The Holy Kiss – A Command, or Not?

From wikipedia

The holy kiss is a traditional Christian greeting. The term comes from the New Testament, where it appears five times.

holy kiss 

 Farewell of Saints Peter and Paul, showing the Apostles giving each other the holy kiss before theirmartyrdom. (Alonzo Rodriguez, 16th century, Museo Regionale diMessina).

It is mentioned in:

  • Romans 16.16a — “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Greekἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
  • I Corinthians 16.20b — “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Greekἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
  • II Corinthians 13.12a — “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Greekἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν ἁγίῳ φιλήματι).
  • I Thessalonians 5.26 — “Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss” (Greekἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
  • I Peter 5.14a — “Greet one another with a kiss of love” (Greekἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἀγάπης).

Superficially, there was nothing new in the practice of Christians greeting one another with a kiss: cheek kissing was the normal way that men in the ancient westernMediterranean would greet one another. However, the New Testament’s emphasis on its being a holy and love (agapē) kiss meant that it quickly developed into something more than a greeting. The writings of the early church fathers mention the holy kiss as forming the introduction to the regular Sunday eucharist in the early church. In this way it still remains a part of the worship in traditional churches (Eastern ChristianityRoman Catholic Church and liturgical Protestant churches), where it is often called the kiss of peace or sign of peace, or simply peace or pax. In these churches, it is usually performed before the preparation of the altar for the eucharist.

Presently, the greeting is not normally shared as a kiss in English-speaking cultures, but by shaking hands or performing some other greeting gesture (such as anembrace) more in tune with the culture and time. In fact, handshaking, which can seem quite prosaic today, was popularised by Quakers as a sign of equality underGod, rather than stratified system of etiquette of seventeenth century England.[citation needed] One could even say that the handshake greeting is also of biblical origin: it is mentioned in Galatians 2.9d: “They gave me and Barnabas their right hands of fellowship” (Greekδεξὰς ἔδωκαν ἐμοὶ καὶ Βαρναβᾷ κοινωνίας).

Different ProtestantReformed and Restorationist churches have readopted the holy kiss either metaphorically (in that members extend a pure, warm welcome that is referred to as a holy kiss) or literally (in that members kiss one another). This practice is particularly important among Mennonites.


Isn’t it interesting that this command – which is found FIVE times in the NT, is ignored as a command by our CENI-happy friends in the hyper-conservative Churches of Christ?  Doesn’t the “C” in “CENI” stand for “command”?

This is one of my big criticisms of Johnny, Norm, and James (and like-minded others) – that they work so hard to bind others to their limited interpretations of Scripture claiming to be the NT church in the 21st Century – and then when you look closely, you’ll see that they cherry pick their doctrine as much as the next folks.


19 thoughts on “The Holy Kiss – A Command, or Not?

  1. I guess they get to approve what commands they are required to obey and they might add that it isn’t a salvation issue.

    But then they turn around and make Acts 20:7 which is one example of a group of men meeting in an upper level breaking bread – into a command…sort of strange that they can pick and choose, and then turn around and down everyone else. Btw, nobody has yet to go to Jason to try and restore him to the faith – isn’t that a command too?? But after our constant posting on the subject, James and others have emailed Jason.

  2. Good points, Randy – the whole binding of the Lord’s Supper thing has been the other bookend to this issue for me. Thanks for mentioning it!

    I’m praying for Jason, btw.

  3. I guess the question is do you greet with a holy kiss? You seem to support doing it , but do you do it? You point fingures at others for not doing it so are you a hypocrite condeming others for not doing it and not doing ityourself either?

  4. Faithful,

    I think Nathan’s point is (correct me if I am wrong, Nathan)-but people in this sect of the “Church of Christ” are hardcore about “speaking where the Bible speaks, silent where the Bible is silent”;, and attempting to “restore” and do everything exactly like the 1st century church…yet their hermeneutic, beliefs, and how they carry all of this out is incredibly inconsistent. This is merely an example. They will bind some things on others condemning them if they do not do it, yet claim other actions such as the holy kiss or head coverings as cultural or “customary”. It is simply not consistent, yet they continue to justify it, and sling condemnation at others, especially if they claim anything in the Bible as cultural. There is no logic in that.

    Anyway, I hope that helps and I did not speak out of turn, Nathan! 😉

  5. No, I don’t greet with a holy kiss.

    Why not? Is it because, as you said, I’m a “hypocrite condemning others for doing it and not doing it [myself]?”

    Nope. Not at all.

