The laying on of hands in the New Testament
This study investigates the procedural techniques, significance and the tangible effects of the laying on of hands in the New Testament. The introductory chapter reviews critically previous contributions to the subject of the laying on of hands in the New Testament and establishes the purpose and delimitations of this study and the methodology used. The next two chapters are devoted to a study of the background of the New Testament practice of the laying on of hands. The investigation is conducted in the Old Testament and contemporary Judaism (Chapter Two) and in the Graeco-Roman and Near-Eastern literature (Chapter Three). Chapters Four through Seven are exegetical, each discussing a particular use of the laying on of hands in the New Testament. Chapter Four examines the function of the gesture in healing. Special attention is given to the inner process of transfer of power through physical contact. A comparative study of Jesus' method of healing with similar practices of his contemporaries challenges the idea that the origin of the healing touch is Hellenistic. The custom of blessing with the laying on of hands, as practised by Jesus, is examined in Chapter Five in terms of origin, significance and the form of the gesture. The next chapter is devoted to the use of the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Spirit. In addition to the exegetical analysis of the relevant pericopes, an attempt is made to explain the circumstances which led to the birth of this distinctive Christian practice. Chapter Seven examines the use of the laying on of hands in ordination and commissioning. It discusses the significance of the gesture, argues for the Jewish origin of the Christian rite and opposes the view that in the post-Pauline period charismata are tied to an office and thus institutionalised. In the final section of the thesis, an attempt is made to gauge the possibility of any uniformity in the significance of the various New Testament uses of the laying on of hands.