To apply oil or ointment to the head or the person. Anciently anointing was done for reasons both secular and sacred. It is a sign of hospitality in Luke 7:46 and of routine personal grooming in 2 Sam. 12:20 and Matt. 6:17. The maimed or sick were anointed with wine, oil, or ointment as medicine (Isa. 1:6; Luke 10:34; Rev. 3:18). The sick were also anointed with oil as part of the sacred procedure in healing of the sick by faith and the laying on of hands (Mark 6:13; James 5:14–15).
Kings were anointed to their office by the prophets (1 Sam. 10:1; 16:13; 2 Sam. 5:3; 1 Kgs. 1:39; 19:16; 2 Kgs. 9:3, 6; 11:12; 1 Chr. 11:3; 29:22; 2 Chr. 23:11). The anointing of the priests is outlined in Ex. 40:15; of the high priest (Aaronic order) in Lev. 21:10. Elisha was to be anointed a prophet by Elijah (1 Kgs. 19:16).
The holy anointing oil used in the law of Moses was composed of olive oil mixed with spices and was to be restricted in use to certain specified ceremonies (Ex. 30:22–33; 37:29). Paul and John speak of an anointing of the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:21–22; 1 Jn. 2:20, 27), and Peter says that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power” (Acts 10:38). See Anointed One.
In the Church today holy consecrated olive oil is used in anointing persons in various sacred ceremonies, including administration to the sick. Although the scriptures do not specifically so state, we may confidently assume that anointing with oil has been part of true, revealed religion ever since the gospel was first introduced on this earth to Adam.