    It’s because I don’t think of the Bible as a rule book, the way the hyper-conservative Churches of Christ do.

    For example, I don’t go on the air for four hours every week to tell people that they are going to hell because they are in a denomination “and you can’t find denominations in the Bible.” (you can’t find “church of Christ” in the Bible, either. Did you know that?) But even though their church is not found in Scripture either, “Hyper-con” CofC people like Johnny, James, and Norm, do tell people this.

    I don’t tell people that if they don’t take the Lord’s Supper each first day of the week, they are in sin and in danger of eternal damnation, even though this is found NOWHERE in Scripture. “Hyper-con” CofC people, like Johnny, James, and Norm, do tell people this.

    I don’t tell people that if you are baptized without an understanding that you are saved by that action then your baptism doesn’t “take”, and you aren’t really saved, even though this is found NOWHERE in Scripture. “Hyper-con” CofC people, like Johnny, James, and Norm, do tell people this.

    I don’t tell people that if you play a piano, a guitar, a lute, a harp, a bappipe, a pipe organ, or any other musical instrument in worship then you are damned and will burn in eternal hellfire, even though musical instruments are allowed in the OT and the Author of the Word NEVER retracts that allowance. “Hyper-con” CofC people, like Johnny, James, and Norm, do tell people this.

    I don’t condemn people for the use of creeds, and then have my own “unofficial creeds” in my back pocket (such as “silence where the Bible is silent”, CENI, etc). “Hyper-con” CofC people, like Johnny, James, and Norm, do this.

    So, yes. I hold “hyper-con” CofC people to a higher level of accountability when it comes to the way they handle Scripture, because they claim to hold themselves to a higher level of accountability. They claim to be the “Lord’s Church” – the direct descendent of the 1st Century church founded by Peter back in 33 AD, and further, they claim that no one else is truly the church.

    So, if anyone is being exposed for hypocrisy here, it’s not me. It’s the ones who tell everyone else they are damned, but don’t follow the Book themselves.

  6. Whoops, you slipped it in past me, Katherine. But no worries, I think you hit the nail on the head, as you can see from my last post.


  7. I think people often think we are picking on the churches of Christ as a whole and do not understand that we are addressing the “Hyper-con” CofC people, like Johnny, James, and Norm. I think if they lived here and could watch and hear these men of the church of Christ, they would understand. Johnny and crew are the only people going to heaven and like minded people per their teachings and many times they flatly tell people that they are heaed to hell – which would include the other churches of Christ in our town who do not act like they do…its more than doctrinal issues with these men – it’s also the attitude towards others and the way they treat people that has caused them to be so disliked, but here they will say “oh well, Jesus was not liked either by everyone” – so they think they have some right to be God and Judge, even to the degree they come right out tell “anyone” who doesnt adhere to thier view of scripture will be lost. The scriptures teach that one is known by thier fruits and it also taches how a Christian acts and treats people – maybe they should do a program on this…

  8. When I first jumped on this blog I thought you were rebuking all “Church of Christ” and I wanted to set the record straight, but after digging deeper into it I don’t think that at all anymore. I recently found a Hyper-Con Church of Christ website ( that basically tells the “liberal COC” leaders like Max Lucado and Lynn Anderson they’re going to hell for teaching moderation, inclusion and graciousness. They spit their ideals and ignorance at everyone-not just non-COC.

    Several weeks ago I went to an Abilene Christian University event where a small group from a local COC (hyper-con) was picketing the school for requiring all students to attend Chapel because of their belief that other denomination’s prayers are not being heard by God, thus causing no prayer from the COC university to be heard. They were also upset about dancing, singing, music, encouraging interfaith name it.

    The cool thing about it is that I said a “small” group was picketing. Hopefully you’re seeing it in NC and VA-they’re a dieing breed. If God really supports their judging of others, why isn’t he supporting them in numbers? I also read a blog recently published by the hyper-con Baptist group from Kansas. They protested at every US soldier’s funeral until law stopped them. They believe we’re all going to hell because we don’t believe as they believe. But they’re a small dieing group too. Many in the Catholic leadership say all Protostants regardless of denomination are going to hell. Even the Muslims think they have heaven cornered.

    Christ spells it out plainly about judging others, but that scripture seems to be silent in the hyper-con’s “creed” as well. The dialogue on this blog is good and I believe serving a useful purpose.

