Laying-on of hands in Luke and Acts : theology, ritual, and interpretation.
The purpose of this dissertation is to understand the ritual practice of laying-on of hands in the Lukan corpus. To achieve a plausible interpretation, the ritual action is investigated from two distinct but complementary disciplines, the theological and the anthropological. While theology is the product of historical grammatical study, anthropology investigates the internal societal factors that are catalytic for the evolution of ritual in religious communal lite. That there is a theology imbedded in the writings of Luke is not questioned. It is the aim of this research, however, to demonstrate that by being attuned to anthropological dimensions a theology which is more sensitive to the original interests of the early church can develop. Six chapters develop the thesis as follows. Chapter one surveys contemporary investigations into Christian hand imposition and discovers that the prevailing approach is to ground it in pagan or regularly in Jewish traditions. The chapter moves forward by proposing a theological/anthropological methodology to pursue a new direction in ritual research.. Chapter two surveys the history 3113 cultural dimensions of hand imposition in Luke's cultural context. The chapter classifies the ritual action into seventeen functional categories. Chapters three and four explore the redactional/theological usage of the laying-on of hands in Luke and Acts respectively. Chapter five applies the ritual categories as defined by Victor W. Tumer to select passages taken from Luke and Acts. The aim of this chapter is to test the adequacy of the concepts of social paradox, lirninality, and communitas as adequate categories for interpreting the evolution of Christian ritual.. The sixth chapter synthesizes the findings and applies the data to a reconstructed first century auditor/reader of Luke and Acts. Christian hand imposition, while forensically similar to Jewish and Gentile practices, should not be misinterpreted as merely a continuation of those traditions. The immediacy of crises unique to messianic Judaism, coupled with its distinctive Christological proclamation suggests the ritual action must be understood uniquely as "Christian. "