Kisses in the Bible

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What role do kisses play in the Bible? Surprisingly, the word itself, or its singular, are found only twenty-two times in the KJV translation. In the Old Testament, the English word "kiss" comes from the Hebrew nashaq (Strong's Concordance #H5401). In the New Testament, it is usually derived from the Greek philema (Strong's #G5370).

The first reference to kisses in the Bible may have come when God gave consciousness to the first human being. When Adam was created it states, "Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life . . ." (Genesis 2:7, HBFV throughout).

´╗┐The first literal use of the word kisses is in Genesis 27:26. It occurred when Isaac requested that Esau, who was actually Jacob in disguise, give him one before he gave the birthright blessing.

Jewish tradition believes, based on Deuteronomy 34:5, that the death of Moses was accomplished through a kiss given by God. It also states that when a person died they were given last kisses before their eyes were closed and the body prepared for burial.

The religious tradition of the Jews additionally infers, based upon a unique rabbinical interpretation of Psalm 62:12, that there were 903 ways of dying. The best and gentlest of these, compared to drawing a hair out of milk, was called 'death by a kiss.'

Adam and Eve kissing
Adam and Eve kissing
William Blake, 1808

Other Old Testament kisses include Jacob often this symbol of affection to his future wife Rachel (Genesis 29:11). Despite earlier chicanery, Esau greeted his brother with this show of love (Genesis 33:4). Joseph welcomed his brothers, who had sold him as a slave because they envied him, with this sign of forgiveness (Genesis 45:14 - 15).

Israel kissed the sons of Joseph before placing the family name upon them (Genesis 48:8 - 10). This sign of affection was also given by Joseph to Jacob, just before he died, as a sign of his love (Genesis 49:33 - 50:1).

New Testament examples

The New Testament records that Christians gave each other kisses as a sign of greeting and affection (see Romans 16:16, 1Corinthians 16:20, 2Corinthians 13:12, 1Thessalonians 5:26, 1Peter 5:14). Although there has been much speculation over the meaning of this Biblical practice, it certainly was not sexual in nature.

The most famous of all Bible kisses, however, is the one Judas gave to Jesus. It was given in the Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus and the disciples went after they finished celebrating their last Passover together. God's word states, "Now the one who was betraying Him (Judas Iscariot) gave them a sign, saying, 'Whomever I shall kiss, He is the One. Arrest Him!'" (Matthew 26:48). This was the ultimate kiss of death!

Kisses of respect were not unusual during the time of Christ. In the first century, it was customary for a student to greet a teacher in such a manner. Ironically, Judas' feigned token of affection precipitated Jesus' last miracle before his death when he had to heal a servant's ear impulsively chopped off in an attempt to protect him (Luke 22:49 - 51).

Kisses in the Bible have the power to cheer, the power to hurt, and the power to strengthen or to murder. They can sometimes signify death or symbolize life. The best one, however, is the one that says, "Thank you," or "You are special," or "I love you."

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Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions
Holy Bible, a Faithful Version
Strong's Concordance
Thayer's Greek Definitions