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.

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Rick Beckman