Early Christians described and performed the ritual
kiss in ways that helped them create a cohesive, family-like
community. The kiss could include certain people in
the church, exclude others, and help distinguish Christian
behavior. An investigation of the ritual kiss presents
an opportunity to illustrate how performance theory's
emphasis on embodied action can help us better appreciate
how practice, as well as rhetoric, affected early
Among scholars of
early Christianity, interest in the Greco-Roman family
has reached an unprecedented level. Recent studies
from classics have enhanced our understanding of the
Greco-Roman family and its use as a metaphor in the
politics of empire. 1 At the same time, crossdisciplinary
[End Page 151] research in early Christian studies
has inherited from anthropology a focus on the family
as a primary social and cultural unit. 2 The result
is an impressive list of scholarly monographs, articles,
and anthologies analyzing the family's place in New
Testament and Patristic literature. 3
These works have come
to a consensus, of sorts, that early Christian writers
used familial rhetoric and fictive kinship terms (e.g.,
"brothers and sisters in Christ") to strengthen
the cohesion of early Christian groups. 4 Several
studies have suggested that the Greco-Roman family,
especially the figure of the paterfamilias, also provided
early Christian writers with a useful metaphor of
hierarchy. 5 Although these investigations have yielded
important insights regarding the ways Christian writers
used models of family, because they center on the
question of how early Christians wrote or spoke of
their communities, these scholars have limited themselves
to [End Page 152] exploring only the verbal and written
rhetoric of kinship. Building on this scholarship,
I want to examine a slightly different dynamic—how
early Christians used a specific ritual, that of ritual
kissing, to help perform family.
in ritual studies, performance studies, and queer
theory has emphasized performance as a key factor
in identity formation. 6 What links such diverse fields
is the belief that a focus on the performative and
the language of performativity offers a perspective
otherwise lacking in our analysis. Performance theory
is partly a reaction against the expansion of the
term text to include just about any human activity.
7 Performance theorists often suggest that "texts
may obscure what performance tends to reveal,"
and they try to reclaim the physical and emphasize
the kinesthetic. 8 As a metaphor, the very term performance
changes our vocabulary and shifts our analytic attention.
Audience, script, participation, framing—all become
central concerns. Performance also stresses dynamism
instead of simple expression. Cultural performances
do not just reflect an abstract hidden cultural system
(they are not simply texts that describe), they also
create, reproduce, or challenge that system. 9 [End
My own work employs
insights from these fields to investigate how early
Christians constructed the ritual kiss not only as
a means to talk about being a family but also as a
way to act it out. I suggest that the adoption and
modification of a typical familial gesture into a
decidedly Christian ritual helped early Christians
redefine the concept of family. This concentration
on the kiss as ritual performance challenges scholars
to view early Christian discourse as denser and richer
than if we limit ourselves to models that focus solely
on the verbal or the written. It looks at action as
well as rhetoric, emphasizes the power of participation,
raises questions of intended audience, examines the
importance of self-representation, and presents rituals
as constitutive as well as expressive.
There remains, however,
an important distinction between most work in performance
studies and my exploration of early Christianity.
Scholarship of performance usually focuses on modern
rituals where the author witnesses the performance
itself. In historical studies, however, we rarely
have so thick a description as direct observation.
Instead, we are limited to what extant writing and
iconography tell us about ancient rituals. Unlike
other investigations of the performative, scholarship
of early Christianity does not have the luxury to
move quite so far away from the text.
In his work on performance
and memory, Joseph Roach makes a similar point when
he states: "The pursuit of performance does not
require historians to abandon the archive, but it
does encourage them to spend more time in the streets."
10 The difference, of course, is that the streets
I walk down are not those of present-day New Orleans
but a reconstruction of ancient Rome. As a result,
my own work does not discard texts as much as it moves
in and out of them. I analyze texts to approximate
Christian and non-Christian kissing practices; I examine
how Christians modified these practices in their construction
of the Christian ritual kiss; and I explore how Christian
kissing praxis (both the kiss's performance and its
rhetorical framing—its staging and its scripting)
may have affected early Christian communities.
My investigation begins
with a short chronological overview of ritual kissing
in early Christianity. Next, I briefly examine the
kiss's use as a familial gesture among non-Christians.
I then explore three ways early Christian leaders
combined the widespread familial connotations of kissing
with the specifics of Christian ritual performance
to influence emerging Christian communities. I focus
on: (1) how the act of exchanging a kiss helped early
Christians characterize their community as a family;
(2) [End Page 154] how the exaltation of individuals
who refused to kiss non-Christian relatives modeled
the use of religious affiliation instead of biological
filiation as the primary kinship marker; and (3) how
the restraint shown in the ways Christians kissed
reinforced early Christian claims to moral superiority.
In each of these cases, the kiss functioned as a performance
both of inclusivity and exclusivity; it helped define
who was part of a new, familial community and it differentiated
these family members from everyone else.
Kissing and Early Christianity
As attested by the oldest known Christian writings,
kissing was one of the most ubiquitous features of
early Christianity. It was practiced throughout the
ancient world by both so-called orthodox and heretical
Christians and became a part of almost every major
Christian ritual. In the first five centuries of the
common era, Christians kissed each other as part of
prayer, Eucharist, baptism, and ordination and in
connection with funerals, monastic vows, martyrdom,
and penitential practices. Yet despite the hundreds
of ancient references to the Christian kiss, most
modern scholarship has ignored this important component
of early Christian worship. 11
In the New Testament,
commandments for Christians to exchange a [End Page
155] kiss appear at the end of 1 Thessalonians, 1
and 2 Corinthians, Romans, and 1 Peter. All occur
at the close of an epistle and are virtually identical
in their wording: "Greet one another" (or
1 Thessalonians, "Greet all the brethren")
"with a holy kiss" (or 1 Peter, "with
a kiss of love"). 12 The brevity of these references
and their lack of specific details suggest that Paul
and the author of 1 Peter assumed that their audiences
were already familiar with the kiss.
By the end of the
second century, surviving sources witness early Christians
ritually kissing each other in Asia Minor, Rome, Athens,
and Alexandria. 13 Justin presents the only specific
example of the kiss's place in the service order,
and he puts the ritual kiss at the end of the common
prayer and before the Eucharist. First- and second-century
sources do not limit the exchange of the kiss to same-sex
participants, and late-second-century works indicate
that men and women kissed each other. 14 These works
also show that, like most examples of Greco-Roman
kissing, 15 the Christian ritual kiss was a kiss on
further document the ritual kiss's ubiquity and present
several important developments in its practice. By
C.E. 300, writings from Rome, Athens, Alexandria,
Carthage, North Africa, Asia Minor, [End Page 156]
and Syria all speak of ritual kissing between Christians.
16 These writings link the kiss with prayer, Eucharist,
baptism, ordination, martyrdom, domestic devotions,
greeting, and reconciliation. The works also show
important variations in how community members exchange
the kiss, and show emerging ecclesiastical hierarchy's
attempts to regulate ritual kissing. Tertullian and
The Apostolic Tradition limit the kiss to baptized
Christians; Tertullian states that some heretical
Christians do not follow this distinction. 17 Although
most early Christian sources indicate that the kiss
is on the lips, the Acts of Andrew and the Acts of
John modify it to be a kiss of the feet or hands.
18 In contrast to previous texts that allowed women
and men to exchange the kiss with each other, The
Apostolic Tradition is the first source specifically
to prohibit this practice. 19
speak of the ritual kiss as part of prayer, Eucharist,
baptism, ordination, penitence, martyrdom, and epistolary
salutations. 20 These sources also hint at geographic
variations in the kiss's position in the Eucharist
liturgy and whether the bishop kisses the initiate
[End Page 157] immediately after baptism. Similar
to The Apostolic Tradition, The Apostolic Constitutions
limits the kiss to those of the same gender. 21 Like
the Apocryphal Acts, the pseudo-Clementine Second
Letter on Virginity no longer has opposite-sexed Christians
exchange a labial kiss. 22 The Apostolic Constitutions
specifies that clergy only kiss other clergy and laity
other laity. 23 The Testament of Our Lord also supports
this division. 24
continue to display an increased diversity in early
Christian kissing practices. They indicate shifts
in the kiss's position within the Eucharist service,
differences between Eastern and Western liturgical
practices, and a proliferation of the kiss's connection
to other rituals. By the century's end, the kiss appears
as a part of the closing of prayers, the Eucharist,
baptism, ordination, martyrdom, the cult of martyrs,
greetings, monastic vows, home devotions, saluting
the altar, epistolary conventions, and death rituals.
