1 Thessalonians 5:26
Greet all the brothers with an holy kiss.
This exhortation in various forms is frequent (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14); and it must be borne in mind was addressed to men with respect to men, and to women with respect to women only. At this time worship would be conducted in accordance with the strict customs of the East, the men being separated from the women. It is still altogether contrary to "chastity" or "good fame" for a man and woman to greet one another in public, even though members of the same family. Hence the embarrassment of the disciples (John 4:27). Had anything been intended so monstrous to the notions of the Greeks as the fact of all men indiscriminately kissing all women it must have been distinctly stated, and that with restrictions to guard against its abuse. Moreover, had such indiscriminate salutation been allowed it would have formed a damaging charge, sure to have been brought by Pagan and Jewish objectors; but no such charge is discovered in the writings of the early centuries. The custom was practised for a long time. It was called "the kiss of greeting," "the kiss of peace," sometimes only "the peace." One special time when it was employed was during Divine service just before Communion. In the Apostolic Constitutions, a work of the third century, the author says, "On the other side let the men sit with all silence and good order; and the women, let them also sit separately, keeping silence Then let the men salute one another, and the women one another with the kiss in the Lord." There are two distinct kinds of kissing — one is that of dependants or suppliant's kissing a supreme hand, feet, hem of garment, or dust on which he has trodden. The other is that which takes place between equals. When these are relatives or dear friends each in turn places his head face downwards upon the other's left shoulder, and afterwards salutes the right cheek, and then reverses the action (Genesis 33:4; Genesis 45:14, 15! Acts 20:37). Between the first and last mentions of this custom stretches a period of more than eighteen hundred years! What wonder, then, that after the lapse of another eighteen hundred years, we find it still the same in the changeless life of Bible Lands! When a kindly, but somewhat more formal and respectful, salutation passes between those of the same rank, they will take hold of each other's beards and kiss them, and it is a great insult to take hold of a man's beard for any other purpose (2 Samuel 20:9, 10). There is, however, another common occasion of kissing, viz., between a host and his guests, when one places the right hand upon the other's left shoulder and kisses the right cheek, and then the left hand on the right shoulder, kissing the left cheek (2 Samuel 15:5). For the neglect of this Simon the Pharisee was rebuked (Luke 7:45), by our Lord, committing, as he did, a gross breach of the laws of hospitality. Another formal mode of salutation between equals is to join the right hands; then each kisses his own hand and puts it to his lips and forehead or over his heart. Most probably it was by laying the hand on the shoulder and kissing the cheek that the early Christians saluted one another. It was intended to teach believers of their common brotherhood in Christ, without distinction of caste or rank. It answers exactly to our hearty shaking of the hands.
(J. Neil, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.