Believers in spiritual or divine healing are very commonly referred by non-believers to the incident of Jesus' applying clay and spittle to the eyes of the blind man, as set forth in the ninth chapter of St. John. This, it is claimed, is authority for the use of material remedies. The record states that "when he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay."
The word "anointed" is marginally rendered "spread"; so the following would be an authoritative rendering: "he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and spread it upon the eyes of the blind man." The word anointed as here used tends to give the act a more sacred character, in the religious sense, than the better and more literal translation and is scarcely warranted. This is important and should be borne in mind.
There are two other facts that should be considered. One is that then, as now, clay or earth was believed to possess healing virtue, especially in case of inflammatory diseases. Mixed with spittle, it was a common remedy for ailments of that nature. The other is that then, as now, the act of spitting was an act showing one's contempt for the object spat upon. It was indeed among the Jews superlatively an act of contempt.