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1. Nāshaq (verb) “kiss,” “touch” (Assyrian n a š â k u; the Syriac word for “kiss” perhaps meant “smell” originally; but the Arab. equivalent means “fasten together,” “arrange in order”). Ezekiel used nāshaq fig. to describe the wings of cherubim “gently touching,” “kissing” each other (3:13; cf. Ps 85:10). This Heb. verb occurs (with prob. two shades of meaning, viz., osculari and se amare) thirty-seven times in the OT.

2. Neshîâh (fem. noun) “kiss”; only twice in the OT (Prov 27:6; Song of Solomon) and both are in the pl. construct state.

3. Kataphiléō (verb) “to kiss”; “kiss much”; “kiss again and again”; “kiss tenderly.” This word appears in Plutarch and Josephus; twenty times in the LXX and six times in the NT. The inspired writers employ it to describe (1) the sinful woman kissing the feet of Jesus (Luke 7:38; cf. Isa 49:23); (2) the grateful father kissing his prodigal son (Luke 15:20); and (3) Judas kissing Christ (Matt 26:49; Mark 14:45; cf. 2 Sam 20:9).

4. Philéō (verb) “love,” “have affection for,” “like”; or “kiss” as a special indication of love. (LXX for three Heb. words.) This verb occurs in Homer, Aeschylus, Herodotus, Xenophon, Pindar, Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Josephus, and Oracula Sibyllina; it appears thirty times in the LXX and twenty-five times in the NT.

5. Phílēma (neuter noun) “a kiss.” This word has been used since Aeschylus. It occurs in Philo and Josephus; twice in the LXX (Prov 27:6; Song of Solomon 1:2) and seven times in the NT.

There was also the ceremonial kiss, e.g., Samuel kissed Saul as he anointed him (1 Sam 10:1). Kissing was used to show respect for idols (1 Kings 19:18; Job 31:26, 27; Hosea 13:2); and even the ground was kissed to indicate total submission to the king (1 Sam 24:8).

One dare not assume amorous overtones in the accounts of David kissing Jonathan (1 Sam 20:41) or Barzillai (2 Sam 19:39). Absalom kissed people hypocritically (15:5; cf. Prov 27:6); Joab kissed Amasa treacherously (2 Sam 20:9); but Naomi kissed Orphah and Ruth sincerely (Ruth 1:9). One poetic thought surviving from the rabbinic period is that Moses died with the kiss of God upon his lips (Midrash Deut. rabbah, 11).

Raguel wept as he kissed Tobit (Tobit 7:7); later he and his wife both kissed their daughter farewell (10:12). In Ecclesiasticus 29:5, kissing the hand might be a beggar’s gesture of cowering submission.

Early Christians adopted the holy kiss (or kiss of love) as a friendly salutation (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Pet 5:14; cf. Luke 7:45). It was a sacred bond which united the body of Christ and was undoubtedly exchanged by members of both the same (cf. Apostolic Constitutions ii. 57.12) and opposite sex (vide St. Ambrose, Hexaem VI, ix, 68; Tertullian, Ad Uxor ii, 4).

It is difficult to establish the link between the (1) kiss of love, and the liturgical (2) kiss of peace. The latter had an established place in public worship after the middle of the 2nd cent. (1) Neophytes were kissed after baptism; (2) penitents, when they were reconciled (cf. Luke 15:20); (3) candidates for ordination; and even (4) the deceased. It was practiced most widely during the celebration of the Eucharist. Kissing the dead was prohibited by the Council of Auxerre (a.d. 578) perhaps on account of the prevalent abuse of either placing the Host in the mouth of the corpse, or burying it with him.

The kiss of peace was observed in the W until the end of the Middle Ages. Apparently it was discontinued earlier in the E. In both E and W this custom was replaced by kissing the altar, etc. The practice of kissing relics in the W dates from perhaps the time of Bishop Walter of York (a.d. 1250).


B. B. Warfield, “The Terminology of Love in the NT,” XVI, PTR (1918), 1ff.; 153ff.; W. Shakespeare, Henry The Fifth (1942), V. ii. 270-306; J. Smith and R. Lee, Handfuls On Purpose, XII (1947), 242; J. Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, III (1949), 241; W. G. Scroggie, The Psalms, IV (1951), 198; F. H. Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands (c. 1953), 74; M. Luther, Selected Psalms I, Vol. XII in Works (c. 1955), 83, 89.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The kiss is common in eastern lands in salutation, etc., on the cheek, the forehead, the beard, the hands, the feet, but not (in Pal) the lips (Cheyne, E B, under the word "Salutations"). In the Bible there is no sure instance of the kiss in ordinary salutation. We have in the Old Testament naschaq, "to kiss," used

(2) Of friendship and affection; compare 1Sa 20:41 (David and Jonathan); 2Sa 15:5 (Absalom and those who came to him); 19:39 (David and Barzillai--a farewell); 20:9 (Joab and Amasa); Pr 27:6 ("the kisses (neshiqah) of an enemy"); 1 Esdras 4:47 ("the king stood up, and kissed him").

(3) Of love; compare So 1:2, "Let him kiss me with the kisses (neshiqah) of his mouth"; Pr 7:13 (of the feigned love of "the strange woman").

(4) Of homage, perhaps; compare 1Sa 10:1 (Samuel after anointing David king); Ge 41:40, "Unto thy word shall all my people be ruled," the Revised Version margin "order themselves," or "do homage," the King James Version margin "Hebrew be armed or kiss" (nashaq); Ps 2:12, "Kiss the son" (American Standard Revised Version), the English Revised Version margin "Some versions render, `Lay hold of (or receive) instruction’; others, `Worship in purity’ "; some ancient versions give `Kiss (or, do homage) purely.’(5) Of idolatrous practices; compare 1Ki 19:18; Ho 13:2 (compare 8:5,6; 10:5); Job 31:27, probably, "kissing the hand to the sun or moon" (compare 31:26,27). See Adoration.

(6) A figurative use may be seen in Ps 85:10; Pr 24:26; Eze 3:13, where "touched" is nashaq (see the King James Version margin).

(7) In Additions to Esther 13:13 we have "I could have been content .... to kiss the soles of his feet," and in Ecclesiasticus 29:5, "Till he hath received, he will kiss a man’s hands"--marks of self-humiliation or abasement.