Does the word "ordained" in Acts 14:23 mean laying-on of hands?

Acts 14:23 KJV: And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed (KJV)

[Act 14:23 MGNT] (23) χειροτονήσαντες δὲ αὐτοῖς κατ’ ἐκκλησίαν πρεσβυτέρους προσευξάμενοι μετὰ νηστειῶν παρέθεντο αὐτοὺς τῷ κυρίῳ εἰς ὃν πεπιστεύκεισαν

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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.).

  1. 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)


Jewish gestures with the hands are described in detail on the Jewish Encyclopedia and it seems to suggest that the laying on of hands of Acts 14:23 was in fact an ordination of sorts. Here is the section on laying on of hands:

The laying of hands ("samak") on the head as a sign of dedication is found in the Bible, where one gives up one's own right to something and transfers it to God (comp. Ex. xxix. 5, 19; II Chron. xxix. 23). Here the hands are placed on the head of the animal whose blood is to be used for the consecration of priests or for the atonement of the sins of the people. The same ceremony was used in transferring the sins of the people to the scapegoat (Lev. xvi. 20-22), and with all burnt offerings except the sin-offerings (Lev. i. 4; iii. 2, 13; iv. 4, et al.). The laying of hands on the head of a blasphemer (Lev. xxiv. 14) should also be noted here. Jacob on his death-bed placed his right hand on the head of Ephraim (Gen. xlviii. 14). The Levites were consecrated through the laying on of hands by the heads of the tribes (Num. viii. 10). The time-honored prototype of Ordination through laying on of hands is the consecration of Joshua as successor to Moses (Num. xxvii. 18; Deut. xxxiv. 9). This rite is found in the New Testament (Acts vi. 3, xiii. 3) and in the Talmud ("semikah"), and was observed at the appointment of members of the Sanhedrin (Sanh. iv.). It was gradually discontinued in practise, however, although it was preserved nominally. The semikah, moreover, could take place only in Palestine (Sanh. 14a; see Hamburger, "R. B. T." s.v. "Ordinirung"). The laying of hands on the heads of children to bless them (Gen. xlviii. 14; Mark x. 16; Matt. xix. 13 et seq.) has been continued to this day. According to Job ix. 33, the judge placed his hands on the headsof the disputing parties. To place one's hand on one's own head was a token of grief (II Sam. xiii. 19).

So to answer the question, yes, it refers to "ordination" of a sort.

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