Although even a brief
overview of the ritual kiss raises numerous questions
regarding its practice and connections with community
identity and social boundaries, this article focuses
on only one aspect of these relationships—the kiss's
performance as a way to define Christianity as family.
Before further exploring the Christian ritual kiss,
however, it first is necessary to examine non-Christian
use of the kiss as a familial gesture. The adoption
and modification of these contemporary kissing customs
became a central concern for early Christian leaders.
[End Page 158]
and the Greco-Roman Family
The Greco-Roman world often associated kissing with
familial relations. In a survey of almost nine hundred
non-Christian Greek and Latin references to kissing,
familial kisses constituted the second largest category,
surpassed only by kisses between unmarried lovers.
26 These familial kisses included those between parents
and children (60 percent), spouses (26 percent), siblings
(9 percent), and more extended family (5 percent).
Although the surviving sources rarely speak of what
body part was kissed, those that do suggest that the
familial kiss most often was a kiss on the lips. 27
According to classical
literature, relatives not only were allowed to kiss
each other, they were expected to do so. Latin writers
often refer to this as the ius osculi. In his elegies,
Propertius lists the various people who have the right
to kiss his lover, including male and female relatives.
28 The narrator of Ovid's Amores complains that he
has to kiss his lover secretly, but her husband can
demand these kisses as his right. 29 Ovid later shows
this from the opposite perspective, a husband proclaiming
that his rights have been infringed when his wife
kissed another man. 30 Ovid's Metamorphoses notes
that siblings often kiss in public, a custom Byblis
uses to conceal an incestuous relationship with her
brother. 31 Suetonius states that Agrippina seduced
her uncle, "aided by the ius osculi." 32
[End Page 159]
Several writers justify
a man's traditional right publicly to kiss female
relatives as a "spot breath check": it ensures
that women are not stealing the family wine. 33 For
example, Athenaeus states:
It is impossible for
a women to drink wine unnoticed. For, first, a woman
does not have control of [the store] of wine. Next,
she must kiss her and her husband's relatives down
to the children of second cousins, and do this every
day whenever she first sees them. Finally, because
it is unclear whom she will meet, she is on her guard
for if she only tastes [of the wine] there is no need
of further accusation. 34
Gellius and Pliny present similar descriptions of
this custom. 35 Tertullian also cites this tradition
and laments that in contrast to ancient Rome, in his
day "on account of wine, there is no free kiss."
36 Of course it seems unlikely that any of these authors
knew the origins of the publicly exchanged familial
kiss. Instead, they shape their explanations of a
contemporary practice to help forward their own narrative
project, whether that project be Athenaeus' discussion
of the evils of excessive drink or Tertullian's depiction
of declining Roman morals.
occasionally use the familial kiss to describe nonfamilial
relationships. In Apuleius' The Golden Ass, the narrator
"embraced Mithras, the priest and now my father,
clinging to his neck and kissing him many times."
37 Unfortunately, the kiss's role in this text is
far from clear. Although presented in Apuleius' discussion
of the Isis rites, the kiss does not occur during
the initiation ritual itself but several days later
and in the context of expressing gratitude; most likely
it is a kiss of thanksgiving, a well-attested Greco-Roman
gesture. 38 The phrase "the priest and now my
father" is also vague: Does the narrator interpret
his kiss primarily as a familial kiss (Mithras is
now his father), a religious kiss [End Page 160] (Mithras
is a priest), or as a combination of these? Of course,
there also remains the often raised question of how
closely Apuleius' descriptions represent actual practices.
Nevertheless, Apuleius' narrative implies a connection
between kissing and a religious group's use of familial
imagery. A less ambiguous example of the kiss's use
in discussions of fictive kinship occurs in the Satyricon
when Circe calls Encolpius' lover his "brother"
and offers herself as his new "sister" (that
is, sexual partner). Encolpius must only kiss her
to recognize this new relationship, which comes with
the same sort of sexual benefits his "brother"
currently provides. 39
Kissing in late antiquity
was associated with many different circumstances and
with many different relationships. This larger cultural
context becomes essential for understanding the ritual
kiss's various roles in early Christian communities.
Because one of its most prominent meanings was a link
with kinship (whether biological or fictive), it is
not surprising that the ritualized exchange of kisses
between group members appeared in a community, like
early Christianity, that tried to emphasize a familial
a Christian Family
Although previous scholars have not explored Christianity's
employment of familial gestures, many have analyzed
early Christians' use of familial nomenclature. Applying
kinship terms not to biological relations but to those
connected by faith, early Christians tried to redefine
family. As exemplified by Matthew 12.46-50, the family
of Christian fellowship superseded even biological
ties. 40 For the ancient church, such analogies not
only described but also prescribed. Comparing the
ancient Christian community to the family emphasized
the group's strength and unity; such a label could
Early Christian descriptions
of the ritual kiss became part of this larger project
of constructing early Christians as kin. Many Christian
authors explicitly state that the Christian ritual
kiss is like a kiss between relatives. Writing in
the second century, Athenagoras warns that, when kissing,
"it [End Page 161] is of great importance to
us that the bodies of our brothers and sisters and
the others called the names of relatives, remain not
insulted and undefiled." 41 In the early third
century, Tertullian suggests that, unlike the Christian
husband who recognizes that kissing fellow Christians
is analogous to kissing blood relatives, a pagan husband
would misinterpret his wife's attempts "to crawl
into prison to kiss the martyr's bonds" or "to
meet any of the brethren to [give] the kiss."
42 In the early fifth century, Augustine employs the
language of kinship to proclaim, "your lips draw
near the lips of your brother in the same way that
your heart does not withdraw from his heart."
In their alignment
of the familial and the ritual kiss, these sources
allude to many different types of relationships. Nevertheless,
there remains an intriguing silence when they do not
mention an integral member of many ancient households—the
slave. Among non-Christian sources, there are many
allusions to kissing slaves for sexual pleasure, 44
yet a free person and slave kissing for nonsexual
reasons was seen as extremely unusual. For example,
in the Satyricon, Encolpius is surprised when a slave
he helped runs up to kiss him, 45 and in his Epistles,
Seneca notes that he purposefully flouts social expectations
when he greets other people's slaves with a kiss on
the hands. 46 In contrast, Christian sources never
place any restriction on exchanging the ritual kiss
with a Christian slave, 47 and the Martyrdom of Perpetua
claims that, previous to their execution, the martyrs
of Carthage kissed each other, an exchange that would
have included the slave Felicitas. 48 In other words,
both in its performance and its description, the ritual
kiss temporarily erased status distinctions that [End
Page 162] Christians otherwise maintained in their
household arrangements; at least when they exchanged
the ritual kiss, slaves, too, became full members
of the Christian family.
This difference between
everyday kissing practice (free and slaves generally
not kissing each other) and Christian ritual practice
(Christian slaves being kissable) illustrates a larger
tension underlying the ritual kiss. At the same time
that Christians drew on cultural analogies to make
the kiss an intelligible practice, they also had to
distinguish the ritual kiss from its cultural analogs
to make it a uniquely Christian ritual. This strain
between appropriation and differentiation becomes
particularly apparent in the writings of John Chrysostom:
The kiss is given
so that it may be the fuel of love, so that we may
kindle the disposition, so that we may love each other
as brothers [love] brothers, as children [love] parents,
as parents [love] children. But also far greater,
because those [are] by nature, these by grace. Thus
our souls are bound to each other. 49
Chrysostom's choice of analogies is not accidental.
