Perfumery In The Church, Bible, and Throughout History

perfume-incense-cologne-bibleFragrances, including ointments, anointing oils, and incense are mentioned often in the Bible.

Aside from religious purposes such as rituals, they seem to be quite popular for the purposes of using them for medicinal/cosmetic/pleasure purposes too.

I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine not so long ago, PheroJoe – who reviews pheromones for men on his website (which I tend to disagree with) because of their worldly nature. However, he claims that using pheromones is only natural because in the times of Christ, showering was a much less common experience.

And due to today’s “high standards” compared to the times of Christ, the fact we wash ourselves regularly has an effect on the type of people we attract into our lives, including friends, romantic partners, and who we get along with in our family. 

Perfumery has a long history in the Middle East. As man discovered the process for extracting essences from flowers and creating aromatic oils, they exploded in popularity. The most commonly mentioned oil of the Bible is olive oil. Olive trees are known to grow naturally in the Middle East, where obviously the Bible and its stories originated from.

The very word “oil” is derived from the word “olive.”

In the Middle East, oils were used for a large variety of reasons including for making/preserving food, for cosmetic purposes, herbal medicines, and more. In recent times, olive oil is also becoming extremely popular as people are only now starting to discover it’s incredible benefits.

But that’s getting besides the point – historically, most “perfumes” were essential oils from made from plant extracts. The production of essential oils has been going on for thousands of years. In modern times, people use essential oils merely for the scents. Some people use them to gain potential health benefits of certain smells and their special properties.

According to, some easily-recognizable names of oils are basil, cedarwood, chamomile, citronella, eucalyptus, frankincense, ginger, hyssop, juniper, lavender, lemongrass, myrtle, oregano, peppermint, pine, rosemary, rosewood, sandalwood, spikenard, tarragon, thyme, and valerian.

The reason for even discussing oils, perfume, the bible and some of the history of fragrance is because there is a very big difference in how perfumes and colognes are made today, versus how they were made in the times of our Lord Jesus Christ. Essential oils are normally good for your personal health. However, many commercial colognes are very detrimental to your health and wellbeing.

I’ll explain why shortly, but remember that good health means taking responsibility for yourself, and not simply trusting what everyone else says. Even if they are doctors, or you saw it on TV, or in a magazine… this also applies not just to cosmetic items like perfumes or colognes, but to what you eat, supplements and medication you take etc.

In today’s modern “magic pill” world, Satan will do anything to try and get to us physically, spiritually, and mentally.

In fact, it is this level of complexity that makes me as a follower of Christ so “paranoid” when it comes to how to treat my body (temple). “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).

Today, using perfumes and colognes that are available commercially can put you at risk of allergies, as well as exposing yourself to ingredients that may have harmful effects of your hormone levels (hormone disruptor’s), gut health, and a wide range of other negative effects.

While I am not going to elaborate on this article on each specific ingredients and their effects (I will in the future), please keep in mind that in the times of Christ, a bath or shower was not accessible like they are today. Using fragrance or any type of perfume was often a limited experience for many people and were only really important on special occasions.

As disciples of Him, we must also take into account the impact we have on others, and for people out there, using these strong, synthesized colognes and perfumes may be hazardous on other people by triggering allergies – whether they may be severe or not. It is also a major airborne pollutant and some people may find you more offensive than if you had gone without.

You see, in the past, most fragrance was natural and were extracted from gum, resins, spices, flowers and special oils. God created it for us to use, and humans have taken what was once natural and created a largely commercial, unsafe version of it.

The question is, how far are we willing to go to try and compete with God’s own natural creation? How much do we trust in what God has given us?

  • Jeff Bethke