Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 2nd, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Search for…
Prev Entry
Next Entry
Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

1. Scope of the inquiry.-It is proposed to examine the somewhat scanty evidence of the 1st cent. as to the manner in which Christian ministers were admitted to office. In the investigation the following passages, which have, or may be thought to have, a bearing on the subject, will be specially considered: Acts 1:24 (appointment of Matthias) Acts 6:6 (appointment of the Seven) Acts 13:3 (mission of Barnabas and Saul) Acts 14:23 (appointment of presbyters); 1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6 (Timothy’s ordination); 1 Timothy 5:22 (?), Titus 1:5 (ordinations by Timothy and Titus). But, before examining these passages, we may make two preliminary remarks. (a) There is no technical word used in the NT to express admission to ministerial office, for though χειροτονεῖν is found (Acts 14:23), there is no indication that it is there used in a technical sense (see below, 3). This is the case also in the Didache ( 15, c. [Note: . circa, about.] a.d. 130?), where we read: ‘Appoint (χειροτονήσατε) therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons.’ At a later date this word and χειροθετεῖν and others (for which see Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics , article ‘Ordination’) acquired a technical sense; but this is not the case in the NT. (b) As we have for this subject to depend largely on the narrative in Acts, it will be well to bear in mind a characteristic of St. Luke. With the wealth of material at his disposal, it was impossible for him to repeat the same or similar details over and over again; he therefore omits a detailed description in cases where a like account has already been given. We notice this both in the Third Gospel and in Acts. St. Luke gives the salient facts, especially of the events that happened at critical periods of the history; but, having once given them, he does not repeat the details next time he has to narrate a similar event. This will be borne in mind when we are considering narratives about admission to the ministry. We shall not expect that on each occasion the whole procedure will be described; but from the analogy of one such ordination, e.g. that of the Seven in Acts 6, we shall conclude, unless anything is said to the contrary, that the same procedure was followed on other occasions.

2. Choice of ordinands.-The normal method of choosing men for the Christian ministry in the Apostolic Age, as certainly in those which succeeded it, was election by those to whom the ordained was to minister. This was undoubtedly the case with the Seven in Acts 6. Whatever their exact office was-and it is not likely, in view of the solemn procedure adopted, to have been only an office of serving tables, a supposition which seems also to be contrary to the evidence of evangelistic activity by Stephen, Philip, and the rest-the people (‘the whole multitude’) elected (ἐξελέξαντο, ‘chose for themselves,’ Acts 6:5) the Seven and presented them to the apostles (Acts 6:6), who after election ‘appointed’ them (Acts 6:3, καταστήσομεν) and prayed and laid their hands on them (Acts 6:6). The difference between the ‘appointing’ and the ‘electing’ would seem to be that while the people had a free choice, the apostles reserved the right of veto if they thought the choice in a particular case unsuitable. And the same veto apparently rested with ‘apostolic men’ like Timothy and Titus. Thus Titus appoints (Titus 1:5, καταστήσῃς, the same word as in Acts 6:6) presbyters in every city. This must involve at least the same power of veto as in Acts 6.

We do not read of election in some cases; notably it is not mentioned when the presbyters are appointed in Acts 14:23, and some have taken the pronoun in the phrase ‘appointed for them’ as indicating that Paul and Barnabas acted without consulting the people. Yet, as has been said above (1), we ought probably to presume election to have taken place unless there is evidence to the contrary. The details are given in ch. 6; they are not repeated in ch. 14. It is also probable that election existed at Ephesus and in Crete, though we nowhere read of it in the Pastoral Epistles. This method (not without a certain veto attached) continued for many centuries, and to a large extent, with geographical and local variations, exists to this day (see article ‘Laity,’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics vii. 768 f.).

