The Laying on of Hands

(Greek: πιθσες τε χειρν, epitheseôs te cheirôn)


Cuadro de texto:

1 Among the things constituting the doctrine or fundamental truths of the Christian teaching, Paul, author of the Letter to the Hebrews says: «Therefore, now that we have surpassed the elementary doctrine about Christ, we should progress towards to maturity, without stopping once more on the fundamental truths, like the drawing away from the works that lead to death, the faith toward God, the instruction concerning baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and universal judgment». (Hebrews 6:12)

Since the early books of the Old Testament, the laying on of hands is frequently mentioned in Scripture, which shows us that its meaning has nothing magical as the hands have no power, and that God is who listens and may grant that which is sought.


2 The laying on of hands is then an emblematic gesture, used in Scripture in various ways:

When transmitting a blessing

In the transmission of spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit

In the healing of the sick

When transmitting the authority for a special mission

For example, it meant the special blessing from Jacob to Ephraim and Manasseh, as we read: «Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it upon the head of Ephraim, who was the younger. Manasseh was the first-born, but crossing his arms, laid his left hand upon the head of Manasseh. Then he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has led me all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless these young men. Let them be called by my name and by the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and let them grow abundantly over the earth”». (Genesis 48:1416)

And Mark writes that Jesus used to bless children, for we read that the people «brought him children, that he might touch them», yet «the disciples rebuked them. Seeing this, Jesus got angry and said, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them ...” Then he took them in his arms, and blessed them laying hands over them». (Mark 10:13...16)


3 In the Christian congregation, the transmission of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was exclusively achieved through Jesus and the apostles. We mention three facts narrated by Luke in the book of Acts. The former refers to some Samaritans who after being baptized received Holy Spirit, but only through the apostles Peter and John; we read: «The apostles who were in Jerusalem, hearing that Samaria had received the word of God, sent Peter and John. They came down and prayed for them that they might receive Holy Spirit, because it had not yet descended on any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the lord Jesus, and they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit». (Acts 8:14...17)

The second case concerns Saul of Tarsus, known as the Apostle Paul. Jesus intervenes directly by giving an assignment to Ananias, we read: «Ananias went and entered the house, then laying his hands on him, said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me so as you regain sight and be filled with holy spirit”». (Acts 9:17)

The third case is related to the disciples at Ephesus, and we read: «On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands upon them, Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied». (Acts 19:56)


4 Jesus often used the laying of hands, and while he was by the Sea of Galilee, «came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; at seeing him, he fell at his feet, and besought him saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she be saved and live”». (Mark 5:2223)

Once they presented Jesus a deaf-mute man, «begging him to lay his hands on him», (Mark 7:32) and also Luke reports that «at sunset, all those who had with them some sick of any disease, brought them to him, and he healed them laying hands on each of them». (Luke 4:40)

Later, Paul healed the sick by imposing hands on them, as in the case of the father of Publius, the chief magistrate of the island of Malta, for «Publius' father was in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery, then Paul went to him and after having prayed, laid his hands on him and he was healed». (Acts 28:8...9)


5 Since ancient times, the authority to exercise a community service was also transmitted through the laying on of hands. Moses laid hands on Joshua to confer him authority as his successor. We read: «Yahuh said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hands upon him; you will make him stand up before the priest Eleazar, and of all the community. You shall commission him before them and make him participant in your authority, so that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey him”». (Numbers 27:1820) And about the consecration of the priests for the service of the Lord Yahuh, we read: «You shall bring the Levites before Yahuh, and the sons of Israel shall lay their hands upon the Levites». (Numbers 8:10)

The apostles laid hands on the disciples who were elected as deacons for the service of the early Christian congregation; and Luke says that when «Stephen, a man full of faith and holy spirit, and Procorus and Philip, and Nicanor and Timon, and Parmenas and Nicolaus, proselyte of Antioch», were elected, the elders «presented them before the apostles, who after praying, laid hands on them». (Acts 6:5...6)

When Paul writes to Timothy, reminds him twice the importance of this gesture, which began his mission, and says: «I remind you to keep on force the gift of God, which was imparted to you through the imposition of my hands». (2 Timothy 1:6), and again: «Do not neglect the privilege you have, which was bestowed to you on the advice of the prophets, by the laying of hands by the elders», and advises him: «Do not lay hands lightly on anyone; so as to make yourself complicit in the sins of others, stay pure». (1Timothy 5:22)


6 The things we have considered referred to the biblical times and to the congregation of the first century. But what is today the meaning of this symbolic gesture?

Since as early as in the second century AD, the purity of the apostolic teaching had begun to be distorted by philosophical interpretations, and the initial congregation had ceased to exist, we can answer that Since early in the second century AD, the purity of the apostolic teaching had already begun to be distorted by philosophical interpretations, and the apostolic congregation had ceased to exist, we can answer that the imposition of hands has not any meaning today.

Already in 64, Peter prophesied: «Since everything is about to end, pray, and be cautious and vigilant». (1Peter 4:7) and in 98, also John, the last of the apostles, announced shortly before his death, the end of the faithful apostolic congregation, and wrote: «Little children, this is the last hour. For as you have heard that the antichrist must come, they have now appeared many antichrists, and so we know that this is the last hour». (1John 2:18) And when John states that then many antichrists had appeared, reveals that because of them, the “fundamental truths” including the imposition of hands, would be deprived of their true sense by the diverse and conflicting interpretations that led to the current apostasy.

Therefore, until the return of Christ, who «will send his angels with a trumpet call, to gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other», (Matthew 24:31) raising from death the genuine apostolic congregation, the gesture of laying on of hands is totally worthless.