Monday, June 07, 2010

the Holy Kiss for today..on a bridge and in a bucket

"There is the kiss and the counterkiss, and if one wins, we both lose." -Walter Brueggemann -
We covered the biblical tradition of the "holy kiss" in our gathering last Sunday.
It was a lot of fun. We started with a game of Hangman;
We had "Holy _ _ _ _" on the whiteboard when folks came in!

They has to guess what four letter word filled in the blank to make this a phrase that appears in Scripture. When i said "yes" to the first guess of "S," you should have heard the comments!

That the Bible explicitly mentions this practice five times:

  • Romans 16.16a — "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
  • I Corinthians 16.20b — "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
  • II Corinthians 13.12a — "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν ἁγίῳ φιλήματι).
  • I Thessalonians 5.26 — "Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
  • I Peter 5.14a — "Greet one another with a kiss of love" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἀγάπης).
...makes it a classic case study in how to apply
any scriptures that we assume need a cultural equivalent to out taking them literally.
(Though some of our folks took the "holy kiss" literally, not on the lips....I wish I had video..someone post the stories!(:...)

On this issue of interpretation:

  • Brian Dodd's discussion of the "interpretive bridge" is helpful (p. 19 here)
as is
  • Ron Martoia's posts on the "two buckets" (see "The Two Bucket Theory Examined" here).

I really recommend you read both above links, then get back to us.
They helped us when we tackled women in leadership, and homosexuality.

We learned that, counterintuitively to our guesses from this end of the cultural bridge, it seems the early church's holy kissing was almost always... on the lips!
The reason is powerful: that form on kiss implied equality...a kiss on the cheeks implied one person was inferior. Nothing like a Kingdom Kiss as an acted parable and reminder that in Christ we are equal! Of course, today, when we look at cultural equivalents like the "holy hug", "holy handshake," we might not realize that that, too, began as a Kingdom equalizer:

In fact, handshaking, which can seem quite prosaic today, was popularised by Quakers as a sign of equality under God, rather than stratified system of etiquette of seventeenth century England
Ironically, the kiss of inclusion became a kiss of exclusion (from centered to bounded set):

Just as kissing had many different meanings in the wider ancient world, so too early Christians interpreted the kiss in various ways. Because ancient kissing was often seen as a familiar gesture, many early Christians kissed each other to help construct themselves as a new sort of family, a family of Christ. Similarly, in the Greco-Roman world, kissing often was seen as involving a transfer of spirit; when you kissed someone else you literally gave them part of your soul. The early church expanded on this and claimed that, when Christians kissed, they exchanged the Holy Spirit with one another. Christians also emphasized the kiss as an indication of mutual forgiveness (it’s from here that we get the term “kiss of peace”). These different meanings influenced and were influenced by the sorts of rituals kissing became associated with. For example, because the kiss helped exchange spirit, it made perfect sense for it to become part of baptism and ordination, rituals in which you wanted the Holy Spirit to descend and enter the initiate. The flip side of the coin is that before someone was baptized you wouldn’t want to kiss them. Early Christians often believed that previous to exorcism and baptism people were inevitably demon possessed. Given that they also thought that kissing resulted in spiritual exchange, it’s pretty clear why you wouldn’t want to kiss non-Christians. I sometimes think of this as an ancient form of “cooties.” It resulted in early Christian debates over whether one could kiss a pagan relative, if one should kiss a potential heretic, or if Jews even had a kiss.
-Penn, link

We incorporated insights from these and other articles linked below, and quoted the only book on the topic, "Kissing Christians" by Michael Penn. You'll note some of the articles below include interview with him. We particularly enjoyed some of the early fathers and teachers' comments and guidelines on the practice.

One early guideline, for real (wonder if this was in the weekly "bulletin"):

1)No French Kissing!
2)If you come back for seconds, because you liked the first kiss too much, you may be going to hell!!

Clement of Alexandra (c.150 - c. 215

"There are those who do nothing but make the church resound with the kiss."

Chrysostom (4th C):
“We are the temple of Christ, and when we kiss each other
we are kissing the porch and entrance of the temple.”

Augustine (4th C):
"when your lips draw close to the lips of your brother, let your heart not draw away."

