Ministry to the Dying and Bereaved
Part 2 History

Chapter s21 The Apostolic Period [0-399 CE]

Secular History

Church History

Ministry to the Sick and Dying

Secular History

1. Due to the climate of the bible lands, the references to oil in the Bible refer to the pressings of the fruit of olive trees. Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive (Olea europaea; family Oleaceae), a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps. Olive oil is used throughout the world, but especially in the Mediterranean. Today Spain is the leading producer of olive oil. ( oil )

2. In the culture of the time (and today!) oil was commonly regarded as a healing ointment.

Olive oil's health benefits:  The greatest exponent of monounsaturated fat is olive oil, and it is a prime component of the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is a natural juice which preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins and properties of the olive fruit. Olive oil is the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as it is - freshly pressed from the fruit.  The beneficial health effects of olive oil are due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the "good" cholesterol) levels. No other naturally produced oil has as large an amount of monounsaturated as olive oil -- mainly oleic acid.

Olive oil is very well tolerated by the stomach. In fact, olive oil's protective function has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis. Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs. Consequently, it lowers the incidence of gallstone formation.

Olive oil and heart disease:  Studies have shown that people who consumed 25 milliliters (mL) - about 2 tablespoons - of virgin olive oil daily for 1 week showed less oxidation of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of antioxidant compounds, particularly phenols, in the blood.  But while all types of olive oil are sources of monounsaturated fat, EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil, from the first pressing of the olives, contains higher levels of antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and phenols, because it is less processed. 

Olive oil is clearly one of the good oils, one of the healing fats. Most people do quite well with it since it does not upset the critical omega 6 to omega 3 ratio and most of the fatty acids in olive oil are actually an omega-9 oil which is monounsaturated.

Olive oil and colon cancer:  Spanish researchers suggest that including olive oil in your diet may also offer benefits in terms of colon cancer prevention Their study results showed that rats fed diet supplemented with olive oil had a lower risk of colon cancer than those fed safflower oil-supplemented diets. In fact, the rats that received olive oil had colon cancer rates almost as low as those fed fish oil, which several studies have already linked to a reduction in colon cancer risk.

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Church History

 History of Religion in 90 Seconds    (If link does not open, simply Google "history of religion")

30 Death of Jesus
30-60 Preaching of Peter and Paul
50 "Q" written
56? Death of Paul (or 60?)
60 PHILIPPIANS -- PHILEMON -- Gospel of Thomas. Death of Peter
69 Ignatius become bishop of Antioch
69 Clement of Rome (69-70? 96?)
70 Major revolt -- fall of Jerusalem -- Titus destroyed the temple -- Judaism founded
70 MARK -- LETTER TO THE HEBREWS -- Epistle of (Pseudo-) Barnabas (70-135?)
105 Didache -- II PETER
107 Ignatius of Antioch written
120 Shepherd Hermes
125 Earliest surviving gospel fragments P52
150 Polycarp of Smyrna
200 Earliest surviving fragments of Matthew and Luke
231 CE Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus
300 Codex Sinaiticus -- earliest surviving complete New Testament (discovered 1844)
313 Edict of Constantine

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Ministry to the Sick

1.  Jesus:  The Sacrament of Healing:   Our understanding of the Sacrament of Anointing, and our ministry to the sick is rooted in the healing ministry of Jesus.  Jesus himself is the original "Sacrament of Healing." 

2.  Gospel according to Mark:  [Jesus] called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6:7-13 NRSV)

 3.  Gospel according to Matthew:  

In the religious understanding of the time, illness and sin were closely related as were healing and forgiveness of sins.

2 And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Courage, child, your sins are forgiven." 3 At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming."  4 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, "Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
5 Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he then said to the paralytic, "Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home." Matthew 9:2-6 (NAB)

Compassion for the sick is central to following Jesus:

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me... (Matthew 25:31-37 NRSV)

4.  Luke/Acts  The Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are a literary genre referred to as "authenticating biography."   The healing ministry of Jesus is continued in the followers of Jesus as verified in "parallel" healing stories.

5.  Gospel according to John   In the religious understanding of the time "healing" and "forgiveness of sins" were closely related.  Jesus teaches that sickness is not a punishment for sin.

1 As he[Jesus] passed by he saw a man blind from birth.  2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  3 Jesus answered, "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. (John 9:1-3 NAB)

6.  Saint Paul: 

For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:14-20)

5.  The Letter of James:   Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful ? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. (James 5:13-15 NRSV)

231 CE  - Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus  provides important information about who blessed the oil (bishop) and where (during the Eucharist).  The oil was used as "medicine" externally like a body lotion, (rubbing the oil on the body part that was "ill") and internally (drinking it -- think, for example, of Castor Oil). 

Richstatter Commentary:  Note that while the leader of the community blessed the oil, members of the faithful would take the oil and anoint themselves (and others) with the blessed oil -- Just as, with regard to the Eucharist, the leader of the community (overseer/bishop) would bless the bread and wine and the members of the faithful would take the Eucharist home for themselves and for those who were absent.  In both cases the "minister" of the sacrament was understood to be the community leader (overseer/bishop).  By the time of the reformation, much of this early history was "unknown" or "lost" and that is why Trent can say that only the priest can administer Holy Communion and only the priest can administer Extreme Unction.  This has implications for our contemporary discussion of who can administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

350 CE  The Prayer Book of Serapion -- The earliest evidence we have for the use of blessed oil for the healing of the sick comes from Egypt.  

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