the candidate in the protective panoply of the Holy Spirit," which however does not hinder the initiate from receiving a real garment on the occasion(CWHN 4:364).
Furthermore, according to Cyril, the candidate was reminded that the whole ordinance is "in imitation of the sufferings of Christ," in which "we suffer without pain by mere imitation his receiving of the nails in his hands and feet: the antitype of Christ's sufferings" (Patrologiae Graecae 33:1081).
The Jews once taught that Michael and Gabriel will lead all the sinners up out of the lower world: "they will wash and anoint them, healing them of their wounds of hell, and clothe them with beautiful pure garments and bring them into the presence of God" (R. Akiba, cited in CWHN 4:364). Meaning and Functions of Temples by Hugh W. Nibley.

See Cyril of Jerusalem’s Lectures on the Ordinances, an early Christian document circa 347 ce. The document meshes nicely with the book of Revelation and also describes early Christians as participating in a ritual where they were washed, anointed, and clothed with special garments. The document also speaks about prayer circles and a ritual that starts with a description of the creation of man and the Garden of Eden, and then moves to a world full of temptation. The Lectures concludes with the admonition, “Keep these traditions inviolate, and see that you do not stumble.” Cyril’s Lectures are yet another proof of early Christians’ ancient temple connections.

"Neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the crown of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the Lord." (Leviticus 21:12)

Parallels in Judaism and early Christianity

Multiple early Christian documents discuss the ordinance of "chrism" which is nearly identical to the anointing ordinances in Latter-day Saint temples. The most detailed version of the practice is by Cyril.
The text also claims that all true, believing Christians received the ordinance: "We are called Christians, because we are anointed with the oil of God."

Also see:
The “Mark” of Anointing
Cyril of Jerusalem
On Chrism by Cyril of Jerusalem

Clothed Upon: A Unique Aspect of Christian Antiquity

Clothed Upon: A Unique Aspect of Christian Antiquity
by Blake Ostler

Ancient texts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi codices, the pseudepigrapha, and Rabbinic and early Christian literature have much to say about the ritual significance of sacred vestments. The symbolism of donning sacred vestments, of putting on a garment in a ritual context, assumes a plan of salvation that acknowledges certain conditions necessary to obtain certain blessings.

(click all pictures to enlarge)
The ritual action of putting on a sacred garment is properly termed an “endowment.” The word garment is, in fact, representative of ordinances found in ancient texts. The Greek word that means “garment” or “to clothe upon” was used to represent sacramental, baptismal, and sealing ordinances in the Clementine Recognitions, an extremely important and ancient Christian (Ebionite) work. The Latin induere, meaning “to clothe," and inducere, “to lead or initiate,” are the roots for our English word endowment. All connote temple ordinances. The endowment, the complex of ordinances associated with the donning of sacred vestments, contained in ancient Judeo-Christian texts, provides a framework for symbolic interpretation. The doctrine of the preexistence, for example, appears frequently in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the pseudepigrapha, and the Nag Hammadi texts. The soul must journey to the earth in order to prove itself as part of God’s plan set down before the foundation of the world. In order for the soul to return to the presence of God, certain ordinances are necessary. Among these ordinances are baptism, washings, anointings, special garments, and signs as seals and passwords to pass by the angels who guard the gate to God’s kingdom.

"Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment."
Ecclesiastes 9:8

"Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
"He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels."
Revelations 3: 4-5

"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."
Revelation 16: 15

What ARE Special Undergarments, LDS Temple Garments Or Magic Underwear, The MORMONS Wear?

Chrisms in Early Christianity, Part 1-2

Parley P. Pratt detailed the work of the Holy Ghost: “The gift of the Holy Spirit . . . quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine‑toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It develops and invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, invigorates, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being” (Key to the Science of Theology, p.100 ‑ p.101).


LDS scholar Blake Olster in his article Clothed Upon: A Unique Aspect of Christian Antiquity tells us:
The idea of the garment is completely at home throughout the ancient world, always in connection with ordinances of initiation related to the endowment. The garment is usually mentioned in relation with other ordinances, especially the anointing. In the Slavonic Enoch, for example, the Lord tells Michael, “Go, and take Enoch from out of his earthly garments and anoint him with my sweet ointment, and put him into the garments of My glory.”(2 Enoch 22. 8.)

Early Christian Vestments
LDS scholar Hugh Nibley detailed the sacred clothing described by early Christian literature:

[In] the Pistis Sophia, a very early Christian writing, written in the third century but sounding as if it belongs to the forty-day literature [we learn more]. When the Lord spoke to the disciples after the resurrection, he formed a prayer circle: his disciples, men and women, stood around behind Jesus, who himself stood at the altar, thus facing, as it were, the four corners of the world, with his disciples who were all clothed in garments of linen (quoting the disciples). Jesus proceeded to give the prayer. The Pistis Sophia claims to be derived from 2 Jeu, a book allegedly written by Enoch and then hidden up in the cleft of a rock. Second Jeu says: "All the apostles were clothed in linen garments, . . . their feet were placed together and they turned themselves to the four corners of the world." And Jesus, taking the place of Adam, proceeded to instruct them in all the necessary ordinances. The point is that when they formed a prayer circle, they always mentioned "clothed in their garments" or "clothed in white linen."

