1 Thessalonians 5:26
Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) Greet all the brethren.—It is concluded from the manner in which some are told to greet all, instead of all being told to greet one another (as in the parallel passages), that the “brethren” to whom the letter was sent specially were the priesthood of Thessalonica (comp. the next verse). If so, the “holy kiss” had hardly become the fixed Church ceremony which it afterwards was, for the practice (according to the Apostolicqal Constitutions) was for the Church members to pass the kiss from one to another, men kissing men, and women kissing women, not for all the people to be kissed in turn by the priest. This kiss, however, is no doubt intended by St. Paul to be given at a solemn assembly of the Church, i.e., at the Holy Communion, which was the only fixed meeting of the Primitive Church. In the time of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, the kiss was given just before the Sursum Corda. It was not till the thirteenth century that the kissing of the Pax was substituted in the Western Church for the kissing of the brethren. This kiss was to differ from the ordinary Greek salutation, by being distinctly a holy kiss, i.e., a ceremonial, religious kiss.

5:23-28 The apostle prays that they might be sanctified more perfectly, for the best are sanctified but in part while in this world; therefore we should pray for, and press toward, complete holiness. And as we must fall, if God did not carry on his good work in the soul, we should pray to God to perfect his work, till we are presented faultless before the throne of his glory. We should pray for one another; and brethren should thus express brotherly love. This epistle was to be read to all the brethren. Not only are the common people allowed to read the Scriptures, but it is their duty, and what they should be persuaded to do. The word of God should not be kept in an unknown tongue, but transplanted, that as all men are concerned to know the Scriptures, so they all may be able to read them. The Scriptures should be read in all public congregations, for the benefit of the unlearned especially. We need no more to make us happy, than to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is an ever-flowing and an over-flowing fountain of grace to supply all our wants.Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss - see the notes on Romans 16:16. 26. Hence it appears this Epistle was first handed to the elders, who communicated it to "the brethren."

holy kiss—pure and chaste. "A kiss of charity" (1Pe 5:14). A token of Christian fellowship in those days (compare Lu 7:45; Ac 20:37), as it is a common mode of salutation in many countries. The custom hence arose in the early Church of passing the kiss through the congregation at the holy communion [Justin Martyr, Apology, 1.65; Apostolic Constitutions, 2.57], the men kissing the men, and the women the women, in the Lord. So in the Syrian Church each takes his neighbor's right hand and gives the salutation, "Peace."

The apostle concludes several of his Epistles with greeting, or salutations, as men usually do at this day; sometimes with salutations from himself alone, sometimes from others, either particular persons, or churches which he sometimes names, as Romans 16:6, &c.; 1 Corinthians 16:19; and sometimes commends to the saints their saluting one another, as Romans 16:16 1 Corinthians 16:20; so here in the text. The persons to be saluted are

all the brethren, that is, all believers incorporated into the gospel church, under one common Head and common Father; more particularly, those of this particular church. We call men brethren, sometimes upon a natural, sometimes a civil account; and why not much more upon a spiritual account? And as their love should reach to the brotherhood, 1 Peter 2:17, so their salutation should reach all the brethren, poor and rich, high and low, bond and free.

With an holy kiss; en filhmati agiw. The rite or ceremony of men kissing each other was much used among the Jews, and in the Eastern countries, in their salutations, Genesis 27:26 Proverbs 24:26 Luke 7:45; and thence it came to be practised in the churches of Christ as an outward symbol and token of love and friendship; which is not now practised with us amongst men, but is of the same signification with joining of hands; the uniting of lips or hands together denoting the inward conjunction of the heart. The word in the Greek signifies love or friendship, and is called a kiss of charity, 1 Peter 5:14. And though the ceremony is ceased, yet that which it signified is to be preserved in all churches, places, and ages. It was practised in the time of Justin Martyr, Just. Mar. Apolog. 2., and Tertullian, Tertul. de Oratione; and called oscutum pacis, a kiss of peace; and used especially at their meeting together at the Lord’s supper, their love feasts, and other solemn assemblies. It is called a holy kiss, to distinguish it from the treacherous kiss of Judas, or the lustful kiss of the harlot, Proverbs 7:13. And why it is not used among us now, we need say only, as concerning washing of feet also: We have no such custom, nor the churches of Christ; or, as the apostle speaks, Philippians 4:8: Whatsoever things are lovely, and whatsoever things are of good report, & c.

Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss. In opposition, to an unchaste and hypocritical one. His meaning is, that they would salute the members of the church in his name, and give his Christian love and affections to them. And his view is to recommend to them brotherly love to each other, and to stir them up to the mutual exercise of it more and more. Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Thessalonians 5:26. Ἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας] That here individuals[68] are exhorted to salute the other members of the church, whilst in the parallel passages, Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, it is ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους, is a proof that this Epistle was to be received by the rulers of the church. (So also Php 4:21.) By them it was to be read to the assembled church (1 Thessalonians 5:27). Erroneously, because in contradiction with the entire character of the Epistle, Schrader infers from τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας that “the writer of the Epistle wished to impart to it a general destination.”

ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ] with a holy kiss. Comp. 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; Romans 16:16; also 1 Peter 5:14 (φίλημα ἀγάπης); Constit. ap. ii. 57 (τὸ ἐν κυρίῳ φίλημα); Tertullian, de orat. 14 (osculum pacis). The brotherly kiss, the usual salutation of Christians, proceeded from the custom of antiquity, particularly in the East, to unite a salutation with a kiss. But Paul calls it ἅγιον, as a symbol of the holy Christian fellowship. In the Greek church it is still used at Easter.

[68] Contrary to the sense, Hofmann, whom Riggenbach follows, makes the whole church, the ἀδελφοὶ πάντες, be addressed in ἀσπάσασθε; thus the church is to salute itself.

1 Thessalonians 5:26. Neither here, nor above at 1 Thessalonians 5:14, is there any reason to suppose that Paul turns to address the leaders of the local church (so e.g., Bornemann, Ellicott, Alford, Askwith, Zimmer, Lightfoot, Weiss, Findlay) as though they were, in the name of the apostle(s), to convey the holy (i.e. not of convention or human passion) kiss, which betokened mutual affection (cf. Renan’s S. Paul, 262, DC[34]. i. 935, and E. Bi[35], 4254) in the early Christian worship. This greeting by proxy is not so natural as the ordinary sense of the words; the substitution of τ. . π. for the more common ἀλλήλους is intelligible in the light, e.g., cf. Php 4:21; and it would be harsh to postulate so sharp a transition from the general reference of 1 Thessalonians 5:25 and 1 Thessalonians 5:28. Even in 1 Thessalonians 5:27 it is not necessary to think of the local leaders. While the epistle would naturally be handed to some of them in the first instance, it was addressed to the church; the church owned it and was held responsible for its public reading at the weekly worship.—πᾶσιν, like the πάντας of 1 Thessalonians 5:26, simply shows Paul’s desire to prevent the church from becoming, on any pretext, a clique or coterie. But the remarkable emphasis of the injunction points to a period when such public reading of an apostolic epistle was not yet a recognised feature in the worship of the churches. Paul lays stress upon the proper use of his epistle, as being meant not for a special set, but for the entire brotherhood (i.e., at Thessalonica, not, as Flatt thinks, in Macedonia). See that every member gets a hearing of it at some meeting or other (ἀναγ., timeless aor.), and thus knows exactly what has been said. So Apoc. Bar. lxxxvi.: “when therefore ye receive this my epistle, read it in your congregations with care. And meditate thereon, above all on the days of your fasts.”

[34]CG Hastings’ Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels (1907–1908)

[35] Encyclopædia Biblica

26. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss] Better, Salute (R. V.). The kiss, as the common sign of affection amongst kindred and near friends in meeting or parting, was universal in the primitive Christian assemblies, and is still a usage of the Greek and Oriental Churches, especially at Holy Communion. In the West the ceremony gradually died out during the Middle Ages. It was unsuitable to the reserved manners of the Germanic races. The custom was naturally liable to abuse and suspicion, when the simplicity of primitive Christian feeling declined; and it became the subject of numerous regulations in early Councils. The Apostle desires “a holy kiss” to be exchanged by those who heard the Epistle read, as an expression through the Church of his love to each of its members. So in Romans 16:16, after bidding the Church “salute” by name a number of his personal acquaintances, he includes all present at the reading of the letter by saying, “Salute one another with a holy kiss.” The same thing is said in 1 Corinthians 16:20, followed by the words, “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus;” also in 2 Corinthians 13:12. In 1 Peter 5:14 the salutation is called “a kiss of love.”

Verse 26. - Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. That certain persons were enjoined to salute the other members of the Church is a proof that the Epistle was given into the hands of the presbyters. The reference is to the mode of salutation in the East. The kiss is called "holy" because it was the symbol of Christian affection. The same exhortation is made in other Epistles (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12). 1 Thessalonians 5:26Kiss

See on 2 Corinthians 13:12. Comp. Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 1 Peter 5:14.

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