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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

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Most often used of the touching of the lips to another person's lips, cheeks, shoulders, hands, or feet as a gesture of friendship, acceptance, respect, and reverence. The location of the kiss carried different meanings as Jesus made clear in the episode of the woman kissing his feet (Luke 7:36-50 ). With the exception of three occurrences (Proverbs 7:13; Song of Song of Solomon 1:2; Song of Song of Solomon 8:1 ), the term is used without any erotic overtones. Kiss translates two Hebrew words and three Greek words; the basic Hebrew term is found 32 times, and the basic Greek term is found seven times.

In the Old Testament close relatives kissed at greeting and departing with the connotation of acceptance most often in the foreground (Genesis 27:26-27; Genesis 29:11; Genesis 50:1; Exodus 18:7; 1 Samuel 10:1; Ruth 1:9 ). The term was further used of the gesture of reverence to idols (1 Kings 19:18; Hosea 13:2 ) as well as to the Lord (Psalm 2:12 ). A kiss of betrayal is also found (2 Samuel 20:9 ). The term “kiss” in the New Testament is used of Judas (Mark 14:44-45 ), of the father to the prodigal as a sign of acceptance and reconciliation (Luke 15:20 ), of the Ephesian elders to Paul as a sign of gratitude (Acts 20:37 ), of the woman who kissed the feet of Jesus (Luke 7:38 ), and of the “holy kiss” (1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; Romans 16:16 ).

The holy kiss was widely practiced among the early Christians as a manner of greeting, a sign of acceptance, and an impartation of blessing. This custom could well have been used to express the unity of the Christian fellowship. The substitute kiss involved kissing the hand and waving it in the direction of the object to be kissed (Job 31:27 ). The kiss of betrayal from Judas does not belong to the category of the kiss of Joab to Amasa (2 Samuel 20:9 ), but was the sign of respect from pupil to master. Either the action of Judas did not accord with his inner feeling, or his action had other motivation than betrayal.

The kiss still survives in the Near Eastern culture as a sign of love, respect, and reverence.

G. Al Wright, Jr.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Kiss'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​k/kiss.html. 1991.
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