An exception to this method of choosing men for the ministry would be when the Divine will was directly intimated. The Twelve were chosen by our Lord Himself (note especially John 15:16), without ecclesiastical intervention. So also was St. Paul (Galatians 1:1; see below, 8). In the appointment of Matthias to the apostolate, the people did indeed choose two (Joseph Barsabbas, surnamed Justus, and Matthias) from among the personal witnesses of our Lord’s life and resurrection, but took the lot which (after prayer had been offered) was cast between these two as an indication of the purpose of God (Acts 1:15-26). The prayer is noteworthy both as being the first recorded act of public worship of the disciples after the Ascension, and as containing words which are characteristic of later ordinations: ‘thou which knowest the hearts of all men’ (καρδιογνῶστα πάντων, Acts 1:24; cf. Acts 15:8), though it is uncertain whether the prayer in Acts is addressed to the Father or to the Son. In the later ordinations it is addressed to the Father. In the case of St. Matthias there was apparently no further ‘ordination’ to the apostolate. The Divine choice is announced by the lot, and so he ‘was numbered with the eleven apostles’ (Acts 15:26).

Other cases of Divine intervention are mentioned, and in such cases it would seem that there was no election. Whatever was the significance of the ceremony in Acts 13:1-3 (see below, 8), the choice of Barnabas and Saul was made by the Holy Ghost-no doubt through the utterance of a Christian prophet. And Timothy, as St. Paul tells us (1 Timothy 4:14), was ordained through (διά) prophecy. This is taken by Liddon (Com. in loc.) as indicating an apostolic utterance or prayer-i.e. the ordination prayer. But this interpretation does not suit 1 Timothy 1:18 ‘the prophecies which went before on thee’ (or better, as Revised Version margin, ‘which led the way to thee’); and a much more likely view is that the ‘prophecy’ is the indication of the Divine purpose by a Christian prophet, showing that Timothy was a suitable person. Here a regular ordination did follow. It is possible, though perhaps not probable, that the words in Acts 20:28 (see below, 6) mean that the Holy Ghost had by a prophet pointed out the presbyters at Ephesus as being worthy of ordination.

3. The outward sign of ordination.-We are not told that our Lord gave directions to the apostles as to the method by which they were to appoint officials for the Church. Indeed, it is not a little remarkable that what Western theologians of a later day called the ‘matter’ and ‘form’ of ordination could neither of them have been taken from the incidents recorded in the gospel narratives which have come down to us. For in John 20:22 f. (we need not stop to inquire whether these words were addressed to the Ten or to a larger number of disciples) our Lord is said to have ‘breathed’ on those present, whereas the apostles and those who came after them used, without any known exception, laying on of hands as an outward sign, and to have pronounced a declaratory and imperative formula, whereas the disciples always (till the Middle Ages) used by way of ‘form’ a prayer only.

The use of an outward sign for the admission of men to the ministry follows many analogies. Our Lord had made use of outward signs in instituting the two great sacraments of the gospel, baptism and the Eucharist. In the OT an outward sign was used in setting apart for office, and it was to be expected that a similar custom should be found in the Christian Church. As a matter of fact, the only outward sign found for many centuries in the case of Christian ordination is imposition of hands. This symbol was used in the OT in acts of blessing, of appointment to office, and of dedication to God. Moses laid his hands on Joshua when he set him apart as his successor (Numbers 27:23, Deuteronomy 34:9). Jacob blessed his grandchildren by laying his hands on their heads (Genesis 48:14; Genesis 48:17). Imposition of hands was used in dedicating sacrifices (Leviticus 1:4), and in setting apart Levites (Numbers 8:10). Similarly our Lord blessed by laying on of hands (Mark 10:13; Mark 10:16 and || Mt. Lk.), and used the same symbolic act in healing (Mark 5:23 -which shows that it was a well-known practice, as Jesus is asked to lay on hands, Luke 4:40; Luke 13:13 etc.). The disciples also used laying on of hands in healing (Mark 16:18; Acts 9:12; Acts 9:17, referring probably to the restoration of Saul’s sight: see below, 8; Acts 28:8). We see, then, that the symbol had more than one signification. The apostles used it when praying for the gift of the Holy Ghost for the baptized (Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6), and also when setting men apart for the ministry. The ‘laying on of hands’ in Hebrews 6:2 perhaps refers to all the occasions when the symbol was used; or else to ‘confirmation’ only, as F. H. Chase maintains (Confirmation in the Apostolic Age, London, 1909, p. 45).

Laying on of hands is explicitly mentioned in Acts 6:6 (the Seven) 13:3 (mission of Barnabas and Saul; see 8), 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 (ordination of Timothy), and in 1 Timothy 5:22, if that refers to ordination (see below). No other outward sign is mentioned in the first three centuries. None at all is mentioned in the appointment of presbyters in Acts 14:23. Here the verb χειροτονεῖν is used, which in later days often meant ‘to ordain.’ But it does not necessarily imply laying on of hands; it may mean election, properly through a show of hands, or at any rate by an assembly, as in 2 Corinthians 8:19; or it may even mean an appointment by God (Acts 10:41) or by man (Acts 14:23). Thus we cannot affirm from the last-named passage that Paul and Barnabas laid on hands [Note: The word χειροθεσία (‘laying on of hands’) is not found in the NT (as it is so often found later on), but ἐπίθεσις χειρῶν. In some works, e.g. the Apost. Const., χειροτονία is used ordinarily for ‘ordination,’ but χειροθεσία when ‘laying on of hands’ is emphasized; the latter is used in Apost. Const. for other impositions of hands (A. J. Maclean, Ancient Church Orders, Cambridge, 1910, p. 154 f.).] when they appointed presbyters in every church [Note: This word might have been translated ‘In church’: cf. Acts 2:46, ‘at home’; but Titus 1:5 is conclusive for the other translation.] which they visited on their first missionary journey. Yet it is exceedingly unlikely that they used any other outward sign, or that they refrained from using any outward sign. Here the characteristic of St. Luke already mentioned should be borne in mind. Laying on of hands was the sign universally used in the early Church for ordination; a supposed exception in the case of the ordination of a bishop in the Apostolic Constitutions (circa, about a.d. 375) is conclusively shown by the newly-discovered Church Orders to be only apparent.

In the 4th cent, another outward sign was introduced, apparently in cases where it was not at first deemed suitable to use imposition of hands-namely, at the admission of men (and women) to minor orders. In this case the ‘porrectio instrumentorum’ was substituted; a reader, for example, was given a book. In the Middle Ages, in the West, this kind of outward sign almost overshadowed the imposition of hands, especially in the case of the chalice and paten given to one ordained to the presbyterate. See on this subject Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics , article ‘Ordination.’

Laying on of hands is mentioned in 1 Timothy 5:22. Timothy is to ‘lay hands hastily on no man.’ But does this refer to ordination? If so, it gives us confirmation of the fact, which in any case we can scarcely doubt, that the local ministry were ordained with imposition of hands. It is taken in this sense by Chrysostom and the Greek commentators, and in modern times by Alford, Liddon, and (apparently with a slight hesitation) by H. B. Swete (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iii. 85). On the other hand, this passage is interpreted by several moderns (Hort, Hammond, Ellicott, Chase, etc.), as referring to the reception of penitents with laying on of hands. This interpretation suits the context perhaps better than the other; both before and after this verse St. Paul is speaking of sinners, and the words, ‘Neither be partaker of other men’s sins, keep thyself pure,’ are held to be less suitable to ordination. The custom of receiving penitents or persons who had been in schism or heresy, with laying on of hands, is attested in the 3rd cent. by Cyprian (Ep. lxxiv. [lxxiii.], ‘ad Pompeium,’ 1, de Laps. 16), in the 4th cent. by the Council of Nicaea (Song of Solomon 8), Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.) vii. 2, an ‘ancient custom’), the Apost. Const. (ii. 41), and at the end of the 5th cent. by the ‘Gallican Statutes’ (Statuta Ecclesiae Antiqua), formerly in error ascribed to the ‘Fourth Council of Carthage’ ( 80; see C. J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, Eng. translation , Edinburgh, 1896, ii. 411). But this custom is not referred to elsewhere in the NT, and one has a suspicion that the interpretation in question antedates it considerably. On the whole, the question must be left open.

The laying on of hands is no magical sign, effecting a change independently of all spiritual considerations. But the same thing is true of the water in baptism and the bread and wine in the Eucharist. The utility of an outward and visible sign is undoubtedly very great, but it is only a minor part of an ordinance, and does not enable those who receive it to neglect the spiritual disposition which is necessary. The outward sign is the help to faith. The vitally important factor in the ordinance is the Holy Spirit who works in it. See Swete, The Holy Spirit in the NT, p. 384.

4. The ordination prayer.-All the passages in Acts mentioned above (Acts 1:24; Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3; Acts 14:23) tell us of prayer being used, but, except in the case of the choosing of Matthias (where the words are no guide to us for the general case), we have no indication as to the nature of the prayer. The prayer preceded the laying on of hands (Acts 6:6). The earliest ordination prayer that we can even provisionally arrive at dates from perhaps the beginning of the 3rd century. By a careful comparison of the ordination prayers in the parallel Church Orders of the 4th cent., which are derived from a common original that is perhaps of the time of Hippolytus, we can conjecturally determine the ordination prayer of the lost original. But even this gives us only one out of what was doubtless a very large number of such prayers in use throughout the Church; and, further, those used at ordinations, like those used at the Eucharist, were probably at the first in a very fluid condition, if not extemporaneous. The great characteristic of all ordinations for many centuries after the Ascension was their extreme simplicity, no matter to what office a person was ordained; a prayer and laying on of hands were practically all, except that the kiss of peace, and, in the case of a bishop, enthronization, were added. But it is very noteworthy that while our Lord in John 20:22 f. said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost,’ and ‘Whose scever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them,’ etc., the Christian ordinations invariably took the form of a prayer. The introduction in the West, in the Middle Ages, of the declaratory form, in addition to (not instead of) the ordination prayer, was very probably due to a desire to follow our Lord’s example exactly. But the earlier Christians would seem to have regarded such a procedure as irreverent. Their Master had used a declaratory form, had by His Divine power declared that their commission was given to them. They themselves believed that their own proper course was to pray that God would give the commission to the ordinands by their instrumentality. The same feeling comes out in the fact that in the early ages the eucharistic consecration by the Church was always conceived as effected by a prayer, and not by a declaratory form of words. See Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics , articles ‘Invocation (Liturgical)’ and ‘Ordination.’

5. Fasting.-In Acts 13:2 f. we read that fasting preceded the solemn mission of Barnabas and Saul. In Acts 14:23 ‘fastings,’ as well as prayer, accompany the appointment of presbyters ‘in every church’ by Paul and Barnabas. The plural ‘fastings’ seems to mean that these apostles at each town held a solemn service of ordination with fasting; they did not ordain a large number for the whole district at one convenient centre.

Fasting was frequently in early ages associated with solemn prayer (Psalms 35:13, Daniel 9:3, Mark 9:29 [some Manuscripts ], Luke 2:37); and so with baptism and the Eucharist. The pre-baptismal fast is mentioned in the Didache (7 f.), by Justin Martyr (Apol. i. 61), Tertullian (de Bapt. 20), Cyril of Jerusalem (Cat. iii. 7, xviii. 17), in the Church Orders (see Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics v. 768a), and elsewhere. The fast before Communion is mentioned in Tertullian (ad Uxor. ii. 5) and in the Church Orders (Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics v. 768b). In the Testament of our Lord (i. 22) and the Arabic Didascalia (23, 38) there is a fast for bishops after their ordination. But we do not find in early post-apostolic literature much emphasis laid on fasting in connexion with ordination.

6. God working through His ministers in ordaining.-It was not only when there was a special Divine intervention, as in the case of Matthias, Paul, and (probably) Timothy, that the first disciples believed that God was the real ordainer. He always worked through His human instruments. Even in the case of Matthias the special intervention extended only to God’s selection (so they regarded the lot) of one out of two men; the choice of the two was made by the people. Yet no one would doubt that Matthias was really appointed an apostle by God. And this, as seems most probable, is the meaning of Acts 20:28. St. Paul tells the presbyters of Ephesus that the Holy Ghost has made them ‘bishops.’ Yet he doubtless had ordained them himself, though probably (as in 6:3) the people had elected them. It is perhaps due to this significant passage about the Ephesian presbyters that, as Swete remarks (The Holy Spirit in the Ancient Church, London, 1912, p. 290 f.), all the forms of ordination in the Church Orders recognize the Holy Spirit as the source of ministerial power, though the invocation of the Third Person in the Eucharist was not quite so universal.

7. The charisma in ordination.-St. Paul says to Timothy, ‘Neglect not the charisma that is in thee, which was given thee through prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery’ (1 Timothy 4:14); and ‘kindle (stir into flame, Revised Version margin) the charisma of God which is in thee through the laying on of my hands’ (2 Timothy 1:6 : on these two verses see further below, 9). That this ‘charisma’ (gift) is not the office to which Timothy was appointed-whatever that was-but the inward grace which enabled him to discharge it, is seen from the words ἐν σοί which occur in both passages (so Alford, Ellicott, Liddon, Comm. in loc.; Swete, The Holy Spirit in the NT, p. 246; see also R. Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, bk. v. ch. lxxvii.). The nature of the charisma is referred to in 2 Timothy 1:7, which immediately follows the second passage; it is a spirit of power and love and discipline (σωφρονισμοῦ, i.e., possibly, ‘self-control,’ or better, ‘the capacity of exercising discipline without abandoning love’ [so Swete]). That the ‘charismata’ or gifts of the Spirit are not all of them what we call ‘extraordinary,’ but include those faculties which enable the regular ministry to carry out their work, may be seen also from St. Paul’s description of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. The gifts are indeed various, but they include ‘apostles,’ ‘teachers,’ ‘helps,’ ‘government,’ as well as ‘powers,’ ‘gifts of healing,’ ‘kinds of tongues’ (1 Corinthians 12:28; cf. the preceding verses). The same thing is seen from Romans 12:6-8.

The belief that in ordination a charisma of the Spirit is given does not (it need hardly be said) mean that those who thus receive it have not before received the Holy Spirit. The Seven, for example, were to be full of [Holy] Spirit and wisdom before they were elected by the people and appointed and ordained by the apostles (Acts 6:3). Stephen was already ‘a man full of faith and Holy Spirit’ (Acts 6:5). But the gifts of the Spirit are many and various; and the charisma which Timothy was not to neglect but to kindle was that special gift which would enable him to be a good Christian minister.

