A kiss on the lips. Between men. Back then.

Just now, a good friend posted an image on, where else?, Facebook with an elderly couple kissing over the text of Pro 24.26: “He who gives an honest answer gives a kiss on the lips.” (Not sure which version was used, but was close to this one, HCSB.)

The practice of that time, apparently, was for men to kiss men on the lips in greetings (as is practiced still in some cultures today), so that the kiss on the lips was a sign of true friendship.

So CEV is good here: “Giving an honest answer is a sign of true friendship.” NLT keeps the imagery with a tweak of taking the kiss off the lips: “An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.” (NEB rendered it as “kiss of friendship” years earlier.)

A check of the KJV (a rare practice around here these days) was fairly revealing for the original cultural context, “Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.”

Perhaps my friend’s image meant to take any hint of sexuality out of the verse by using the elderly male-female couple, which is a good thing, because there is no hint of it in the verse.

But because of cultural differences, a literal rendering of the verse can be misleading. So translations like those made by CEV and NLT are preferable here.

The point of the verse: you can’t beat honesty and sincerity between friends. That is the ultimate expression of love.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

2 thoughts on “A kiss on the lips. Between men. Back then.

  1. Always good to remember the difference between cultural customs and Biblical commands and examples. Some European Christians still practice the holy kiss between each other regardless of gender. The kiss is on the cheek and usually is three kisses, or if really exceptionally close acquaintances four.

    1. That’s the practice here in Brazil as well, kissing the cheek, or actually the air, except not between men generally, just between men and women and among women. You still see it in families, fathers and sons, and sometimes, rarely, among men. Once a family we were very close to was leaving and the husband gave me the cheek/air kiss, then realized what he’d done. The brothers in his family all do it, and he had done it out of custom, felt like we were family, I guess. Embarrassed him though.

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