One interview with Michael Penn:

Whoever said ''a kiss is just a kiss" didn't know their theological history. During Christianity's first five centuries, ritual kissing -- on the lips -- was a vital part of worship, says Michael P. Penn, who teaches religion at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley. In that context, kissing helped Christians define themselves as a family of faith, he writes in his new book, ''Kissing Christians: Ritual and Community in the Late Ancient Church" (University of Pennsylvania Press). Excerpts from a recent interview follow.
Q: Let me start with the basic question: Who kissed whom?
A: In the first two centuries [AD], men may kiss men, women women, but also you would have men and women kissing one another. In future centuries, there continued to be a debate over who should kiss whom. In later years, Christians will no longer have men and women kissing each other, but only men men, women women. [Christians had] debates on whether or not priests could kiss the laity, on whether you should kiss a non-Christian relative in the normal, everyday situation, even debates over whether Jews have a kiss or not.
Q: When in the service was the kiss performed?
A: Our earliest references would be a kiss that would follow a communal prayer. Later on, it gets increasingly associated with the Eucharist and also occurs in part of the rites of baptism and in ordination rites. You have Christians kissing each other as an everyday greeting or also martyrs, before they're killed, kissing one another.
Q: What was the theological significance?
A: In antiquity, a kiss on the lips was seen as transferring a little bit of one's spirit to the other person. You have a lot of early -- I kind of think of them almost as Greco-Roman Harlequin -- novels that speak of the kiss as this transfer of spirit. Christians modify it a bit, to suggest that when Christians kiss each other, they don't just exchange their own spirit, but also share a part of the Holy Spirit with one another. So the kiss is seen as a way to bind the community together.
There's another side, though. There was a concern that kissing an individual who has promised to join the Christian community but isn't yet baptized should be avoided, because the spirit that would be transferred wouldn't be a holy spirit but a demonic spirit. So you have the kiss working as this ritual of exclusion.
Q: Did Christian leaders worry about the erotic overtones?
A: We have only two explicit references to this concern. One says, essentially, to kiss with a closed and chaste mouth, which suggests that a few of these kisses may have been too erotic. The other one warns against those who kiss a second time because they liked the first one so much.
Judas kissing Jesus [to betray him] terrifies them a lot more than eroticism. There's this evil intention behind it. Early Christian writers use the kiss of Judas to warn that it's not just how you practice the kiss, but what you're thinking. If you kiss another Christian while keeping evil in your heart against them, you are repeating Judas' betrayal.
Q: When did kissing fall out of favor?
A: In the third century, men and women are no longer to kiss one another. Early Christians met in what we think of as a house church -- you meet in someone's living room, essentially. Starting in the third century, when Christians [worship] in a public forum, this familial kiss is less appropriate. It's also a time where Christianity becomes concerned with making sure women and men are categorically separated. In the fourth century, that clergy and laity become increasingly distant. You start having prohibitions against clergy and laity kissing one another.
The ritual kiss never entirely died out. We still have it as an exchange of peace [in Christian services]. We see it in the kissing of the pope's ring. In Catholicism, a priest may kiss a ritual object.
Q: What would Christianity have been without the kiss?
A: What I find exciting is to see how what we think of as trivial is so central to early Christian self-understanding. Our earliest Christian writing, Paul's letter to the First Thessalonians, talks about the ritual kiss, albeit briefly. We have hundreds of early Christian references to this ritual. For these authors, it was anything but trivial.

  • Wikipedia article on Holy Kiss

  • Kiss and Tell the Gospel

  • Michael Penn explains what the early church meant by the "holy kiss."

  • On Kissing: A Q&A with Michael Penn

  • -PUCKER UP by Martin Marty


  • The Holy Kiss of Love: Are We Keeping This Command?

  • I Corinthians 16-II Corinthians 1: Greet One Another with a Holy Kiss

  • RIP TNIV: Order "TNIV Books of the Bible" yesterday if not sooner

    Although I am not sure anyone is telling the whole story..

    (some of it is ugly and political...and don't get me started on James Dobson's role (see Bob Robinson's "This is why I no longer like Dobson, Bully"! You'd think he had been hanging with crabby Colson when he encouraged the eventually successful...sigh..ban)

    ...if you want some backstory,

    here is an archive of all articles in Christianity Today chronicling the debate and demise of one of the best translations we have ever had:

    the TNIV.

    Never heard of it?

    Of course not! Conspiracy!

    Heard of it, and heard it was heretical?


    Click here for the doomed translation's website.
    See who recommended it, and ask why you never heard about it!!
    You can also click the "TNIV" label at bottom to see my other posts on the topic of this translation, including Rob Bell's ringing endorsement (Ha, that may have been the death knell) on video.

    All that to say:
    Rest in peace, now that you have been banned.


    Order your "
    TNIV Books of the Bible" while you can (SpyScott bought our church a discounted case..thanks!) as it too will soon be out of print.
    (Though I am delighted it will continue to be printed next year, just with the new NIV translation..see the comment from the publisher at bottom of this same post on my...Dave's.. main blog.)
    There is currently one left on Amazon, and several here on the official website. Kudos to Biblica (formerly International Bible Society for this amazing project.