  9. As a “hyper-conservative” member of the churches of Christ that are the majority and no dying breed (not growing much though), I know of men and women who practice the holy kiss in the churches of Christ. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

    Look at all of these passages again about the Holy Kiss. Does not Paul and Peter greet brethren in these passages without a literal holy kiss? They certainly do not, so the kiss is not a binding example. This example does not define any command. Is not the emphasis here that these churches of Christ in the first century make sure that their kisses are holy? The churches of Christ do not discourage the holy kiss and encourages that such kisses be holy and be displays of love that are often shown among us. We follow the spiritual beliefs and practices of the New Testament church while we do not wear the same clothes, ride donkeys and horses, and embrace the 1st century culture.

    The only examples that we follow are those that define a command. Like be baptism in the Lord’s name (Acts 2:38), so we follow example in Acts 10:47-48, which defines that baptism is in water. This same principle we apply across the board, and I pay careful attention that these are accurate, because I don’t care for any tradition of man being called a tradition of God.

    For some insight into God’s Word along the Holy Kiss, consider the word for worship “proskuneo” meaning literally “to kiss toward”. Is this the literal worship toward to God? The Greek word for kiss is usually “phileimi” which is the Greek work for love, “phileo”. There is a lot more hear for a more in depth study.

    I wonder why you all are so hostile to these men in VA and not to me. I’ll look them up. I encourage you to read Cecil May. I find him to be best representative of the majority and the mainstream of the churches of Christ who presents our beliefs in love and strength.

    May we all find grace and mercy in the Gospel of Christ.

  10. Scott, you dont resort to name calling and attacking people, and the men here do. Do you go to other churches with a camera in hand, filming the preachers and then airing it on TV for all to see. Do you bring up peoples past against them? You and these men here believe just alike, but you at least are nice about it…I will look at the writtings from Cecil May…thx

  11. Hi Dennis:

    I’m glad you’ve been willing to dig in and see what we’re about here. The last thing I want to do is to alienate my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I am all about being ecumenical, because I think THAT is the unity that we are commanded to seek in the NT (John 17:20–23), not this “everyone has to do it the same way that we do it” unity that the hyper-cons call for.

    Here’s a great site dealing with True Biblical unity:

    Interestingly enough – you mention Fred Phelps’ group. I do have to say to Johnny Robertson’s credit, that when the Phelps fruit loops came to the Martinsville area, Johnny had them on his show to debate. I don’t know of many people who would have touched the Phelps, but Johnny made them look like the fools that they are.

    Unfortunately, he turns those guns on people whom he should consider to be his brothers and sisters, too. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog, because I think his aim is off quite a bit most of the time.

    Thanks for the comment!

  12. Scott,

    I appreciate your humble attitude. If the three TV hosts had your sort of attitude and weren’t so combative, I doubt that this blog would have ever been started.

    Bottom line? I think that hypercon churches that don’t practice the holy kiss mandated by the verses above are proving that they dance to a different tune than they whistle. Either you speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent, or you don’t. The Bible clearly speaks on the issue of the holy kiss, but for some reason the majority of the hypercon CofC churches choose to ignore this command, and yank it off to being a “cultural” thing.

    To do such a thing is to show that you are cherry picking. I mean, it’s not figurative language, as you suggest – it’s a command, given five times. Check out the Greek – it’s in the imperative mood – that doesn’t make it optional! It makes it a command. “Imperative” means that it must be done.

    If you are going to say that you don’t discourage it, then you have some pretty hefty answering to do for the fact that you actively discourage the playing of musical instruments in worship when THAT IS NOT COMMANDED ANYWHERE! There is no Greek imperative against musical instruments in worship – but there are five places where the imperative mood commands the holy kiss.

    Do you not see the dilemma you have put yourself in with this? Not just you, obviously, but you and the others who believe and speak out the way that you do. At the very least it shows that you folks have inconsistencies just like the rest of us – and that maybe, just maybe, we’re all in the same boat at the end of the day – depending on the grace of God to ultimately bring us through.

    “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast”. Ephesians 2:8,9

    Thanks, Scott,

  13. To whomever submitted this articel:

    Holiness is always commanded. Kissing has never been commanded. The burden of proof rests with you to show that ‘kissing’ in the form of a greeting is commanded. Will you kiss another man’s wife? I doubt it. Not if you want to remain Holy. Now do you see the principle as separated from the practice? A greeting that consisted of kissing was a cultural norm for the period and periods previous. Today greeting with a kiss is no more a socially tolerated custom than a woman with a shaved head was in the first century (1 Cor 11:6,16). Please be honest and fair by analyzing the logic and common sense behind your affirmations before professing that members of the church are being hypocritical.


