The Greek text of Acts 14:23 states,
ΚΓʹ χειροτονήσαντες δὲ αὐτοῖς πρεσβυτέρους κατ᾽ ἐκκλησίαν προσευξάμενοι μετὰ νηστειῶν παρέθεντο αὐτοὺς τῷ κυρίῳ εἰς ὃν πεπιστεύκεισαν TR, 1550
The word in question is χειροτονήσαντες, which is a participle conjugated in the aorist tense, active voice, and declined in the nominative case, masculine gender, and plural number, from the lemma χειροτονέω, which itself consists of the roots χείρ, meaning “hand,”1 and the verb τείνω,2 meaning “to stretch out.” The verb χειροτονέω occurs only twice in the New Testament.3 The verb χειροτονέω literally means “to stretch out one’s hands.” However, it is commonly used in the context of voting, whereby one stretches out their hand to cast a vote.
According to LSJ,4
χειροτονέω, stretch out the hand, for the purpose of giving one’s vote in the assembly, περὶ τῶν ἀνδρῶν Plu.Phoc.34; μὴ χ. vote against the motion, Luc.Deor.Conc.9:—but mostly,
II. c. acc. pers., elect, prop. by show of hands, Ar.Ach.598, Av.1571, etc.; εἱς τὴν ἀγορὰν χ. τοὺς ταξιάρχους .., οὐκ ἐπὶ τὸν πόλεμον D.4.26; c. dupl. acc., στρατηγὸν χ. τινά X.HG6.2.11, cf. Isoc.8.50:—Pass., to be elected, Ar.Ach.607; ἐπὶ τοῦτʼ ἐχειροτονήθησαν, ἵνα .. Lys.28.14; χ. ἔκ τινων Pl.Lg.763e; χ. ἐπὶ τῆς διοικήσεως Decr.ap.D.18.115: c. acc. cogn., χ. τὴν ἀρχὴν τὴν ἐπὶ τῷ θεωρικῷ Aeschin.3.24, cf. Ar.Ec.517 (anap.); χειροτονηθεὶς ἢ λαχών Pl.Plt.300a, cf. Aeschin.1.106.
b. later, generally, appoint, Ph.2.112; of the Jewish High Priest, J.AJ13.2.2; τὸν ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ κεχειροτονημένον βασιλέα ib.6.13.9, cf. 7.9.3; appoint to an office in the Church, πρεσβυτέρους Act.Ap.14.23, cf. 2Ep.Cor.8.19 (Pass.) spec., ordain by laying on hands, CPR5.11.4 (iv A.D.).
- c. acc. rei, vote for a thing, Ar.Ec.297 (lyr.), 797, Isoc.7.84; γνώμας D.18.248: c. inf., ὁ δῆμος ἐχειροτόνησεν ἐξεῖναι .. πέμπειν voted to send, Aeschin.2.13, cf. IG12.57.29, 63.4:—Pass., κεχειροτόνηται ὕβρις τὸ πρᾶμυʼ εἶναι it is voted, ruled to be .., D.21.216.
III. span with the hand, τὸ αἰδοῖον Artem.1.78 (ap. Suid.; χειροκοπεῖν codd.).
There are also several related words, such as:
At the least this demonstrates that there was a formal procedure for selecting elders in the Church, rather than elders appointing themselves to be the leaders of a particular church they attended. However, despite its literal meaning, one should not assume that the word is strictly limited to voting by a showing of hands.5
Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; et al. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1940.
1 LSJ, p. 1983
2 LSJ, p. 1766
3 Acts 14:23; 2 Cor. 8:19.
4 LSJ, p. 1986
5 For an extensive discussion on the topic of ordination, see:
A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities: Being a Continuation of ‘The Dictionary of the Bible.’ Ed. Cheetham, Samuel; Smith, William. Vol. 2. London: Murray, 1880. (1501–1520)