    What's so different/great about it? You can read all about it below. I recommend reading the preface here which explains the format. Suffice to say the book introductions themselves (Like Intro to Revelation) are way worth the price. I know no other Bible that does justice to structural issues: chiasm/inclusio, for one.

    Here you go:

    The Books of The Bible project encourages better Bible reading, particularly by emphasizing the reading of whole books. The result is an inviting and clean visual presentation of the Bible that can be understood and enjoyed more easily. The Books of The Bible differs from the format of most current Bibles in significant ways:
    • chapter and verse numbers are removed from the text (a chapter-and-verse range is at the bottom of each page)
    • individual books are presented with the literary divisions that their authors have indicated
    • footnotes, section headings and other supplementary materials have been removed from the text (translators’ notes are available at the back of each book)
    • the books of the Bible have been placed in an order that provides more help in understanding, based on literary genre, historical circumstance and theological tradition
    • single books that later translations or tradition divided
      into two or more books are made whole again
      (example: Luke-Acts)
    • single-column setting that clearly and naturally presents the
      literary forms of the Bible’s books


    “At last a publisher has brought us back to the reality of the first fifteen hundred years of the church: a Bible without numbers. Although the numbers are a great convenience for ‘finding things,’ they in fact get in the way of good Bible reading. So in the language Augustine heard many centuries ago, ‘Take up and read; take up and read!’ with heavy emphasis on the ‘read.’ ”
    —Gordon D. Fee, Author of How to Read the Bible Book by Book

    "International Bible Society has given Christianity many gifts over the years, but The Books of the Bible is most surely among the greatest of these. Sacred scripture, like any other form of often-read literature, can become so familiar to us as to be lost to our attention and—alas—to our energetic appreciation. By the simple, but daring, decision to remove the accustomed markers of chapters, verses, and volumes, The Books of the Bible interrupts our sense of business as usual and demands that we look with more attentive minds and hearts at what the words are and, more importantly, at what they actually say. And those words, rendered in Today's New International Version, are as fresh as the method of their presentation is bold and affective.
    Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly and author of Divine Hours

    “Wow. This looks so smart. This is the wisest ‘new idea’ I've seen in Bible publishing that I can remember. As an old English major, it makes so much sense. Just having the reflections on chapters and verses in the Preface is worthwhile! I've been a bit of a fanatic about being ‘versus verses’ for exactly the reasons you address. The perspective on book order and genre make sense. This is a truly significant undertaking.”
    —Brian McLaren, Pastor & Author

    “Finally, a Bible that allows you to hear the voices of the biblical authors without the background noise.”
    —Dr. James D. Cartin, Pastor, Western Avenue Baptist Church (SBC), Statesville, NC

    “First off, let me say that I love it. It has been so refreshing to read God’s Word in this new format. Just one paragraph into it, it was as if some part of my soul sighed in relief. This is good. This is the way it is to be read. I didn’t know how needed it was until I had it. Thank you for your work and vision and for thinking outside the box on this one.
    —Shannon Taylor, ServLife International

    “What an interesting idea—the simplicity of reading through the Bible without the distraction of numbers! Simple makes sense for this invitation into the life-changing reading of Scripture, especially for young people in our biblically-illiterate society unacquainted with biblical richness. I believe its impact can be huge.”
    —Luci Shaw, Poet & Author

    “Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. The Books of The Bible sweeps away many of the pious additions that can obscure the ancient text of Scripture, revealing connections that readers have all too often missed. I will be turning to this edition often to clear my mind and refocus my attention on the grand story that addresses us from the Bible's pages.”
    —Andy Crouch, Journalist & Author

    “This Bible is very much like the Bible of the pre-modern (ancient) world in that it is not broken down into chapters and verses. Like the ancient manuscripts, this Bible follows a natural narrative that reads like a story. Today, the postmodern world has rediscovered some of the values of the pre-modern world and one of these values is the story. By dropping the modern invention of compartmentalizing the Bible into chapters and verses, we now can recover the powerful, all-encompassing divine story of the world.”
    —The late Dr. Robert Webber

    “You are encouraging readers to devour the whole book at once. I like that! I especially appreciated seeing Luke and Acts placed together and the Pauline epistles in a more chronological order. Thanks for your work!”
    —Dean Deppe, Professor of New Testament, Calvin Theological Seminary

    “The Bible is meant to be read—both aloud and privately. There is no Bible more suited to reading the Bible—from the beginning of the book to the end—than The Books of The Bible. This ‘new’ approach is actually the original approach, and I love it.”
    —Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University

    - official website.

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