  14. Dear Joey,

    Have you studied Greek? Are you familiar with the imperative mood?


    “In grammar, the mood of the verb in a sentence in which a command or request is given (‘Take a seat’; ‘Speak up!’).

    An imperative sentence gives an instruction to be obeyed, and is often followed by an exclamation mark, as in ‘Stand! Now turn to the right.’ The subject word is not usually used in commands, but it can be: ‘You go away!’; ‘You send him to me now!’”

    Now, go to this page:

    Now, click on the word “tense” beside the greek word “aspazomai”. It will show you that the verb “salute” or “greet” is in the imperative mood. This means that it is a command. Nowhere in that verse does it mention a custom, or a “cultural norm”.

    And as to your suggestion that a kiss between two people cannot be holy (another man’s wife example) this shows that you are the one approaching this with a cultural bias. There are plenty of modern cultures where two people (of opposite sex) kiss without any hint of immorality as a greeting. You are trying to imprint you own cultural bias on Scripture!

    And this is only one of a total of five commands, as I’ve said before. And yet, the hypercon CofC folks refuse to obey this command. Why is this?

    And then, the hypercon CofC folks bind everyone to the other things that I’ve mentioned that are NOT commanded, and threaten them with eternal separation from God if they don’t follow this non-Biblical command (for example – communion each first day of the week and not playing musical instruments in worship).

    It’s a house of cards, Joey, and it falls down with just a slight breeze of truth.


  15. Nathan,

    We do teach the holy kiss and command that it be only, but we do not insist on it being the only greeting. I was not referring to the command of the Holy Kiss as an example, but to Paul and Peter’s greetings as an example. I did write mistakenly that “the kiss is not a binding example” out of context and ran with it. I don’t believe that it is an example. I’ve even preached it myself. You are right. It is a command.

    This does not change that we, by the insulting name of “hypercon CofC”, do teach and command the holy kiss, but you don’t have to greet everyone all the time with a kiss. 4 of the 5 Scriptures present a greeting by letter which is not a literal kiss. I was not saying that it was figurative, but that it is not to be obeyed all the time.

    I must propose to you as to others before on the use of instruments to worship God in any way. Where do the Scriptures say that “Polygamy is a sin”, “Abortion is a sin”, “Offices of pope, president, and archbishops are a sin”, “Lamb’s meat and water for the Lord’s supper is a sin”, “Baptisms with flower pedals, mist, or smoke is a sin”, “Infant baptism is a sin”, “Praying to Mary, Peter, or any one else not God is a sin”, or “Using a musical instrument to worship is a sin”?

  16. Nathan,

    1. I likely have not studied koine Greek to the degree that you have.

    2. I never alleged that the statement by Paul was not imperative. If you re-read my response, I said that holiness IS imperative (commanded). You still have not proven kissing to be imperative. In 2 Tim 2:22 Paul commands to “flee youthful lusts”.

    Flee is imperative mood, which obviously makes it a command. You wouldnt argue (I assume) that Pauls’ instruction is to flee “youthful”. You would likely agree that he is commanding to flee lusts and youthful is a modification of the command given the context (Timothy being young – 1 Tim 4:12). It is no different with the greeting. The admonition by Paul is that whatever the greeting may be, in this case a kiss, let it be holy. That is only fitting for any christian. You cannot logically prove kissing to be the command. If so, then what is the force of “holy” in that passage? In order for your argumentation to be correct, the command would have to be “Salute one another with a kiss”. You will never find “kiss” standing on its own as imperative. Not even in 1 Pet 5:14, where it is modified by “love”, Which is also a command.

    3. You are correct that kissing can be culturally acceptable in other countries. I apologize for not specifying that I was referring to our country only. I knew after I submitted my response that you would likely present that argument, to which I concede you are correct regarding other cultures; but by and large not our own. Surely you would concede that culture is a factor at some point.

    Lastly, if my argument is a house of cards, then yours is built on quicksand 😉

    I’m enjoying the discussion and looking forward to your response,


  17. Nathan
    if you are such a great Greek student and this house of cards is so easy to blow down, why not come out of the dark and sit in the light of Star News and try your great skill?

  18. Sorry, Johnny, I didn’t mean to insinuate that I was a “great Greek student”. I am just a regular Joe when it comes to the study of Greek, so I make no claims to being “great”. I am a student of Greek, though, and try to learn more and more about the language as I study the Word.

    As to your kind invitation to come into the “light” of Star News, I address that in a new post at top of the blog.

    Thanks for dropping by! Don’t be a stranger.


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