Because of the kiss's cultural connection with family
relations, Chrysostom's audience would not be surprised
by the kinship terms to describe the kiss. Linking
the ritual kiss to the familial kiss, Chrysostom also
connects the magnitude of its result; the Christian
kiss creates a bond as strong as that between the
closest family members. His presentation of this analogy
also imposes certain parameters on the love. By not
comparing the ritual kiss to a kiss between spouses
or between sisters and brothers, Chrysostom's statement
avoids possible erotic connotations. 50
Although linking the
Christian ritual kiss to a common familial gesture
is a highly effective rhetorical move, it is also
potentially problematic. By relating the Christian
ritual kiss to everyday kissing practices, Chrysostom
threatens to make the kiss available outside the group's
boundaries. If, as his analogy may suggest, the Christian
kiss is so similar to a kiss between family members,
why would one have to join the Christian community
to experience it? To avoid this problem, Chrysostom
differentiates the Christian kiss from the same familial
kiss with which he earlier identified it. Chrysostom
first modifies his statement that the ritual kiss
produces a love as strong as that between family members—indeed,
it creates a love even stronger than that experienced
in a biological family. He then notes [End Page 163]
that the disposition created by the familial kiss
is expected; nature implants love between relatives,
so the emotion is not extraordinary. Grace implants
love between nonbiologically related Christians, which
signifies the much more remarkable quality of Christian
love—it results in a bonding of souls.
According to Catherine
Bell, such a discursive strategy becomes key to any
ritual action. What defines ritualization is its insistence
on distinguishing its actions from that of nonritual
activities. 51 In Bell's words, "Ritualization
is a way of acting that is designed and orchestrated
to distinguish and privilege what is being done in
comparison to other [activities] . . . ritualization
is a way of acting that specifically establishes a
privileged contrast, differentiating itself as more
important or powerful." 52 From this perspective,
as the analogy breaks down—the ritual kiss no longer
seems quite as similar to the familial kiss as initially
supposed—Chrysostom no longer simply appropriates
a gesture, instead he creates a ritual.
At first glance, it
may seem surprising that, while critiquing previous
scholars' logocentrism, I, too, focus on the rhetoric
of ancient Christian writings to distinguish ritual
from gesture. An obvious reason for this analytic
strategy is that an investigation of the early Christian
kiss, like the investigation of any premodern ritual,
does not have access to the ritual itself, only to
texts that describe the ritual. Such an approach,
however, also keeps us from artificially dividing
ritual into separate discursive spheres of interpretation
and practice—what leaders tell the community the kiss
signifies and how group members kiss. To avoid the
mistake of suggesting that ritual action could ever
exist without interpretation or that interpretation
could be unrelated to practice, we must view the exchange
of the ritual kiss as praxis—the combination of interpretation
and action. In other words, to understand more fully
the kiss's performance, we need to look at the script
and the stage directions as well as the acting and
My investigation of
ancient ritual praxis does not suggest that previous
scholars have been wrong in emphasizing the importance
of rhetorical strategies in constructing communities,
nor do I advocate ignoring the role of the oral and
written word in the performance of ritual. Rather,
I argue that the lens of praxis provides a more holistic
view of ritual. When exploring praxis, analysis of
a given ritual may very well begin with tools [End
Page 164] from literary and rhetorical criticisms,
but we should not stop there. Examining ritual as
praxis requires us also to investigate physical aspects
of a ritual. It is here that performance theory's
emphasis on enactment become particularly useful.
In terms of the early
Christian ritual kiss, we must recognize that the
kiss was not just an object of discussion, it was
also a physical action. By appropriating a gesture
common among family members and placing it in the
context of a nonbiologically related community, the
very act of kissing helped Christians construct a
new concept of family. Every time Christians kissed,
they engaged in an action routinely associated with
a familial context. This connection with kinship relationships
became even stronger when kissing a member of the
opposite sex, because in the surrounding culture a
nonerotic kiss between unrelated members of the opposite
sex was extremely rare. 53 The dissonance between
cultural norms (kissing primarily restricted to family
members) and experienced reality (periodically kissing
unrelated persons during Christian rituals) could
be resolved in one of two ways. Either the parameters
of kissing could be expanded regularly to include
nonfamily members, or those whom one kissed during
Christian rituals could be redefined as family. As
the above sources suggest, early Christian leaders
preferred the latter.
In their alignment
of the kiss with the production and expression of
kinship, Christian leaders emphasized the ritual kiss's
performative value. Many modern ritual observers agree
that as performance, ritual helps create social reality.
For example, in her studies of modern Morocco, M.
E. Combs-Schilling states:
Rituals share many
qualities of great theatrical performances. . . [but
t]hose who sincerely participate in ritual are real
performers in real-life dramas. . . . Rituals manufacture
public and private experiences rich in sight, smell,
sound, taste, touch, and imaginative abstractions.
At best, they are not simply experiences, but crystalline
experiences so vibrant in meaning and medium that
they serve as counterpoint to other experiences built
in daily life. When persuasive, rituals are experienced
by the participants as life at its most profound,
and can cast aspersions on the rest of experience
as being less than essential . . . . That is culture's
trump card. For rituals are staged cultural expressions
that at their best appear neither staged nor [End
Page 165] cultural but rather evoke life as it exists
in its essence. . . . They are shadow plays in reverse:
the performers and the performance become real, while
everything else becomes the shadow. 54
Unlike less participatory activities, the ritual kiss
elicited the entire community's active involvement.
In acting out a particular interpretation of the kiss,
participants were audience and actors. When they saw
the exchange of the kiss, Christians witnessed a specific
scene that their behavior should model—joining together
to form a family of Christ. Church members also participated
in this performance. Sociologist Joachim Knuf stresses
the importance of such ritual participation in the
construction of social reality:
From the point of
view of the enactor of a ritual, a ritual has a distinctively
performative character and serves to bring about changes
in the world. . . . Participation in a ritual is tantamount
to a subjection of its intent; implementation of the
ritual action plan therefore involves participants
in behavior that not only symbolizes a certain order
of things (or of the world), it executes this order.
Many elements of ritualized communication can hence
be regarded as signs that create the state they signify.
Christian rhetoric aligning the ritual kiss with concepts
of kinship augmented an already strong cultural connection
between kissing and familial relations. When practiced,
the kiss made concrete a particular social ideal;
it became the execution of a "ritual action plan."
These ritual performances helped early Christianity
produce a new kind of family, a community formed not
by biological relationship but by a kinship of faith.
In the Family?
The kiss, however, not only created new families,
it also disrupted old ones. Similar to their non-Christian
contemporaries, early Christians often [End Page 166]
exchanged kisses as a form of greeting. 56 The greeting
kiss both reaffirmed membership in the community and
functioned as a tool of exclusion. For example, Gregory
Nazianzen praised his mother, Nonna, because she allowed
"never for her hand to touch [heathen] hands,
nor her lips to kiss heathen lips, not even those
of a woman most respectable in all other matters,
even a member of her house." 57 Before becoming
a Christian, a woman unquestionably would kiss her
relatives. Yet once joining the Christian community,
Gregory's mother intentionally violates the ius osculi
and no longer kisses a non-Christian, no matter how
The strength of contemporary
expectations for kissing family members as well as
Gregory's decision to emphasize this particular facet
of his mother's behavior suggest that contemporaries
would have viewed Nonna's actions as extremely significant.
In terms of group dynamics, it established a new in-group
(a new Christian family whom she kisses) as well as
a new out-group (non-Christian relatives whom she
formerly kissed but no longer does); the kiss not
only could define a new nonbiological family, it also
could separate individuals from their biological families.
In depicting his mother's
behavior as noteworthy, Gregory suggests that it was
atypical. Nevertheless, she presented an ideal. She
was an exemplar of the ritual kiss taken to its logical
end—if one only kisses kin and if family now is defined
by ties of faith, one should not kiss non-Christian
relatives because they are no longer family. Even
if actual kissing practice rarely was as extreme as
that of Nonna, Gregory's rhetoric suggests that Christian
authors would not have been upset if it were.
Martyrdom of Andrew presents another example of Christians
constructing pagan relatives as unkissable. The Martyrdom
of Andrew is, of course, a very different source than
Chrysostom's homilies or Gregory Nazianzen's orations.
It does not directly witness the ways early Christians
actually kissed each other. It does, however, show
[End Page 167] that even in fictional narrative, the
kiss still provided a performative answer to the question,
"as a Christian, who is my family?"
In the Martyrdom of
Andrew, Aegeates, husband of the recently converted
Maximilla, returns from a long journey. He enters
his bedroom, which only moments before housed an entire
Christian congregation. The worshipers, made invisible
by the apostle Andrew, have just departed, leaving
only the praying Maximilla. Aegeates hears Maximilla
utter his name, and he expects her enthusiastically
to receive his kisses, but he soon discovers that
this is not the case:
But Aegeates pressed
on to go into the bedroom thinking that Maximilla
was still sleeping; for he loved her. But she was
praying. And when she saw him, she turned away and
looked to the ground. And he said to her, "First,
give me your right hand and I will kiss it. Henceforth
I will not address you as wife, but as lady, because
I am refreshed by your prudence and your love toward
me." For, the poor man, when he caught her praying,
he thought that she prayed for him; when he heard
his own name while she prayed, he was delighted. But,
this was what was said by Maximilla, "Save me
henceforth from Aegeates' defiled intercourse and
keep me pure and chaste serving only you my God."
And when, because he wanted to kiss it, [Aegeates]
drew near to her mouth, she pushed him away saying,
"It is not right Aegeates, for a man's mouth
to touch a woman's mouth after prayer." And the
proconsul, amazed at the harshness of her countenance,
departed from her and stripping off his travel clothes
he rested; having finished his long journey, lying
down, he slept. 58
Maximilla's refusal to kiss her husband radically
challenges cultural expectations. She justifies her
actions by implying that Aegeates' kiss would pollute
a mouth recently purified by prayer. 59
What makes Aegeates'
kiss impure? Maximilla explicitly states one explanation:
the gender difference between Aegeates and Maximilla
makes kissing each other after prayer polluting ("It
is not right, Aegeates, for a [End Page 168] man's
mouth to touch a woman's mouth after prayer").
This explanation, however, contradicts every other
second-century witness to Christian kissing practice.
For example, Tertullian speaks of spouses as well
as nonrelated men and women exchanging a ritual kiss
both in church and at home. Tertullian sees this kiss
as a "seal of prayer" and considers prayer
without a kiss to be incomplete. 60 If Maximilla literally
means that men and women never should kiss after prayer,
the Martyrdom of Andrew is the only second-century
source prohibiting this practice.
The ascetic nature
of the Apocryphal Acts makes such a restriction plausible.
I suggest, however, another possible explanation for
Maximilla's concern. Maximilla sees Aegeates' kiss
as a purity violation less because of his gender than
because of his religion. Although she does not state
it in these terms to her husband, such an interpretation
is consistent with the Apocryphal Acts' emphasis on
how a woman's conversion to Christianity alienates
her biological family, but joins her to a larger religious
Whether it aims to
divide men from women, Christian from non-Christian,
or both, the Martyrdom of Andrew shows how kissing
can strengthen distinctions and solidify group boundaries.
From the perspective of the Apocryphal Acts, the marriage
of Christian to non-Christian was particularly threatening,
both because of its sexual implications and the concern
of divided loyalties. In the Apocryphal Acts, virtually
all the protagonists must illustrate their commitment
to Christianity by abandoning their closest kin. Maximilla's
refusal to kiss her husband was part of a larger strategy
to prioritize Christian community over biological
ties. Like Gregory's mother, Maximilla's actions help
Christianity develop a successionary model of kinship.
Joining Christianity does not just form a new family,
it also replaces the old.
Kiss and "Family Values"
The ritual kiss not only raised the question of whom
one should kiss but also the question of how one should
kiss. Here, too, the analogy of kinship affected the
ways Christians exchanged the kiss. I am particularly
interested in how at least one early Christian leader
could use the motif of family to refashion an act
of potentially suspect motivation (unrelated men and
women kissing each other) into a performance of Christian
Despite general scholarly
neglect of early Christian kissing, one aspect of
the ritual kiss has attracted some attention. Several
scholars argue that [End Page 169] the ritual kiss
was a major factor contributing to pagan accusations
of Christian immorality. 61 Either the kiss frequently
became an excuse for inappropriate sexual expression
(which led to widespread reports of Christian impropriety)
or, despite Christian restraint, non-Christian observers
misinterpreted the ritual kiss as sexual and used
this to slander early Christian communities.
evidence, however, supports a link between the ritual
kiss and widespread rumors. Only a single sentence
from Christian writings mentions that the kiss could
lead to slanderous reports, and no surviving non-Christian
sources ever make this connection. 62 In fact, a close
read of a work most often used to support the "rumor
hypothesis" suggests that, especially when placed
in the context of familial gesture, the ritual kiss
could become a performance not of licentiousness but
of sexual control.
Two chapters into
defending Christians against charges of "godless
banquets and sexual unions," 63 the second-century
According to age,
we call some sons and daughters and others we hold
brothers and sisters and to the aged assign the honor
of fathers and mothers. Therefore, it is of great
importance to us that the bodies of our brothers and
sisters and the others called the names of relatives
remain not insulted and undefiled. Again the word
says to us: "If someone should kiss twice because
it pleased him . . ." and it adds: "therefore
it is necessary to be careful of the kiss, or the
salutation, because if our thoughts are the least
bit stirred by it, it places us outside eternal life."
Proponents of the "rumor hypothesis" use
this passage to argue that widespread slanders of
Christian kissing abuse forced Athenagoras to defend
Christian kissing practices. Athenagoras' Plea for
Christians, however, never states this; the only rumors
the author cites are slanders of sexual unions and
cannibalism. The passage's context, in fact, suggests
just the opposite. Athenagoras is not reacting to
widespread gossip of the ritual kiss's link to promiscuity.
Rather, Athenagoras uses the kiss as an example of
Christian restraint to disprove the more general rumors
of sexual impropriety.
In the previous chapter
of his apology, Athenagoras claims that because Christians
believe that God continually looks into believers'
hearts, they [End Page 170] are particularly virtuous
in thought, as well as deed. 65 Chapter 32 includes
Athenagoras' paraphrase of Matthew 5.28—merely looking
at a woman lustfully becomes an act of adultery. When
speaking of the kiss, Athenagoras' citation of an
otherwise unattested logion makes the same point.
The quotation begins with a clear behavioral transgression—it
condemns people who enjoy kissing so much that they
return for seconds. Like the Matthew passage, the
latter half of the saying moves from outward action
to inner emotions. Even if Christians' apparent behavior
seems proper (kissing only once), the participants
must control the thoughts about which only they and
God know. Just as a wandering eye commits adultery,
when Christians kiss each other, a wandering mind
can lead to damnation. According to Athenagoras, because
the stakes are so high, whenever they kiss, Christians
regulate both their outward behavior and their inward
thought. By his very emphasis of the kiss's inherent
danger, Athenagoras constructs the chaste exchange
of a ritual kiss as a dramatic performance of how
faithful Christians keep their sexual desires under
control even in the most tempting of circumstances.
What immediately follows
this passage also suggests that Athenagoras is not
defending against allegations of kissing impropriety,
but rather himself brings up the matter of the kiss
to illustrate Christian virtue. Chapter 33 presents
several extended examples of Christian sexual restraint:
married Christians have sex only for procreation,
many Christians remain lifelong virgins, and Christian
widows and widowers never remarry. 66 No commentator
has ever suggested that these are reactions to widespread
rumors of Christian remarriage. Instead, modern scholars
view them as part of Athenagoras' larger argument
that because Christians follow such strict sexual
ethics, any claims of Christian orgiastic practices
are completely unfounded. I contend that, like the
passages before and after it, Athenagoras' reference
to Christian kissing is another example of Christian
self-imposed sexual control.
sets his Plea as an oral delivery to the Roman emperor,
many scholars have argued that he designed it for
a non-Christian audience. 67 Athenagoras directs his
reference to the kiss toward outsiders [End Page 171]
either to defend Christians against external accusations
of improper kissing or, as I have argued, to illustrate
Christian self-restraint. Whenever they heard or read
this work, non-Christians would remain a level removed
from the actual practice and thus dependent on Athenagoras'
report; they had no way of verifying how (or how often)
Christian men and women kissed each other. From this
perspective, Athenagoras' passage becomes a carefully
constructed textual portrait.
But did Athenagoras
really write the work primarily for non-Christians?
It is difficult to imagine Marcus Aurelius, Lucius
Commodus, or any other nonsympathetic outsider either
listening to or reading a forty-page treatise delivered
by a member of a highly suspicious religious cult.
It seems particularly unlikely that Athenagoras directed
his references to Christian kissing toward a non-Christian
audience. Athenagoras never provides any context for
the kiss, and to understand his arguments the Plea's
recipients must have been surprisingly familiar with
Christian ritual practices. Instead of viewing the
passage's primary audience as the Roman emperors themselves,
I suggest that the passage is more esoteric than exoteric;
Athenagoras aimed his warnings against impure kissing
primarily toward other Christians to whom his threat
of exclusion from eternal life had real currency.
If Athenagoras' account
of the kiss is mainly for internal consumption, this
substantially blurs the boundaries between text and
ritual. For early Christians, Athenagoras' work does
not remain an apologetic description but becomes a
ritual script. By following his instructions, participants
could perform Christian righteousness. Although Athenagoras
stages this performance before non-Christians, this
implied viewership is almost certainly never present.
Instead, Christians become true participant-observers
and the kiss becomes a form of double self-representation;
Christians perform the ritual kiss by themselves and
for themselves. 68 By chastely exchanging the kiss,
they show other Christians their self-restraint, they
show God the purity of their thoughts, and they show
each other the virtue of their community.
The kiss's connection
to kinship becomes central to Athenagoras' project.
By emphasizing the link between Christianity, family,
and kissing, he [End Page 172] suggests that an improper
exchange of the ritual kiss is not just overly sexual
or adulterous, it also is incestuous. Although Athenagoras
is not the first Greco-Roman writer to correlate kissing
with incest, 69 emphasizing this potential connection
allows Athenagoras to construct the ritual kiss as
a way to distinguish Christians from non-Christians.
discusses incest in the beginning of chapter 32, in
which he speaks of Zeus' incestuous relations with
his own mother, daughter, and sister and Thyestes'
relationship with his daughter. Athenagoras uses these
familiar mythological stories as foils for Christians'
relations with each other. Unlike non-Christian gods
who have sex with their biological relatives, Christians
are careful not even to have lustful thoughts regarding
their fictive kin.
that if Christians should kiss each other "with
the least defilement of thought," this distinction
between Christian and non-Christian behavior would
break down. They, like the pagan gods, would be guilty
of incest. In the context of Christian ritual, what
makes such a boundary violation particularly disturbing
is the fine line it crosses. As an act of inclusion,
the kiss brings Christians closer to each other—they
should be as intimate as the most immediate of family.
In response to the possibility of participants using
the kiss to become a bit too close, Athenagoras employs
the same fictive kinship structure that initially
decreased the social distance between Christians to
put parameters on appropriate kissing behavior; the
ritual kiss is a kiss shared by siblings, not lovers.
of the kiss is not so much an act of apology as an
act of self-definition. His reference to ritual kissing
does not support the idea of the ritual kiss resulting
in slander. Rather, it shows how Christian leaders
can emphasize the kiss's link to kinship to illustrate
distinctiveness. In the context of the Christian family,
the kiss foregrounds the difference between Christian
restraint and non-Christian licentiousness while simultaneously
marking a boundary between communal closeness and
inappropriately erotic attraction. When properly performed,
the ritual kiss illustrates and reinforces Christian
"family values" in contrast to pagan immorality.
[End Page 173]
Despite thousands of ancient references to kissing,
scholars rarely have explored the kiss either as a
common Greco-Roman practice or specifically as a Christian
ritual. Given the growing interest in the late antique
family, this neglect becomes particularly surprising.
Why have so many works on the ancient family ignored
one of the most widespread familial practices in the
After the linguistic
turn, numerous scholars have focused on the role of
language in creating perceived reality. I suspect
that this emphasis on rhetoric occasionally has led
to the neglect of an equally important facet of poststructuralist
thought—the body's role in systems of power and identity.
In terms of early Christian studies, although previous
scholars have investigated how Christians write or
speak of family, they have not yet asked how ritual
plays a role in constructions of kinship.
I argue that including
ritual in our explorations of early Christians and
the family gives us a much richer appreciation for
the dynamics of early Christianity. Such an approach
emphasizes how the ritual kiss's performance both
illustrated and enacted a new model of community.
It shows how a ritual could function not only as an
act of inclusion but also as a tool to create a supercessionary
vision of family. It notes that Christians could stage
the ritual kiss as a display of Christian virtue and
a reinforcement of Christian distinctiveness. The
ritual kiss helped early Christians perform family.
I suggest it also can help modern scholars better
appreciate the importance of ritual as we perform
our own analyses of early Christian communities.
Michael Penn is the Kraft-Hiatt Post-Doctoral Fellow
in Early Christianity at Brandeis University
* A special thanks to Elizabeth Clark, Bart Ehrman,
Dale Martin, Jean O'Barr, and Orval Wintermute who
read earlier versions of this work. I am also very
grateful for the thoughtful and helpful feedback that
I received from two anonymous JECS reviewers whose
insights greatly improved this article.
E.g., Keith R. Bradley, Discovering the Roman Family
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); S. J. D.
Cohen, ed. The Jewish Family in Antiquity, Brown Judaic
Studies 289 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993); Suzanne
Dixon, The Roman Family (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1992); Judith Evans Grubbs, Law
and Family in Late Antiquity: The Emperor Constantine's
Marriage Legislation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995);
Eva Marie Lassen, "The Roman Family: Ideal and
Metaphor," in Constructing Early Christian Families:
Family as Social Reality and Metaphor, ed. Halvor
Moxnes (London: Routledge, 1997), 103-20; Dale Martin,
"The Construction of the Ancient Family: Methodological
Considerations," Journal of Roman Studies 86
(1996): 40-60; Beryl Rawson, ed. Marriage, Divorce,
and Children in Ancient Rome (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1991); Richard P. Saller, Patriarchy, Property, and
Death in the Roman Family (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1994); Susan Treggiari, Roman Marriage: Iusti
Coniuges from the Time of Cicero to the Time of Ulpian
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991).
E.g., Adriana Destro and Mauro Pesce, "Kinship,
Discipleship, and Movement: An Anthropological Study
of John's Gospel," Biblical Interpretation 3
(1995): 266-84; Bruce J. Malina, Christian Origins
and Cultural Anthropology (Atlanta: John Knox Press,
1986); idem, Windows on the World of Jesus (Louisville:
John Knox Press, 1993); Jerome H. Neyrey, ed., The
Social World of Luke-Acts: Models for Interpretation
(Peabody: Hendrickson, 1991).
E.g., Stephen C. Barton, Discipleship and Family Ties
in Mark and Matthew, Society for New Testament Studies
Monograph 80 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1994); David L. Balch and Carolyn Osiek, Families
in the New Testament World: Households and House Churches
(Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1997); Philip
F. Esler, The First Christians in their Social World
(London: Routledge, 1994); idem, Modelling Early Christianity:
Social-Scientific Studies of the New Testament in
its Context (London: Routledge, 1995); Stuart L. Love,
"The Household: A Major Social Component for
Gender Analysis in the Gospel of Matthew," Biblical
Theology Bulletin 23 (1993): 21-31; Moxnes, Constructing
Early Christian Families; Carolyn Osiek, "The
Family in Early Christianity: 'Family Values' Revisited,"
CBQ 58 (1996): 1-25; Karl Olav Sandnes, A New Family:
Conversion and Ecclesiology in the Early Church with
Cross-Cultural Comparisons, Studies in the Intercultural
History of Christianity 91 (Bern: Peter Lang, 1994).
E.g., Reidar Aasgaard, "Brotherhood in Plutarch
and Paul: Its Role and Character," in Constructing
Early Christian Families, 166-82; John H. Elliot,
Home for the Homeless: A Sociological Exegesis of
First Peter, Its Situation, and Strategy (Philadelphia:
Fortress Press, 1981), 165-266; Wayne Meeks, The First
Urban Christians (New Haven: Yale University Press,
E.g., Denise Kimber Buell, Making Christians: Clement
of Alexandria and the Rhetoric of Legitimacy (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1999); Elisabeth Schussler
Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological
Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad,
1983), 251-342; Ingvild Soelid Gilhus, "Family
Structures in Gnostic Religion," in Constructing
Early Christian Families, 235-49; Karl Olav Sandnes,
"Equality Within Patriarchal Structures: Some
New Testament Perspectives on the Christian Fellowship
as a Brother- or Sisterhood and a Family," in
Constructing Early Christian Families, 150-65.
For useful overviews of performance theory see Catherine
Bell, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1992), 37-43; eadem, Ritual: Perspectives
and Dimensions (New York: Oxford University Press,
1997), 72-76; and Mary Suydam, "Background: An
Introduction to Performance Studies," in Performance
and Transformation: New Approaches to Late Medieval
Spirituality, ed. Mary A. Suydam and Joanna E. Zeigler
(New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999), 1-26. Some of
the foundational works in these fields' approaches
to performance include John Langshaw Austin, How to
Do Things with Words, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1975); Judith Butler, Gender Trouble:
Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York:
Routledge, 1990); Ronald Grimes, Beginnings in Ritual
Studies (Washington: University Press of America,
1982); Richard Schechner, Essays in Performance Theory
(New York: Routledge, 1988); and Victor Turner, The
Anthropology of Performance (New York: PAJ Publications,
In his now famous analysis of the Balinese cockfight
Clifford Geertz provides a good illustration of expanding
text: "The culture of a people is an ensemble
of texts, themselves ensembles, which the anthropologist
strains to read over the shoulders of those to whom
they properly belong. . . . As in more familiar exercises
in close reading, one can start anywhere in a culture's
repertoire of forms and end up anywhere else. . .
. But whatever the level at which one operates, and
however intricately, the guiding principle is the
same: societies, like lives, contain their own interpretations.
One has only to learn how to gain access to them"
(Clifford Geertz, "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese
Cockfight," Daedalus 102 : 29).
Joseph Roach, "Culture and Performance in the
Circum-Atlantic World" in Performativity and
Performance, ed. Andrew Parker and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
(New York: Routledge, 1995), 61.
Bell, Ritual: Perspectives, 73.
Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic
Performance (New York: Columbia University Press,
For exceptions see Fernard Cabrol, "Baiser,"
in Dictionnaire d'Archeologie Chretienne et de Liturgie,
ed. Fernard Cabrol and Henri Leclercq (Paris: Librairie
Letouzey et Ane, 1925), 117-30; Gustav Stahlin, "filew
ktl," in Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament,
ed. Gerhard Kittel (Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing,
1932; reprint, 1974), 118-27, 138-46; Karl-Martin
Hofmann, Philema Hagion (Gutersloh: Der Rufer Evangelischer
Verlag, 1938); Johannes Quasten, "Der Kuss des
Neugetauften in altchristlicher Taufliturgie,"
in Liturgie Gestalt und Vollzug, ed. Walter Durig
(Munchen: Max Hueber Verlag, 1963), 267-71; Klaus
Thraede, "Ursprunge und Formen des 'Heiligen
Kusses' im fruhen Christentum," JbAC 11-12 (1968-69):
124-80; N. J. Perella, The Kiss Sacred and Profane
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969),
12-50; Klaus Thraede, "Friedenskuss," in
RAC 505-19; G. W. Clarke, "Cyprian's Epistle
64 and the Kissing of Feet in Baptism," HTR 66
(1973): 147-52; Stephen Benko, Pagan Rome and the
Early Christians (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1984), 79-102; Eleanor Kreider, "Let the
Faithful Greet Each Other: The Kiss of Peace,"
Conrad Grebel Review 5 (1987): 29-49; L. Edward Phillips,
"The Ritual Kiss in Early Christian Worship"
(Ph.D diss., Notre Dame, 1992); idem, "The Kiss
of Peace and the Opening Greeting of the Pre-anaphoral
Dialogue," Studia Liturgica 23 (1993): 177-86;
idem, The Ritual Kiss in Early Christian Worship (Cambridge:
Grove Books, 1996); William Klassen, "The Sacred
Kiss in the New Testament: An Example of Social Boundary
Lines," NTS 39 (1993): 122-35; Dominic E. Serra,
"The Kiss of Peace: A Suggestion from the Ritual
Structure of the Missa," Ecclesia Orans 14 (1997):
1 Thess 5.26; 1 Cor 16.20; 2 Cor 13.12; Rom 16.16;
1 Pet 5.14.
1 Thess 5.26; 1 Cor 16.20; 2 Cor 13.12; Rom 16.16;
1 Pet 5.14; a. Paul. et Thecl. 19 (Acta Pauli et Theclae,
ed. R. A. Lipsius, Acta apostolorum apocrypha 1,1
[Leipzig: Mendelsohn, 1891], 247);Just. I apol. 65.2
(Justin, Apologia, ed. E. J. Goodspeed, Die altesten
Apologeten [Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,
1915], 74); Athenag. leg. 32.5.8 (Athenagoras, Legatio,
ed. W. R. Schoedel, Athenagoras. Legatio and De resurrectione
[Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972], 48-50); Clem. paed.
3.11.81-82 (SC 158:157-58).
Neither Paul, 1 Peter, nor Justin articulates any
gender boundaries. Paul and Thecla speaks of Thecla
sneaking into prison to kiss Paul's bonds (a. Paul.
et Thecl. 19 [Lipsius, 247]). Athenagoras and Clement
of Alexandria note that "unchaste" or "shameless"
kisses could corrupt the bodies of Christian brothers
and sisters (Athenag. leg. 32.5.8 [Schoedel, 48-50];
Clem. paed. 3.11.81-82 [SC 158:157-58]). In the early
third century, Tertullian talks of Christian men and
women ritually kissing each other (Tert. ux. 2.4.3
[CCL 1:389]) as does The Martyrdom of Perpetua (pass.
Perp. 10.13, 12.5, 21.7 [SC 417:140, 148, 180]).
E.g., Apul. met. 7.11.16 (LCL 453:24); Ath. 10.440-41
(LCL 235:496); Catul. 9.9, 99.14-16 (LCL 6:12, 170);
Cic. ver. 18.104.22.168 (LCL 293:398); Gel. 22.214.171.124
(LCL 200:390); Long. 1.16 (LCL 69:34); Luc. 5.736
(LCL 220:294); Luc. Alex. 41.12-13 (LCL 130:228);
Luc. am. 53.25 (LCL 431:232); Mart. 11.22.2, 12.55.12,
13.18.2 (LCL 480:28, 38, 198); Nonn. 4.151 (LCL 344:144);
Ov. ep. 2.94, 11.117 (LCL 41:26, 140); Ov. met. 2.357,
10.362 (LCL 232:84, 42:90); Petr. 20.8.3, 23.4.1,
85.6.2, 132.1.3 (LCL 15:28, 32, 168, 292); Prop. 2.13.29,
2.15.10 (LCL 18:156, 164); Sen. con. 126.96.36.199 (LCL
464:244); Sil. 6.420 (LCL 277:312); Stat. Silv. 3.2.57
(LCL 206:160); Verg. a. 1.256, 12.434 (LCL 63:258,
Third-century examples include: a. Andr. Frag. 5 (Lipsius,
39); a. Jo. 62, 78, 24 (Acta Joannis, ed. M. Bonnet,
Acta apostolorum apocrypha 2,1 [Leipzig: Mendelssohn,
1898], 164, 181, 190); a. Petr. c. Sim. 3 (Lipsius,
48); Cypr. laps. 2 (CCL 3:221); Cypr. ep. 6.1 (CSEL
3.2:480); Cypr. ep. 64.4 (CSEL 3.2:719-20); gosp.
Phil. 58.30-59.6 (NHS 20:156); Or. comm. in Rom. 10.33
(PG 14:1282-83); Or. cant 1.1.1-1.1.15 (SC 375:177-86);
pass. Perp. 10.13, 12.5, 21.7 (SC 417:140, 148, 180);
Tert. ux. 2.4.3 (CCL 1:389); Tert. or. 18.1.6 (CCL
1:267); Tert. praescr. 41 (CCL 1:221-22); traditio
apostolica 4, 21 (Apostolic Tradition, ed. Dom Bernard
Botte, La Tradition Apostolique de Saint Hippolyte
(Munster [Westfalen: Aschendorffsche Verlagsbuchhandlung,
1963], 10, 54); traditio apostolica 19 (TU 58:12).
Tert. praescr. 41 (CCL 1:221-22); traditio apostolica
18 (TU 58:12).
A. Andr. frag. 5 (Lipsius, 39); a. Jo. 62 (Bonnet,
Traditio apostolica 18 (TU 58:12).
Acts of John Son of Zebudee 61 (Acts of John Son of
Zebudee, ed. W. Wright, Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles
[Amsterdam: Philo Press, 1871], 44); Ambr. ep. 1.14-18
(CSEL 82.3:153-55); Bas. ep. 45.1.47 (Basil, Epistulae,
ed. Y. Courtonne, Saint Basile: Lettres [Paris: Les
Belles Lettres, 1957], 114); Canons of Hippolytus
3.17 (PO 31.2:352); const. app. 2.57.17, 8.11.9 (Funk,
165, 494); Cyr. H. catech. 5.3 (SC 126:148-50); Eus.
m.P. 11.20, 11.24 (GCS 2.2:942-44); Eus. e.h. 2.9.3
(SC 31:62); Eus. e.h. 6.3.4 (SC 41:87); Chrys. Thdr.
I 1.17 (SC 117:184-86); Chrys. catech. 11.32-34 (Chrysostom,
Catechesis ultima ad baptizandos, ed. A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus,
Varia Graeca Sacra [St. Petersburg: Kirschbaum, 1909],
174-75); Chrys. catech. 2.27 (SC 50:148); Chrys. hom.
in Rom. 21.4 (PG 60:671); Chrys. hom. in I Cor. 44.4
(PG 61:376); Chrys. hom in I Thess. 11 (PG 62:464);
Chrys. hom in 2 Cor. 30.2 (PG 61:607); Prud. Peristephanon
2.517-21, 5.337-40 (CCL 126:275, 305); Pseudo-Clement,
Epistola II ad virgines 2 (PG 1:421); Ign. Ant. 13.2.5
(Pseudo-Ignatius, Ad Antiochenos, ed. Franciscus Diekamp,
Patres apostolici [Tubingen: Laupp, 1913], 222); Ign.
Tars. 10.3.2 (Diekamp, 143-44).
Const. app. 2.57.17, 8.11.0 (Funk, 165, 494).
Pseudo-Clement, Epistola II ad virgines 2 (PG 1:421).
Const. app. 8.11.9 (Funk, 494).
T. dom. 1.23 (Testamentum domini, ed. I. E. Rahmani,
Testamentum Domini Nostri Jesu Christi [Hildesheim:
G. Olms, 1899], 36).
Fifth-century witnesses include: Aug. c. litt. Petil.
1.12.13 (CSEL 52:12); Aug. civ. 22.8 (CCL 48:826);
Aug. Psal. 188.8.131.52 (CCL 38:204); Aug. Psal. 94.8.20
(CCL 39:1337); Aug. serm. 6.3 (MiAg 1:31-32); Aug.
serm. 204.2 (PL 38:1038); Aug. serm. 227 (SC 116:240);
Aug. tract eu. Io. 6.3 (CCL 36:54); Innoc. 25.1 (PL
20:553); Hier. ep. 22.6 (CSEL54:151); Hier. ep. 82.3
(CSEL 55.2:110); Hier. Ruf. 23, 33 (CCL 79: 94, 103);
Hier. vit. Paul. 10 (PL 23:25); Narsai, Homily 21
(Narsai, Homiliae, ed. Alphonsus Mingana, Narsai:
Homiliae et Carmina [Mosul: Dominican Press, 1905],
346); P. -Nol. carm. 18.127 (CSEL 30:103); P. -Nol.
ep. 5.16 (CSEL 29:35); Dion. Ar. e.h. 3.3.8 (Pseudo-Dionysius,
De Ecclesiastica Hierarchia, ed. Johannes Quasten,
Monumenta eucharistica et liturgica vetustissima Fasciculus
VII Pars VI. [Bonnae: Sumptibus Petri Hanstein, 1936],
306-7); Dion. Ar. e.h. 5.2, 5.3.1, 6.2, 6.3.4 (PG
3:509, 533, 536); Dion. Ar. e.h. 6.3.4 (SC 41:87);
t. dom. 1.23 (Rahmani, 36); Theodore of Mopsuestia,
On Eucharist and Liturgy 5 (Theodore, On Eucharist
and Liturgy, ed. A. Mingana, Theodore of Mopsuestia
on the Lord's Prayer and Sacraments [Cambridge: W.
Heffer, 1933], 230-32).
Three hundred and ninety occurences of kisses between
unmarried lovers (45 percent), 236 between family
members (27 percent), 72 to the kissing of friends
or peers (8 percent), 65 references to the kissing
of rulers (7 percent), 24 to the kissing of slaves
(3 percent), and 85 "other" references such
as kissing a teacher, priest, animal, or inanimate
object (10 percent). If one excludes inanimate objects,
animals and non-related lovers, the familial kiss
makes up 58 percent of the remaining references to
Ath. 10.440-41 (LCL 235:496); Luc. 5.736 (LCL 220:294);
Ov. met. 2.357, 10.362 (LCL 232:84, LCL 42:90); Sil.
6.420 (LCL 277:312); Verg. a. 1.256, 12.434 (LCL 63:258,
64:328). Also see Gr. Naz. or. 18.10 (PG 35:996).
Of the other familiar kisses of a specific body part,
three referred to the kissing of hands (Sil. 12.592
[LCL 278:190], Quint. (sp) Decl. 4.5.12(Lewis Sussman,
The Major Declamations Ascribed to Quintilian [Frankfurt:
Verlag Peter Lang, 1987], 41), V. Fl. 7.123 [LCL 286:368]),
one to the kissing of feet (Sil. 11.331 [LCL 278:124]),
and one to the kissing of eyes (Quint. (sp) Decl.
2.6.20 [Sussman 16]).
Prop. 2.6.8 (LCL 18:134).
Ov. am 1.4.63 (LCL 41:332). Cf. Ov. am. 1.4.39 (LCL
41:331) where he threatens publicly to lay claim to
his lover's kisses.
Ov. am. 2.5.23-30 (LCL 41:394). Also see Ov. ep. 20.145
Ov. met. 9.560 (LCL 43:42).
Suet. Cl. 26.3.5 (LCL 38:54).
Some modern scholars will translate ius osculi as
the law of the kiss. For example, M. B. Pharr states:
"By the Ius Osculi also any man related within
a certain degree had the right under the law to kiss
his female relatives. This law seems to have been
derived from the custom of prohibition of marriage
within certain degrees of relationship" ("The
Kiss in Roman Law," CJ 42, no. 8 [1946-47]: 394).
Although it is possible that the ius osculi may be
a reference to an existing law, none of the extant
authors cite any specific legal authority. Instead,
they seem to present it simply as a customary practice.
Ath. 10.440-41 (LCL 235:496).
Gel. 10.23.1.5 (LCL 195:278); Plin. nat. 14.90.2 (LCL
Tert. ap. 6.4 (CCL 1:97).
Apul. met. 11.25.28 (LCL 453:346).
E.g., Mosch. eros. 4, 5 (LCL 28:422); Petr. 31.1.3
(LCL 15:46); Sen. ben. 184.108.40.206-7 (LCL 254:70); Sen.
con. 220.127.116.11 (LCL 464: 270); Suet. Cal. 56.2.7 (LCL
Petr. 127.4.3 (LCL 15:282).
"While he was still speaking to the crowds, his
mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting
to speak to him. Someone told him, 'Look, your mother
and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to
speak to you.' But to the one who had told him this,
Jesus replied, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?'
And pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are
my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will
of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and
Athenag. leg. 32.5.8 (Schoedel, 48-50).
Tert. ux. 2.4.3 (CCL 1:389).
Aug. serm. 227 (SC 116:240). There are numerous other
examples of Chris-tians speaking about the ritual
kiss in terms of kinship, such as Aug. Psal. 18.104.22.168
(CCL 38:204); gosp. Phil. 58.30-59.6 (NHS 20:156);
Or. comm. in Rom. 10.33 (PG 14:1282-83); P.-Nol. ep.
5.16 (CSEL 29:35); Tert. or. 18.1.6 (CCL 1:267).
Petr. 41.8.4, 64.11.1, 75.4.2, 85.6.2, 86.5.3, 110.3.2
(LCL 15:66, 120, 148, 168, 170, 228); Mart. 5.46.1
(LCL 94:396) 6.34.1 (LCL 95:24), 8.46.6 (LCL 95:196),
11.23.10 (LCL 480:24); Sen. ben. 22.214.171.124 (LCL 254:178).
Petr. 31.1.3 (LCL 15:46).
Sen. Ep. 47.14.1 (LCL 310:308).
This silence is particularly telling in documents
such as the Apostolic Tradi-tion, which clearly envision
slaves as part of the Christian community (e.g., Traditio
Apostolica 16 argues that slaves can join the church
as long as they have their mas-ter's permission).
Although the Apostolic Tradition prohibits Christians
from kissing catechumens and Christian women and men
from kissing each other, there are no restrictions
on slaves and free kissing each other.
Pass. Perp. 21.7 (SC 417:180).
Chrys. hom in 2 Cor. 30.2 (PG 61:607).
For examples of erotic kisses between siblings see
Luc. 10.365 (LCL 220:616); Ov. ep. 4.144 (LCL 41:54);
Ov. met. 9.458, 504, 539, 560 (LCL 42:34, 38, 40,
42); Stat. Ach 1.589 (LCL 207:552).
Bell, Ritual Theory, 75-91.
Ibid. 74, 90.
The kiss between Chloe and Dorco in Long. 1.30.1 (LCL
69:54) is the only example I found of a nonerotic
kiss between unrelated, opposite-sexed adults. But
even here, there are erotic overtones. See also William
Klassen, "Kiss (NT)," in Anchor Bible Dictionary,
ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992),
92, who emphasizes the radicalness of early Christians
kissing without regard to gender.
M. E. Combs-Schilling, Sacred Performances: Islam,
Sexuality, and Sacrifice (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1989), 30-31. In distinguishing ritual from
theater, Frederick Bird makes a similar observation,
"ritual actors reconstitute the world-view envisioned
by their scripts. Unlike Thespians, though, ritual
actors typically view the world thus created . . .
as fundamentally real—even 'more real,' in some cases,
than the ordinary-workaday world" ("Ritual
as Communicative Action," in Ritual and Ethnic
Identity: A Comparative Study of the Social Meaning
of Liturgical Ritual in Synagogues [Waterloo: Wilfrid
Laurier University Press, 1995], 30).
Joachim Knuf, "Where Cultures Meet: Ritual Code
and Organizational Boundary Management," Research
on Language and Social Interaction 23 (1989/90): 115.
See, for example, pass. Perp. 12.5 (SC 417:148); Tert.
ux. 2.4.2 (CCL 1:389); a. Andr. frag. 5 (Lipsius,
39); a. Jo. 62, 78, 24 (Bonnet, 181, 190, 164); a.
Petr. c. Sim. 3 (Lipsius, 48); 1 apoc. Jas. 31 (NHS
11:81); 2 apoc. Jas. 56 (NHS 11:132); Hier. Ruf. 23
(CCL 79:94); Hier. vit. Paul. 10 (PL 23:25); Hier.
ep. 22.6 (CSEL 54:151); Aug. civ. 22.8 (CCL 48:826);P.-Nol.
ep. 5.16 (CSEL 29:35); Hom. Clem. 4.7 (GCS 42:86).
The ritual use of the greeting kiss also may have
helped the kiss become a conventional epistolary salutation.
Quite consciously following the Pauline epistles,
Christian authors occasionally conclude their letters
with a commandment for the recipients to kiss one
another. See Cyrill. ep. 19.4 (Schwartz, 13); Ign.
Ant. 13.2.5 (Diekamp, 222); Ign. Tars. 10.3.2 (Diekamp,
Gr. Naz. or. 18.10 (PG 35:996).
A. (pass.) Andr. 177-94 (Detorakis, 338).
Although the text never makes this explicit, Maximilla
may be basing this belief on 1 Cor 7.5 "Do not
deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for
a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer."
The Martyrdom of Andrew, however, provides several
reasons why Maximilla's statement is not just a way
to avoid what she sees as a possible precursor to
"unclean union." The text suggests that,
from Maximilla's perspective, kissing Aegeates after
prayer presents a legitimate purity concern. The narrator
leaves unglossed Maximilla's own explanation of why
she refuses her husband's kisses. Aegeates accepts
her explanation suggesting that it has at least some
credibility in their shared world-view. Although Aegeates
enters claiming he will kiss Maximilla's hand, only
when he tries to kiss her mouth (and hence a purity
concern arises) does she object.
Tert. or. 18.1.6 (CCL 1:267).
Benko, Pagan Rome and the Early Christians, 79-98;
Cabrol, "Baiser," 118-19; Kreider, Let the
Faithful Greet Each Other, 31; Walter Lowrie, "The
Kiss of Peace," Theology Today 12 (1955): 240;
Perella, The Kiss Sacred and Profane, 30.
Clem. paed. 3.11.81-82 (SC 158:157-58).
Athenag. leg. 31 (Schoedel, 76).
Athenag. leg. 32 (Schoedel, 78-80).
Athenag. leg. 31 (Schoedel, 77).
Athenag. leg. 33 (Schoedel, 80).
For example, Leslie W. Barnard, Athenagoras: A Study
in Second Century Christian Apologetic (Paris: Editions
Beauchesne, 1972), 22-24, T. D. Barnes, "Embassy
of Athenagoras" JTS 26 (1975): 111-14, and Robert
Grant, Greek Apologists of the Second Century (Philadelphia:
Westminster Press, 1988), 100, suggest that Athenagoras
did, in fact, recite his Plea before the emperor.
Other scholars argue that this is implausible but
suggest that Athenagoras designed his Plea as a written
petition for the emperor's officials (Robin Lane Fox,
Pagans and Christians [San Francisco: HarperCollins,
1986], 305-6) or as an open letter to both the emperor
and the general public (W. H. C. Frend, The Rise of
Christianity [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984],
234; Schoedel, Athenagoras, xii-xiii; idem, "Apologetic
Literature and Ambassadorial Activities," HTR
82:1 : 55-78).
For a more general discussion of ritual and self-representation
see Bird, "Ritual as Communicative Action,"
Between siblings: Luc. 10.3.65 (LCL 220:616); Ov.
ep. 4.144 (LCL 41:54); Ov. met. 9.458, 504, 539, 560
(LCL 42:34, 38, 40, 42); Stat. Ach. 1.589 (LCL 207:552).
Father and daughter: Ov. met. 10.344, 362 (LCL 42:88,
90). Mother and son: Quint. (sp) Decl. 18.7.21 (Sussman,
221); Suet. Nero 34.2.13 (LCL 38:144); Tac. ann. 14.2.5
(LCL 322:108). Uncle and niece: D.C. Epitome 62.3.7