A Holy Kiss

I was paging through my copy of Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words a little bit ago, and I came across the noun philēma, a kiss. Specifically, Vine spoke of that holy kiss which Paul repeatedly advocated the saints to use in greetings and farewells. Peter calls this kiss a “kiss of charity” (1 Peter 5:14). I enjoyed Vine’s exposition he gave to this word:

There was to be an absence of formality and hypocrisy, a freedom from prejudice arising from social distinctions, from discrimination against the poor, from partiality towards the well-to-do. In the churches masters and servants would thus salute one another without any attitude of condescension on the one part or disrespect on the other. The kiss thus took place thus between persons of the same sex. In the “Apostolic Constitutions,” a writing compiled in the 4th century, A.D., there is a reference to the custom whereby men sat on one side of the room where a meeting was held, and women on the other side of the room (as is frequently the case still in parts of Europe and Asia), and the men are bidden to salute the men, and the women the women, with “the kiss of the Lord.”

The second part doesn’t matter much too me — I see no reason to segregate the sexes within an assembly — but what about that first part? How often is that attitude truly seen in churches today? I can’t say I’ve ever seen it, to be honest. Nor can I honestly say I’ve put much effort into promoting it.

But what a warm, welcoming place the church would be if those ideals could be achieved. I doubt the physical act of kissing would ever catch on — the few American Christians I have talked about this idea with a few years ago seemed very averse to the idea — though it certainly should. If it wasn’t important, the Lord wouldn’t have had Paul and Peter advocate for it.

Featured image: source, license

2 thoughts on “A Holy Kiss”

  1. An interesting study to be sure. I would personally have no objection to this type of affectionate act yet I see nothing wrong with an affectionate hand-shake either. :-)

    Also, I enjoy Vines lexicon as well, so much that I purchased his collective writings.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Use your Gravatar-enabled email address while commenting to automatically enhance your comment with some of Gravatar's open profile data.

Comments must be made in accordance with the comment policy. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam; learn how your comment data is processed.

You may use Markdown to format your comments; additionally, these HTML tags and attributes may be used: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

the Rick Beckman archive
Scroll to Top