The History Of “Extreme Unction” -- By: Henry Hayman

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 047:187 (Jul 1890)
Article: The History Of “Extreme Unction”
Author: Henry Hayman


The History Of “Extreme Unction”

Rev. Henry Hayman

The rite known as “Extreme Unction “in the Roman Church, and reckoned there as a sacrament, among four others, to which the Reformed churches deny that title, has a singularly intermittent history. Before tracing the scanty evidence of the earlier centuries, and the comparative abundance of evidence in later ages concerning it, some few remarks on the two passages of the New Testament with which it is in theory connected, may be serviceable.

St. Mark 6:12, 13, records briefly the first mission of the twelve. The verbs are noticeably in the imperfect tense, as of a sustained course of action, 1:e. they kept on from time to time, as occasion offered, “the anointing of the sick with oil and (so) healing them.” It is noteworthy that the same evangelist (in the disputed final passage, however, 16:18) records, among the signs promised to “follow them that believed,” “that they shall lay hands on the sick (ἀῤῥώστους, as in 6:13) and they shall recover.” There is no recorded use of oil by the Lord himself. St. Mark records his laying his hands on the sick (vi. 5), and their touching the hem of his garment (ver. 56). Some have thought that he enjoined the use of the oil by the twelve. But probably its general Jewish use as a therapeutic agent is the more natural ground of its use by them. The unfailing effect of recovering the sick, and probably its instantaneousness and thus evident character, were the proofs of supernatural power. From the

next quotation from St. James, as also from the practice of the apostles, when fully commissioned after the Pentecost, it is presumable that the name of the Lord Jesus was used by the twelve in their earlier exercise of the gift. For St. James says (5:14-16): “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick; and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your sins one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed: the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Here, again, it seems as plain as in the record of St. Mark given above, that the “saving” of the sick means their rescue from bodily sickness, and the “raising up,” their restoration to health. The use of the word σώζω by our Lord, as in the phrase “Thy faith hath saved thee” (sometimes in A. 5. variably rendered “hath made thee whole”), is too well known to need citation. Nor is that of ἐγεί...

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