Next comes the passage I cited from Cyril of Jerusalem; it is the fullest description we have, the only definite mention of particular garments. We see why it was not well known and was not followed through: "Yesterday, . . . immediately upon entering you removed your street clothes. And that was the image of putting off the old man and his works. . . . And may that garment, once put off, never be put on again!" "As Christ after his baptism . . . went forth to confront the Adversary, so you after your holy baptism and mystic anointing [the washing and anointing] were clothed in the armor of the Holy Ghost [a protective garment], to stand against the opposing . . . power." "Having put off the old man's garment of sorrow, you now celebrate as you put on the garment of the Lord Jesus Christ." "Having been baptized in Christ and having put on Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27) [notice the imagery that follows: you put on Christ, you put on the new man, you put on the new body; this is very closely connected with the putting on of clothes], like a garment, you come to resemble (symmorphoi gegonate) the Son of God."

The next day Cyril continues, "After you have put off the old garments and put on those of spiritual white, you should keep them always thus spotless white. This is not to say you must always go around in white clothes [these clothes were real; furthermore, we know of the baptismal garments, for we have references to them], but rather that you should always [be] clothed in what is really white and glorious." Then he cites Is. 61:10: "Let my soul exult in the Lord, for he hath clothed me in a robe of salvation and clothing of rejoicing."

This is the fullest of early Christian references to the vestments. But these are not vestments in the modern sense at all. They are worn by all Christians — but not all the time, not as a sign of clerical vocation within the church, and not as a public sign.

The combination of the items that make up the full clothing comes from the description of the high priestly garments at the beginning of Exodus 28.

Also see:
The Temple Garment: “An Outward Expression of an Inward Commitment”
"Is the Temple Garment Unchristian?"
Clothed Upon: A Unique Aspect of Christian Antiquity
Wedding Garment

The Chrism

The Chrism in the Gospel of Philip
by Christopher J. Dawe
(excerpts...see entire article)
The Gospel of Philip, while not the most famous of the Gnostic texts found with the lost documents of Nag Hammadi Library in 1945 does offer an exciting glimpse at the ritual sacraments used by Valentininian Gnostics. In the view of the anonymous author of Philip these rituals were necessary for salvation. “The Lord,” according to the text “…did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber.” (Gospel of Philip 67:27-30.) Of these ordinances, one of the most important is the chrism:
The chrism is superior to baptism, for 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…He who has been anointed possesses everything. He possesses the resurrection, the light, the cross, the Holy Spirit. (74:12-21.)

The chrism, a ritual anointing with sacred olive oil, was what allowed a believer to truly be termed a Christian and allowed those chosen to move past demons to an eventual resurrection.(Valentinian theology held that “resurrection” occurred when the “sickness” of having a body was overcome and the soul rose to Heaven to become one with its perfect image. (Thomassen, Einar, The Spiritual Seed: The Church of the ‘Valentinians’. Boston: Brill, 2006. Pg 55.))


As a guide through the sacraments, one of the most striking details of the Gospel of Philip is baptism’s relatively low place. Though baptism is often seen as the pinnacle expression of a Christian convert’s faith, Philip regarded it as far less important than chrism—it is only with the chrism that a convert can truly be termed a Christian. Receiving this title is the most immediate effect of chrism. The following reconstructed test illustrates this:
If somebody says: I am a Jew, nobody is going to move. If somebody says: I am a Roman, nobody will be confused either…But if I say: I am a Christian, everybody will tremble. May I obtain this sign…which the archons will not be able to endure, that is, the name.

Notice that the name “Christian” (coming only after the chrism) is one that will make not only mortals tremble but that the “archons” “will not endure hearing.”

The archons, from the Greek άρχοντες for “rulers” were, in Gnostic theology, a set of demons who served the Demiurge, the evil creator of the flawed, physical universe. A primary function of the Archons was to prevent humanity from reaching the true God. If Segelberg’s and Shenke’s additions are correct Philip is stating that only the name “Christian” will allow one to overcome to Archons.


One of the truly interesting items about chrism is its almost universal acceptance in the Christian world in the first centuries following Christ. Writings of Church Fathers contain numerous references to the ceremony. The most detailed writings come from Cyril, a fourth century Bishop of Jerusalem. In his Five Mystagogical Catecheses Cyril echoed what Philip claimed—it is only after chrism that one becomes “Christian” in the fullest sense of the word. The ritual anointing established, for its recipient, direct communication from the Paraclete and provided a way to completely “shun Satan…and all his pomp.” More importantly, the neophyte becomes a christ, an “anointed” member of God’s earthly kingdom. In Cyril’s theology this was simply not available to those not initiated through the sacrament. Cyril’s work shows that Philip’s vision of the chrism was practiced. A system of complex, mystical, and esoteric ceremonies existed as early (or as late!) as the fourth century and was sanctioned by an orthodox bishop whose rank was only lower than the bishops of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch.