The “Laying on of Hands” of Elders -- By: David A. Mappes

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 154:616 (Oct 1997)
Article: The “Laying on of Hands” of Elders
Author: David A. Mappes


The “Laying on of Hands” of Elders

David A. Mappes

[David A. Mappes is Staff Pastor, Bethany Bible Church, Phoenix, Arizona, and Professor of Bible, Southwestern College, Phoenix, Arizona.]

[This is article four in a four-part series, “Studies on the Role of the New Testament Elder.”]

The third article in this series discussed the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 5:18–20 in relation to sinning elders who are to be rebuked.1 Then in verse 22 Paul wrote, “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” Does this command about laying on of hands refer to the ordaining of elders or to the restoring of elders who had been rebuked?2

A number of commentators suggest that the verse refers to restoring elders (among other penitents) who have been publicly rebuked.3 Advocates of this view appeal to the context as well as a

supposed difference between the practice of ordination by presbyters in 1 Timothy 4:14 and Paul’s injunction in 5:22 .

Laney, who states that τοὺς ἁμαρτάνοντας (“those who continue in sin,” 5:20) refers to only the sinning elders, suggests that the laying on of hands refers to restoring a previously rebuked elder. “The context of discipline (5:19–21) suggests that Paul is referring to the hasty restoration of a penitent elder to his former position.”4 Hasler also argues that verse 22 refers not to ordination but to a particular liturgical act of elder restoration.5 Hasler cites 2 John 11; 3 John 9; 1 Clement 44:1–6; 47:6; and Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians (11:1) in support of his view that elder discipline and restoration efforts were in process in the New Testament period. Hanson seeks to illustrate a difference between 1 Timothy 5:22 and ordination described in 4:14. He argues that since ...

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