The holy kiss is a traditional Christian greeting. The term comes from the New Testament, where it appears five times.
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” (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
- I Corinthians 16.20b — “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
- II Corinthians 13.12a — “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν ἁγίῳ φιλήματι).
- I Thessalonians 5.26 — “Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss” (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
- I Peter 5.14a — “Greet one another with a kiss of love” (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε 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 Christianity, Roman 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. 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” (Greek: δεξὰς ἔδωκαν ἐμοὶ καὶ Βαρναβᾷ κοινωνίας).
Different Protestant, Reformed 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.