Jesus never laid on of His hands on anyone including His disciples. Even His disciples never mentioned in any of their letters. What is this laying on of hands? Is this something Christians must be following? What does it really mean? In this post we will explore laying on of hands from Scripture and what it really means.
Elementary Principle of Christ
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary [principles] of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.Heb 6:1-2
The above verse in Hebrews is one of the two verses in New Testament that speaks about laying on of hands which mentions it as an elementary principle of Christ.
Received the Holy Spirit
Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”Acts 8:17-19
The only other New Testament verse is in the book of Acts where people saw the Holy Spirit was given when the apostles’ hands were laid on others. This verse does not suggest that Holy Spirit will given by laying on of hands since neither Jesus nor His disciples received the Holy Spirit this way.
And the LORD said to Moses: “Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom [is] the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and inaugurate him in their sight. And you shall give [some] of your authority to him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. He shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire before the LORD for him by the judgment of the Urim. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, he and all the children of Israel with him–all the congregation.Num 27:18-21
Moses laid hands on Joshua before all the congregation to inaugurate him (or commision him as in other translations). This was specifically done based on instructions by God Himself to give Joshua authority over the the congregation of the children of Israel.
Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.Deut 34:9
The congregation of the children of Israel obeyed Joshua because Moses laid hands on him and was filled with wisdom. Hence, in Old Testament, hands were laid on others to formally give them their authority.
Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid [it] on Ephraim’s head, who [was] the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh [was] the firstborn.Gen 48:14
Jacob gave his blessings to His grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh by laying hands on them. However, Scripture never indicates that he gave blessings to his other eleven children by laying hands on them.
Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send [it] away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.Lev 16:21-22
In the above passage of the law, hands were laid on the live goat to transfer their iniquities on that goat and that goat will bear their iniquities.
And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it [at] the door of the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar.Lev 3:2
Similar ritual of laying hands on the offering was done by the priest before it is sacrified.
Stoning for cursing God
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard [him] lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin.Lev 24:13-15
The people who heard the accused cursing God, lay hands on him before stoning him to death.
Jesus was asked to but didn’t
… and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” … Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”Mark 5:23,41
It is interesting to note that the father of little girl begged Jesus to lay hands on her but Jesus, instead of laying her hands, took her by the hand to spoke to her to rise.
Mark’s Alternate Ending
“they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”Mark 16:18
As we all know Mark’s gospel abruptly ends with verse 8, with many scholars suggesting the author may have been killed before completing it. The laying of hands is only mentioned in the alternative long ending of the gospel of Mark which was added later.
Jesus never laid hands on anyone. He also didn’t teach His disciples to lay hands on others for anything including prayer. It seems the disciples of Jesus and early Christians followed a Jewish tradition of laying hands. Based on Scriptures, laying of hands was used for giving authority, imparting blessings, transferring iniquities and before executing criminals who curse God.