What Did Paul Say About the Holy Kiss

Since early this year I have been working on a new book project–the Story of Paul. Like my book, The Story of Jesus, this book will begin with a study of Paul’s life as revealed in the Book of Acts and his Epistles. The second part of the book will focus on Paul’s teachings about a variety of subjects. Today I finished the second section of the book. With our COVID 19 virus concerns for social distancing, I thought it would be interesting to discover what Paul said about the holy kiss.

 The Apostle Paul repeatedly instructed believers to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26). What kind of greeting did Paul have in mind?

Greeting people with a kiss was an ancient custom in the Middle East and is still practiced in many places today. The kiss is usually delivered to the cheek, but in some cultures it lands on the lips! This kind of greeting would make many contemporary believers uncomfortable, especially in our post-COVID 19 culture. This Christian greeting is designated as “holy,” setting it apart from romantic or intimate kissing. The holy kiss is like the kiss I give my mother, my sister and my daughters. It is a kiss on the cheek that communicates my love more personally than a verbal greeting or a handshake.

While greeting one another with a holy kiss is a biblical imperative, there is a danger involved. Clement of Alexandria, a 2nd century theologian who taught in Alexandria, Egypt, offered this warning: And if we are called to the kingdom of God, let us walk worthy of the kingdom, loving God and our neighbor. But love is not proved by a kiss, but by kindly feeling. But there are those that do nothing but make the churches resound with a kiss, not having love itself within. For this very thing, the shameless use of a kiss, which ought to be mystic, occasions foul suspicions and evil reports. The apostle calls the kiss holy. When the kingdom is worthily tested, we dispense the affection of the soul by a chaste and closed mouth, by which chiefly gentle manners are expressed (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II, Chapter 12, p. 291).

How should 21st century followers of Jesus respond to this biblical command? For the most part, Christians in the West simply ignore it, relegating this instruction to the culture of the Ancient Near East. Others have modified it into a “holy handshake.” But how is the common hand shake “holy?” How can a hand shake become a distinctively Christian greeting? Perhaps with the accompanying words, “He is risen!” Maybe a “holy hug” gets closer to Paul’s intended meaning for this personal and intimate greeting.

With care and caution, I have on occasion used the “holy kiss” as a Christian greeting. After speaking on this in my class lectures, I offer my surprised students a “holy kiss.” After watching their reaction I then produced a sack of Hershey candy kisses to share with the students. I recall giving a genuine kiss to a dear professor and mentor when he retired from Western Seminary. I planned to kiss him on the cheek, but he suddenly turned and the kiss landed on his lips! Neither he nor I was embarrassed by this expression of agape love. Years later I shared this story at his memorial service, adding that he was the only man I ever kissed on the lips! Whether you attempt to greet other believers with a holy kiss, or relegate it to a different time and culture, greetings between brothers and sisters in Christ should be distinctively Christian.

The Story of Jesus: Past, Present and Future

Most books on the life of Jesus begin with His birth. This book begins with a flash back to the past to see what Jesus was doing before He was born in Bethlehem. After looking at ten key Old Testament texts, we turn to the Gospels to tell the story of Jesus life on earth. This is followed by an encouraging study of what Jesus is doing now for us in heaven. The forth section of the book presents what Jesus will do in the future according to biblical prophecy.

Presenting my new book, “The Story of Jesus.”

The book is available on Amazon for $9.95 in paperback or $4.95 as a Kindle edition. And if you purchase the paperback, you can have the Kindle edition for just 99 cents.

Bible Study Methods

I was privileged to speak at a Bible study conference this past fall on “How to get the most out of Bible Study. Click on the picture below to watch my presentation on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THOIUaIw6KU&feature=youtu.be

How to Get the Most From Your Bible Study
How to Get the Most From Your Bible Study

And don’t forget about my other recent publication, “The Story of Israel: A short history of the land and its people.” Dr. Todd Miles, my friend an colleague at Western Seminary wrote, “Students of long-time Western Seminary biblical studies professor Carl Laney will recognize the love for the Bible and the love for the setting of (most of) the Bible that permeates every page of Laney’s latest book. The Story of Israel summarizes Carl’s teachings on the plotline of the Bible as well as providing helpful historical and cultural insights that bring clarification to the proper interpretation of the biblical text. Laney takes you from Genesis 1 through first and second Temple Judaism into the modern era. Those interested in studying the Bible will find this a very helpful resource for understanding the big picture and many of its details.” Thanks, Todd, for these kind words!

The Story of Israel is available on Amazon.com for $8.95. The book is also available in Kindle edition for $4.95. If you purchase the paperback book, you can buy the Kindle edition for just $.99. Click on the link below to find my book on Amazon.


Marion Falls, Jefferson Wilderness Area

More pictures of Oregon’s scenic beauty can be found on my YouTube video, Oregon Outdoors