8. The mission of Barnabas and Saul from Antioch.-In considering the present subject we must necessarily touch on the meaning of the ceremony in Acts 13:1-3, when these two great missionaries were sent out on their first evangelistic journey. Was it an ordination, or a ‘dismission service’? Was it the appointment of Barnabas and Saul to the apostolate? We read that certain ‘prophets and teachers’ were at Antioch-Barnabas, Symcon, Lucius, Manaen, Saul. ‘As they ministered (λειτουργούντων) to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.’ The ‘sending forth’ is expressly said to be the act of the Holy Ghost (Acts 13:4). This was after the return of Barnabas and Saul from Jerusalem, whither they had gone to take the alms of the Church at Antioch (Acts 11:30, Acts 12:25). St. Luke’s pronouns are somewhat ambiguous. But his phrase in Luke 13:3 must mean that Symeon, Lucius, and Manaen (and possibly other prophets and teachers, if any unnamed ones were present) [Note: The τινες of the TR is badly attested, and can hardly be original. D and Vulg. have ‘among whom [were] Barnabas,’ etc., suggesting that there were others. But probably the list given is exclusive.] prayed and laid hands on Barnabas and Saul, and sent them away. It was clearly an important occasion. It was a solemn service or liturgy before God, during which the Holy Spirit indicated His Divine purpose-doubtless by the mouth of one of the prophets present. They then fasted and-apparently on a second occasion-prayed, laid on hands, and sent the two missionaries away. It is the view of some that this was an ‘ordination’ of Barnabas and Saul to the apostleship (so, e.g., Rackham, Com. in loc.). It is said that hereafter, but not before, they are described as ‘apostles’ (Acts 14:14), and that though St. Paul was made an apostle by our Lord directly, yet that Divine appointment did not make it unnecessary for the Church at large by a formal act to recognize it. But (however that may be) the view that these two men were on this occasion made apostles appears to the present writer to be more than doubtful. In the first place, nothing whatever is said in the passage in question about the apostleship, or indeed about an appointment to any office whatever. Secondly, in Galatians 1:1 St. Paul explicitly claims that he is an ‘apostle not from (ἀπό) men, neither through (διά) man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father.’ His apostleship is of Divine, not of human, origin; the same is true of the apostleship of the Twelve also. Further, his apostleship is not through man-no man is the instrument by which this Divinely appointed apostleship came to him. Indeed, the whole argument of the first two chapters of this Epistle is based on the supposition that St. Paul did not derive authority through the Twelve-and a fortiori not through any Christian ‘prophets and teachers.’ And in the third place the suggestion about Church recognition, if it be pressed to mean (as it is pressed by Rackham) that Symeon, Lucius, and Manaen conferred the apostleship on Barnabas and Saul, means that those who were not themselves apostles could make others apostles. Rackham says that as the Divine will was indicated, this was possible, just as Ananias, a ‘layman,’ laid hands on Saul (Acts 9:17). The latter statement involves more than one unproved assumption; but at any rate this argument about Ananias runs counter to the proposition that ‘the Church should by a formal act recognize the Divine operation.’ ‘The Church’ does not mean any individual layman in the Church. More cautiously Gore remarks (The Church and the Ministry5, London, 1902, p. 236 n. [Note: . note.] ):

‘It was essential to St. Paul’s apostolate that he should not have received his spiritual gifts through other apostles. Again the prophets and teachers at Antioch lay hands on Barnabas and Saul. But here also we have a special divine authorization; and it is to set apart two already of their own “order” to a special work.’

For the reasons stated it seems impossible to view the incident at Antioch as a conferring of the apostleship on Barnabas and Saul. But it was a solemn assignment to them, under the direction of the Holy Ghost, of an extended work among the Gentiles, and all the accompaniments befitted this new departure. When Barnabas received the apostleship there is no record. But as he was constantly in touch with the Twelve, and was, so to speak, the connecting link between them and St. Paul, and as there is no claim that he received the apostleship direct from our Lord, it is probable that he received it from the Twelve on some occasion which is not recorded.

9. The action of the presbyters in Timothy’s ordination.-We have hitherto refrained from asking to what office Timothy was ordained. And it is perhaps unnecessary for our present purpose to do so. But, at any rate. Timothy was one of those ‘apostolic men’ who shared in the itinerant ministry of the apostles, though they were not themselves apostles; he was not one of the local ministry, though for a time he was resident at Ephesus. There is no reason to suppose that he passed from one office to another, as the ordained of later ages have done; and we may in all probability take his ordination referred to in the Pastoral Epistles as being his only ordination, and as his ordination to the office which he held when St. Paul addressed his two letters to him.

