Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kiss


Kiss - "to touch with the lips." The touching of the lips is a gesture of affection or homage. When mentioned in the bible "kiss"or "kissing" is usually devoid of any erotic content. The Old Testament speaks of the "kiss" most often in the context of family. For example, children kissed their father, men kissed their children and grandchildren. Instances of brothers greeting one another with a kiss are recorded. We have records of women kissing their daughter-in-laws, and a man kissing his son-in-law.

The kiss was used in some pagan worship ceremonies. These kisses were prevalent when idols were kissed in worship. Some idolaters as a part of worship "threw kisses" to the moon. There are recorded in the Old Testament ceremonial kisses of a new king.

Kissing in the New Testament was similar to that of the Old Testament. The father in the story of the Prodigal Son embraced and kissed his son. The sinful woman who had been forgiven of her sins by Jesus kissed his feet. Jewish practices included placing a hand on an guest's shoulder then giving the guest the "kiss of peace." When Paul was traveling to Jerusalem and had called the Elders of the Ephesian church the bible tells us that they wept, embraced, and kissed Paul.

We do have examples recorded in the bible of diabolical kisses. These have been called "kisses" of the enemy. Of course the most infamous kiss is the kiss of Judas when he betrayed his friend and master for 30 pieces of silver.

For what it may be worth, the only mention of the erotic aspects of kissing are mentioned in the Old Testament. These types of kisses are connected to the seductive kiss of "the immoral woman" in Proverbs. (Now, for the record, the Old or New Testament does not prohibit or "frown on" the romantic kisses of a man and his wife. Those examples are simply not recorded other than in veiled references.)

There are references in the New Testament that would have believers greeting one another with a holy kiss. We find these references in Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20, II Corinthians 13:12, I Thessalonians 5:26. The early church expressed the intimate fellowship of the redeemed community of believers. It is interesting to note, at least to me, that this practice was "highly regulated" in the churches lest improper behavior would occur. Men greeted men with kisses and women greeted women with kisses. This kiss was known as the "kiss of peace."

The earliest reference that we have to this "kiss" is in Justin's Apologies. He makes this notation, "when we have ceased from our prayers, we greet one another with a kiss." Tertullian spoke of the "holy kiss which is a sign of peace" and asked, "if whether any prayer could be complete separate from the holy kisses."

According to E. G. Selwyn, "by the middle of the second century it was in regular use in the liturgy at the conclusion of the prayers and immediately before the offertory." When the time of corporate prayer ended and as hands reached for the wallet to give in the offering, members of the church would wander around greeting one another with a "holy kiss of peace." We seem to have replaced the kiss portion of our liturgy with the "let's greet one another and shake hands" portion of the service.

The holy kiss seems to have been used at baptisms, ordinations, and marriages. But even regulated and well meaning things become abused and get out of hand.

Clement of Alexandria wrote, "Love is judged not in a kiss but in good will. Some do nothing but fill the Churches with noise of kissing." 

Seems that many members would offer "kisses of peace" and then "live like the devil the rest of the week." In other words, like other parts of the service, even early church members played the hypocrite.

 Clement seemed to be saying you can hear the church filled with the sound of a holy kiss of peace and all the while we are fighting and devouring one another. Eventually the practice of the "holy kiss" or the "kiss of peace" died out in the 13th century. Now we greet one another with a smile and handshake. Is that enough?


welcome to my world of poetry said...

When I lived in Spain I found it was the custom to greet people with a kiss on both cheeks. Here in the UK we are more conservative by greeting by the formal handshake.

Have a good day Gregg.

Robyn Campbell said...

I popped over and saw your word for today and did a *GASP*

I thought, hmmm.

Gregg, someday I will kiss Jesus' feet. So will everyone who has accepted the Savior. What a most lovely thought. That makes my heart smile.

I see that we have replaced the kiss by the handshake. Is that enough? Very thought provoking question and I haven't had any coffee yet. I'd say that in some churches today, while the church is filled with handshakes and smiles, they are still fighting and devouring one another. So sad. I like the idea of a holy kiss instead of a handshake. :-)

Penned Pebbles said...

What a great post and points! I will have to give your question some serious thought! :-)

Seams Inspired said...

Oh, to be able to kiss the feet of Jesus! What a glorious day that will be. :o)

We greet one another with a kiss in my family and in DH's family. I have to admit, though, that it was a bit disconcerting when I first met DH's family and saw the men greet each other this way. It's mainly a cultural thing (Greek) for them; however, it's very endearing to me now. To see teenage boys kiss their uncles and Papou is simply sweet.

Great 'k' post, Gregg! Thanks for sharing.

PS...Did you see Penny's post about the history of the kiss? You can see it at Living Above Ministries :

Darlene said...

Very interesting K post. It will indeed be wonderful to kiss the feet of Jesus. New follower.

Scott said...

Hmm...think that this Sunday, as I stand at the back door after the service, I'll start grabbing and kissing folks. Wondering who will smack me first: the women? the men? my wife?!

Good post. Cultural expectations carry a lot more weight than we realize.

Brianna said...

In the Catholic church on Good Friday we walk to the alter where the priest holds the cross and we bend down to kiss it. Some people will simply touch, but a kiss is so much more powerful.

Anonymous said...

Great post, as always, Gregg. I guess I've never really thought about greeting fellow believers with a "holy kiss". I'll have to seriously mull your question over... :)

Angela Felsted said...

I much prefer a smile and a handshake. I used to play in this orchestra with a conductor from a Slovak country who used to kiss our hands as we left the stage.

It freaked me out, never mind that it was only cultural. If we all kissed each other on the cheeks, I'd be perpetually mortified.

Susan said...

I have alot of catching up to do on your posts, Gregg...couldn't come on this week cuz the laptop had a "bug"...fixed now :o)

I agree with you that our greetings lack closeness and true warmth...what about those "hugs" with people standing apart hugging at the neck and patting each other as if they were trying to burp each other, lol!

I have been thinking about the woman that was kissing Jesus feet over the past few days, and the difference between religious formalities and true devotion, it's been on my mind alot lately.

Great posts!