In the Middle East in Bible times, greasing a person’s head with oil was a sign of favor toward him or an act of hospitality toward a guest. Generally, the oil used was olive oil with perfume added to it. The Hebrews also poured oil on a person’s head, or anointed him, when he was officially appointed to a special position of authority. Aaron, for example, was anointed upon being appointed to serve as high priest. (Leviticus 8:12) In the case of King David, “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him . . . , and the spirit of Jehovah began to be operative upon David from that day forward.”—1 Samuel 16:13.
In the Hebrew language, the term used for such anointing is ma‧shach′, from which the word ma‧shi′ach, or Messiah, is derived. The corresponding Greek word is khri′o, from which comes khri‧stos′, or Christ. Thus, Aaron and David each can be referred to as a messiah, or an anointed one. Moses too is called a christ, or an anointed one, in the sense that God appointed him to serve as His representative.—Hebrews 11:24-26.
Jesus of Nazareth was personally appointed by God to a position of great authority. Rather than being anointed with literal oil, Jesus was anointed with God’s holy spirit. (Matthew 3:16) As Jehovah’s chosen Anointed One, Jesus is properly referred to as the Messiah, or Christ.—Luke 4:18.