Now in 1 Timothy 4:14 the charisma (see above, 7) is said to have been given to Timothy through (διά) prophecy (see above, 1), with (μετά) the laying on of the hands of the presbytery (πρεσβυτερίου). And in 2 Timothy 1:6 the ‘charisma of God’ is said to be in Timothy ‘through (διά) the laying on of [St. Paul’s] hands.’ It seems hardly possible to interpret these words otherwise than of Timothy’s ordination. [Note: Chase (Confirmation in the Apostolic Age, p. 35) takes 2 Timothy 1:6 (not 1 Timothy 4:14) as referring to Timothy’s confirmation, though he stands almost alone in doing so. He interprets 1 Timothy 4:14 as is done by the present writer, and understands it to mean that St. Paul and the presbyters together laid hands on Timothy at his ordination.] And it is difficult to interpret the presbytery otherwise than as the body of presbyters referred to in 1 Timothy 5:17, etc. The usual interpretation seems to be the right one, that in the above passages we have the prototype of an arrangement which was once probably universal, or certainly widespread, in both East and West, and which still survives in the West. We may think of St. Paul laying his hands on Timothy, with the active concurrence of the local presbyters, who lay on hands together with the Apostle. But the difference of preposition is significant; in the case of St. Paul διά, in the case of the presbyters μετά, is used. The latter word would seem to indicate that the act was one of St. Paul’s in which the presbyters by their deed concurred. There is, indeed, a slight difficulty in this interpretation. The arrangement, formerly in the East and still in the West, to which reference has been made, is that at the ordination of a presbyter the presbyters lay hands on his head together with the ordaining bishop, though the latter alone says the words. But this custom is not mentioned till the 4th century. We find it in the Egyptian and Ethiopic Church Orders, the Testament of Our Lord, and the Verona Latin Fragments of the Didascalia, etc.; also c. [Note: . circa, about.] a.d. 500 in the ‘Gallican Statutes’ (above, 3); see Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics , article ‘Ministry,’ 8. The custom may probably be traced to the lost original of the parallel Church Orders-that is, to the 3rd century. Of the intervening period between the Pastoral Epistles and that date we know nothing in respect to this matter. It is therefore possible that the arrangement in question was not continuously in use, but was adopted in the 3rd cent. because of the interpretation then given to the passage in 1 Timothy. And it was confined to the ordination of a presbyter, for when a bishop was ordained the other bishops laid on hands, but no presbyters, unless possibly-this is very uncertain-in the Canons of Hippolytus; while in the NT there is no indication that the local presbyters laid on hands with Paul and Barnabas when they ‘appointed’ presbyters for each church: indeed, probably there were no presbyters present other than the newly-ordained. Nevertheless, though the arrangement may possibly not have been continued in the sub-Apostolic Age, and though the latter procedure was not altogether on all-fours with the apostolic arrangement, seeing that the whole local organization of the ministry had developed by the 3rd cent., it appears highly probable that St. Paul’s meaning is that both he and the local presbyters laid hands on Timothy when the latter was ordained. Where this took place St. Paul does not say. It could hardly have been at Lystra, where Timothy was converted. A novice in the faith, such as he was when St. Paul took him into his company, would not have been ordained to the ministry (cf. 1 Timothy 3:6). Alford (Com. on 1 Timothy 4:14) suggests Ephesus, where Timothy was to exercise his ministry for a considerable time. And this would be in accordance with the idea that St. Paul refers to the concurrence of the presbytery because the Ephesian presbyters were likely to read his Epistle. But the point is of no great importance.

For the manner in which ordinations to the ministry have been conducted in subsequent ages, reference may be made to the present writer’s article ‘Ordination’ in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics .

Literature.-H. B. Swete, The Holy Spirit in the NT, London, 1909, article ‘Laying on of Hands’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ; F. J. A. Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, London, 1897 (posthumous); the various Commentaries on Acts and the Pastoral Epistles, especially R. B. Rackham, The Acts of the Apostles2, London, 1904; C. J. Ellicott, The Pastoral Epistles of St. Paul, do., 1856; H. Alford, The Greek Testament7, do., 1874; H. P. Liddon, St. Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy, do., 1897.

A. J. Maclean.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ordination'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​o/ordination.html. 1906-1918.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile