by Al Maxey

Issue #681 ------- November 6, 2015
Each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
The Ballad of Reading Gaol

Betrayed With A Kiss
Reflecting on the Kiss of Judas

Have you ever had a friend turn against you? It hurts, doesn't it?! Perhaps you were once very close, and then for some reason that person became your enemy. David spoke of this very situation, and one can feel the deep pain in his words: "If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God" (Psalm 55:12-14, NIV). The New English Bible reads, "my own dear friend, with whom I kept pleasant company in the house of God." Like David, I can think of a number of people with whom I have "kept pleasant company" in the church who have now become enemies. The reason? I dared to challenge the "sacred cows" of our religious sect, calling my beloved brethren to rethink traditions in light of revealed truths we have too long ignored. I am confident many of you know from personal experience this same pain. But, this is nothing new.

Democritus (c. 460-370 B.C.), an Ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher, astutely observed, "The enmity of one's kindred is far more bitter than the enmity of strangers." Similarly, Alcmaeon of Croton, an early Greek medical writer and philosopher-scientist who lived during the sixth century B.C., declared, "It is easier to guard against an enemy than against a friend." More recently, the English poet and dramatist John Gay (1685-1732), in his "Fables," wrote, "An open foe may prove a curse, But a pretended friend is worse!" Again, I think we can all relate to some degree, for we have all experienced the deep hurt that comes from the betrayal of those who were once close to us. Another who can also relate is Jesus! He watched a good many of His disciples turn and walk away from Him because they could no longer tolerate His teaching (John 6:66). He experienced the rejection of His own family, "for not even His brothers were believing in Him" (John 7:5; and there is even some suggestion in the previous verses that they may have longed for His demise: vs. 1b, 3-4). Imagine the pain as He gazed silently upon Peter who had just denied Him three times, and who even "began to curse and swear" (Matt. 26:74). And how can we forget the heartless betrayal of Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, who actually turned Jesus over to His killers in the most despicable way imaginable: with a fervent kiss (see my reflective, in-depth biographical portrait of Judas in Reflections #260). In this current study I would like for us to take a closer look at that betrayal kiss, for there are elements of this act that often escape our notice. I think you will find it disturbingly enlightening.

Kissing is mentioned a number of times in Scripture, about 39 times in the OT (using a couple of different words) and less than half that number in the NT (using three different, but related, words). It was largely, in the biblical writings, "a gesture of affection or homage usually devoid of erotic content" [The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 3, p. 43]. "The expressly erotic aspects of the kiss are mentioned in the OT only in the seductive kiss of the immoral woman in Prov. 7:13 and in the romantic kisses of the lovers in Song of Solomon 1:2; 7:9; 8:1" [ibid, p. 44]. The early church practiced what came to be called the "kiss of peace" (also known as the "kiss of love" in 1 Peter 5:14), and which Paul referred to in his writings as "the holy kiss" with which the saints greeted one another (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26). I dealt with this "holy kiss," as well as a more in-depth study of this mode of expression in the early church, in Reflections #426, which I would urge the reader to examine. The kiss of Judas, however, was a perversion of all that this intimate act customarily conveyed, for it masked a malicious, murderous intent with an outwardly demonstrative display of respect and affection. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) wrote, "A kiss is a token of allegiance and friendship. But Judas, when he broke all the laws of love and duty, profaned this sacred sign to serve his purpose. Note: There are many that betray Christ with a kiss, and a 'Hail, Master;' who, under pretence of doing Him honor, betray and undermine the interests of His kingdom" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword].

Disciples of Christ have for centuries vilified Judas for his betrayal of Jesus, and even more specifically for betraying Him with a kiss. A minister in my own faith-heritage, C.E.W. Dorris (1871-1964), who studied under David Lipscomb and James A. Harding, characterized this kiss of Judas as "the vilest, the most abominable piece of hypocrisy known in history, which the infernal inspirer of treason alone could invent" [A Commentary on the Gospel According to Mark, p. 343]. "That last kiss would be, not the kiss of peace, but the deadly breath of hellish treachery, the cold, wicked kiss of hypocrisy -- the kiss of death. He came; he said, 'Hail, Master!' and he dared to pollute the face of the Lord with his unholy kiss" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, pt. 2, p. 545-546]. It is "the greatest of all hypocrisies: the betrayal of innocence by simulated love" [ibid, p. 568]. "We marvel at the audacity and obduracy of one who could employ this mark of affection and respect to signal an act of the blackest treachery" [ibid, p. 529]. It was "disgusting, revolting hypocrisy" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 1, p. 245] ... It was "diabolically malicious" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 5, p. 259] ... It was "revoltingly ostentatious" [Dr. A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the NT, e-Sword]. In Dr. Gerhard Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the NT this kiss by Judas is condemned "as the shabbiest part of his betrayal" [vol. 9, p. 141]. Indeed, it was "because of this kiss that the early Christian Church discontinued the customary brotherly kiss on Good Friday" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 16: Luke, pt. 2, p. 205].

Judas was in many ways the NT reflection of a similar OT act of subterfuge. During Sheba's revolt (which occurred during the reign of King David), as recorded in 2 Samuel 20, Joab approached Amasa, feigning friendship, "taking Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him" (vs. 9). Amasa, however, did not see the sword Joab was hiding in his other hand, and Joab "struck him in the belly with it and poured out his inward parts on the ground" (vs. 10), thus killing Amasa as he leaned in to kiss him. "Joab's stratagem has been called the 'Old Testament kiss of Judas'" [The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 3, p. 43]. "Judas had a pattern in Joab. ... Let all those who use unmeaning or insidious compliments rank forever with Joab and Judas" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 5, p. 259]. "The kiss of Joab and his hypocritical greeting, 'Art thou in health, my brother?' which accompany his vile act of assassination, are an ancient prototype of the kiss with which Judas delivers up his Master to those who slay Him" [Dr. Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the NT, vol. 9, p. 141].

One might think that the above analysis and commentary pretty much cover the event being examined. However, there are other matters that are quite often overlooked. Dr. Kittel states, "The kiss of Judas is a problem on its own. It formed a difficult problem for early Christianity from the very outset, as is shown by the variations in the Synoptic accounts and its omission from the Fourth Gospel" [ibid, p. 140]. This source points out a problem that not many casual readers of the arrest of Jesus ever notice: the four gospel authors do not agree on the kiss of Judas. Matthew and Mark inform us that Judas kissed Jesus (Matt. 26:49; Mark 14:45). Luke 22:47 informs us that Judas "approached Jesus to kiss Him," but according to the construction of the Greek in that passage "it is an open question whether the kiss is actually given" [Kittel, p. 140]. Some feel the question of Jesus to Judas in the next verse (which question is only recorded by Luke) may have served to stop Judas in his tracks before the kiss was delivered. One online commentary states, "Jesus sees Judas coming and stops him by asking, 'Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?' Thus, the kiss is apparently not delivered at all." Then, in John's gospel account (John 18:1-12) there is no mention made of the kiss at all. In fact, we read that "Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth" and met the soldiers who were coming to arrest Him, "and said to them, 'Whom do you seek?' They answered Him, 'Jesus the Nazarene.' He said to them, 'I am He.' And Judas also who was betraying Him, was standing with them" (vs. 4-5). The Pulpit Commentary notes, "It is remarkable that John does not refer to the traitor's kiss!" [vol. 17, pt. 2, p. 381]. In light of all this, "we cannot historically establish or refute the historicity of Judas's kiss" [Dr. Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 641]. The Skeptic's Annotated Bible even refers to these varying versions of the account as one of the reasons the Scriptures should not be trusted. Most scholars, however, embrace the view that the kiss of Judas did indeed occur, and that the difficulties with the accounts of Luke and John should not be used to "explain away" this treacherous act or to question the inspiration of the Bible.

It is also interesting to point out, and this also is often overlooked by the casual reader, that in John's account, where Jesus identifies Himself twice to the mob by saying, "I am He" (John 18:5, 8), the mob "drew back and fell to the ground" (vs. 6). Why would His words have such a powerful impact upon these people seeking to arrest Him? I believe the answer lies in the fact of what Jesus truly stated to them. What He literally said (and it is stated emphatically in the Greek) is: "I AM." In other words, He applied to Himself the designation used for deity, and this so stunned the crowd that they fell to the ground (perhaps expecting, as one commentator noted, the Lord God to strike Jesus dead on the spot, and they didn't want to get caught in the fiery blast from heaven). This was not the first time Jesus had applied this phrase to Himself; in fact, some scholars count as many as 23 times in the gospel accounts. One of the more dramatic was in John 8:58-59 -- "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.' Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him."

Yet another interesting aspect of this account, and one which is also generally missed by the casual reader of the text (although it is emphasized in a few translations) is that in the accounts of Matthew and Mark (the two gospel records that state the kiss did occur) there is a change in the Greek words for "kiss" that is significant. Both of these inspired writers inform us that when Judas went to the authorities to make a deal with them, he told them he would give them a sign as to who it was they should arrest. That sign would be a "kiss" (Matt. 26:48; Mark 14:44). This is the word "phileo." However, in the very next verse (Matt. 26:49; Mark 14:45), where we are told that Judas came up to Jesus and "kissed" Him, the word changes to "kataphileo," which is an intensified form of the previous word (made emphatic by prefixing to it the preposition "kata"). "The change from phileo to kataphileo in Matthew and Mark can scarcely be without significance, and thus the act of the traitor was almost certainly more demonstrative than the simple kiss of salutation" [The New Strong's Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 1177 -- Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words concurs, p. 296]. The Greek scholar, Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, observes, "The verb 'kissed' is kataphileo, not the simple verb, but with a prefixed preposition which lends intensity to the already existing meaning of the verb. ... It was a fervent kiss the traitor gave our Lord" [Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 1, p. 269].

The verb thus suggests "prolonged, excessive kissing," not just a quick peck on the cheek; "he threw his arms about Jesus and kissed Him not once, as the simplex of the verb denotes, but showered Him with kisses" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel, p. 1048]. Dr. Paul Kretzmann says Judas kissed Jesus "again and again" in a "disgusting, revolting" display [Popular Commentary of the Bible, The NT: vol. 1, p. 245]. "Judas was more than usually demonstrative in his salutation; kataphileo is a strong word = 'kissed Him eagerly and much'" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, pt. 2, p. 529]. "Naturally the change from phileo to kataphileo has attracted attention and given rise to the suggestion there might be some change of meaning. ... kataphileo has a sense of intense emotion. ... The compound in the NT always denotes the intense and ardent kiss" [Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the NT, vol. 9, p. 140]. The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia says, "Judas accosted Christ, kissing Him again and again, increasing his perfidy" [vol. 2, p. 997]. The Expositor's Greek Testament states Judas "kissed Jesus fervently ... heartily" [vol. 1, p. 316]. The Darby Translation of this passage says Judas "covered Him with kisses," while The Amplified Bible states "he kissed Him forcefully" (with a footnote stating it was an "exaggerated kiss"). The word "kataphileo" appears in only three other accounts in the NT: (1) Luke 7:45 -- where the "sinful woman" wet the Lord's feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, anointed them with perfume, and "has not ceased kissing My feet." (2) Luke 15:20 -- the heartfelt embracing and kissing of the prodigal son by the loving father. (3) Acts 20:37 -- the elders from Ephesus who knew they would see Paul no more; "they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him."

One of the things that makes this excessive display even more abominable is that it was done with malicious intent. Dr. A.T. Robertson refers to it as "the most terrible and revolting instance" of Proverbs 27:6 -- "Excessive are the kisses of an enemy" [Word Pictures in the NT, e-Sword]. "The emphatic point of the narrative, however, is that it was a disciple who betrayed Jesus. One's current commitment is no guarantee of one's perseverance, for even disciples can become traitors" [Dr. Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 640]. Jesus warned His disciples that there would be times when "many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another" (Matt. 24:10). One of the Twelve delivered up the Son of God, and he did so with such an ostentatious display of feigned devotion that his godless, traitorous act will be remembered as long as men dwell upon this earth! May this ever be a solemn warning to each of us that we should guard our hearts against the lures and lusts of this world, lest we too, for the "trinkets" of this world, "kiss off" the greatest gift our Father has given us: The gift of His Son! "For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame" (Hebrews 6:4-6).

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Readers' Reflections

From a Deacon in Texas:

Al, I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to be using your article "Letter to a Homosexual Couple: How Would Our Lord Have Us Respond to Those Engaged in an Anti-Biblical Lifestyle?" (Reflections #668) in my Jr. High Bible class this Sunday morning. We are discussing the issue of homosexuality, and I am using this as a good example of how to treat people caught up in a sinful lifestyle.

From a Reader in Texas:

I love reading your weekly Reflections, especially those that deal with legalism, since I was reared in that very toxic environment. Thank you for your fresh approach to Scripture. God created us to be free, not slaves to the laws of men! Hallelujah! Blessings to you and yours!

From a Minister in California:

Just read Reflections #680 ("Ministers With Malevolent Motives"). Again -- an excellent article, so well researched and thought out and written. Love you, brother!

From a Reader in Georgia:

I have really been blessed by reading your Reflections this week ("Ministers With Malevolent Motives"). I've always considered Paul to be the type A entrepreneur: hard-charging, in-your-face kind of guy. Men like this are rarely humble in the flesh (Philp. 3:4-6; 2 Cor. 12:7), yet, as you pointed out in your article, Paul, in Philp. 1:18, refuses to participate in partisan bickering. He just lets it go, and he writes for all to see that he isn't challenged by it at all personally. Wow!! I definitely got the "Max" out of this passage! Actually, I've just been letting God marinate me in this passage this week. Even the first part of it has some great personal and even sound business instruction. It says that those who were aware of Paul's imprisonment and his response to it (experience) were emboldened (conviction) to speak without fear (courage). No one can speak with conviction about something they themselves have not experienced because you don't actually believe it in your heart -- maybe in your head, but not in your heart. Good stuff right there! Love ya, brother. Thanks for being you!!

From Dr. Dallas Burdette in Alabama:
(A dear friend and prolific Christian author; he wrote
the Foreword to my book One Bread, One Body)

Al, I thought I would let you know that I have had three books published this year: (1) The Resurrection of Jesus: Examination of the Gospel Narratives, (2) Christian Apologetics: Defense of the Christian Faith against Atheism, and (3) Analysis of First Timothy: Women's Role in the Church. If you have an opportunity, please go to Amazon to read my brief analysis of each book. The first two books were written for those who do not believe the resurrection of Jesus or the existence of God and His written revelation. Christians will be strengthened in their faith by reading these works. In my analysis of First Timothy, I explain why Paul had to issue the injunction against women in 1 Timothy 2:12. This particular book also explains in great detail about how to interpret God's Holy Word. I hope to complete my commentary on Daniel by the end of the year (about 700 pages). The three books mentioned above are much shorter (80 pages, 150 pages, and 249 pages). Your writings continue to assist God's people in understanding that there are three basic rules to proper interpretation: (1) Context, (2) Context, and (3) Context. If we wish to understand a particular verse in a particular book (First Timothy, for example), we need to read the whole book. The whole book will explain a particular verse that is often wrenched from its context.

From a Reader in Texas:

It seems to me that many in our brotherhood are starting to think differently, and I am happy that we are changing from our traditions that seemed to be set in stone 100 years ago when all the issues were "worked out." The people at my small congregation are also changing, becoming more focused on grace than legalism. I deliver the lesson one Sunday per month and have taught the Wednesday night Bible class for years. I have had some opposition to my teachings through the years as being too "digressive." However, the people there now, including the current preacher, who is rather young, are starting to rethink the traditions of our past. I can't believe how far we have come in my lifetime. As a kid I was taught all of the traditional CENI-derived (Law of Exclusion included) stances. I just turned 66 and feel very optimistic about our future. Of course, we will always have the hard-liners, until they disfellowship us all and give themselves a new name -- maybe "Church of Christ Original."

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