Salutation (from the Lat. salus, health, i.e. a wishing well; in the A.V. "salute" is the rendering of בָּרִך, barak, to bless; שָׁאִל, shaal, to inquire; but more properly of שָׁלוֹ ם, shalom, peace [q.v.]; in the N.T. of ἀσπαζομαι, to embrace), a term which, in the Bible, includes two classes or modes of address. These, however, were of course often continued under various circumstances. SEE COURTESY.
I. Conversation. — The frequent allusion in Scripture to the customary salutations of the Jews invests the subject with a higher degree of interest than it might otherwise claim; and it, is therefore fortunate that there are few scriptural topics which can be better understood by the help of the illustrations derivable from the existing usages of the East.
1. The forms of salutation that prevailed among the Hebrews, so far as can be collected from Scripture, are the following:
(1.) The salutation at meeting consisted, in early times, of various expressions of blessing, such as "God be gracious unto thee" (Ge 43:29); "Blessed be thou of the Lord" (Ru 3:10; 1Sa 15:13); "The Lord be with you," "The Lord bless thee" (Ru 2:4); "The blessing of the Lord be upon you; we bless you in the name of the Lord" (Ps 129:8). Hence the term "bless" received the secondary sense of "salute," and is occasionally so rendered in the A.V. (1Sa 13:10; 1Sa 25:14; 2Ki 4:29; 2Ki 10:15), though not so frequently as it might have been (e.g. Ge 27:23; Ge 47:7,10; 1Ki 8:66). Most of the expressions used in meeting, and also those which were used in parting, implied that the person who employed them interceded for the other. Hence the word בָּרִך, barak, which originally signified "to bless," meant also "to salute" or "to welcome," and "to bid adieu" (Ge 47:8-11; 2Ki 4:29; 2Ki 10:13; 1Ch 18:10).
(2.) The blessing was sometimes accompanied with inquiries as to the health either of the person addressed or his relations. In countries often ravaged, and among people often ruined, by war, "peace" implied every blessing of life; and this phrase had, therefore, the force of "Prosperous be thou." This was the commonest of all salutations (Jg 19:20; Ru 2:4; 1Sa 25:6; 2Sa 20:9; Ps 129:8). Hence the Hebrew term used in these instances (שָׁלֹ ם, shalom) has reference to general well being, and strictly answers to our "welfare, " as given in the text (Ge 43:27; Ex 18:7). It is used, not only in the case of salutation (in which sense it is frequently rendered "to salute, " e.g. Jg 18:15; 1Sa 10:4; 2Ki 10:13), but also in other cases, where it is designed to soothe or to encourage a person (Ge 43:23; Jg 6:23; Jg 19:20; 1Ch 12:18; Da 10:19; comp. 1Sa 20:21, where it is opposed to "hurt;" 2Sa 18:28, "all is well;" and 2Sa 11:7, where it is applied to the progress of the war). The salutation at parting consisted originally of a simple blessing (Ge 24:60; Ge 28:1; Ge 47:10; Jos 22:6); but in later times the term shalom was introduced here also in the form "Go in peace," or, rather, "Farewell" (1Sa 1:17; 1Sa 20:42; 2Sa 15:9). This was current at the time of our Savior's ministry (Mr 5:34; Lu 7:50; Ac 16:36), and is adopted by him in his parting address to his disciples (Joh 14:27). It had even passed into a salutation on meeting, in such forms as "Peace be to this house" (Lu 10:5), "Peace be unto you" (Lu 24:36; Joh 20:19).
The more common salutation, however, at this period was borrowed from the Greeks, their word χαίρειν (to be joyful or in good health) being used both at meeting (Mt 26:49; Mt 28:9; Lu 1:28) and probably also at departure. In modern times, the ordinary mode of address current in the East resembles the Hebrew: Es-selam aleykum, "Peace be on you" (Lane, Mod. Egypt. 2, 7); and the term "salam" has been introduced into our own language to describe the Oriental salutation. Accordingly, we have the exclamation χαῖρε, χαίρετε; Joy to thee! Joy to you! rendered by
Hail! an equivalent of the Latin Ave! Salve! (Mt 27:29; Mt 28:9; Mr 15:18; Lnlke 1:28; Joh 19:3).
A still stronger form of this wish for the health of the person addressed was the expression "Live, my lord" (חוה אדני), as a common salutation among the Phoenicians, and also in use among the Hebrews, but by them only addressed to their kings in the extended form of "Let the king live forever!" (1Ki 1:31), which was also employed in the Babylonian and Persian courts (Da 2:4; Da 3:9; Da 5:10; Da 6:6,21; Ne 2:3). This, which in fact is no more than a wish for a prolonged and prosperous life, has a parallel in the customs of most nations, and does not differ from the "Vivat!" of the Latin, the "Vive le roi!" of the French, or our own "forever!"
2. Use of these Expressions. — The forms of greeting that we have noticed were freely exchanged among persons of different ranks on the occasion of a casual meeting, and this even when they were strangers. Thus Boaz exchanged greeting with his reapers (Ru 2:4), the traveler on the road saluted the worker in the field (Ps 129:8), and members of the same family interchanged greetings on rising in the morning (Pr 27:14). The only restriction appears to have been in regard to religion, the Jew of old, as the Mohammedan of the present day, paying the compliment only to those whom he considered "brethren," i.e. members of the same religious community (Mt 5:47; Lane, Mod. Egypt. 2, 8; Niebuhr, Descript. p. 43). Even the apostle John forbids an interchange of greeting where it implied a wish for the success of a bad cause (2Jo 1:11). In modern times the Orientals are famed for the elaborate formality of their greetings, which occupy a very considerable time; the instances given in the Bible do not bear such a character, and therefore the prohibition addressed to persons engaged in urgent business, "Salute no man by the way" (2Ki 4:29; Lu 10:4), may best be referred to the delay likely to ensue from subsequent conversation. This, perhaps, must not be understood literally, as it would be churlish and offensive. But there is so much insincerity, flattery, and falsehood in the terms of salutation prescribed by custom that our Lord rebuked them by requiring his followers, as far as possible, to avoid them (see Thomson, Land and Book, 1, 533 sq.).
3. Modern Parallels. — As already intimated, the usages involved in these oral salutations seem not only similar to, but identical with, those still existing among the Arabians. These, indeed, as now observed, go upon the authority of religious precepts. But it is known that such enactments of the Koran and its commentaries merely embody such of the previously and immemorially existing usages as the legislature wished to be retained.
(1.) Oral Forms. — Their most common greeting, as among the Jews, is, "Peace be on you!" to this the reply is, "On you be peace!" to which is commonly added, "and the mercy of God and his blessings!" This salutation is never addressed by a Moslem to one whom he knows to be of another religion; and if he find that he has by mistake thus saluted a person not of the same faith, he generally revokes his salutation: so also he sometimes does if a Moslem refuses to return his salutations, usually saying, "Peace be on us and on (all) the right worshippers of God!" This seems to us a striking illustration of Lu 10:5-6; 2Jo 1:11. Various set compliments usually follow this salam; which, when people intend to be polite, are very much extended and occupy considerable time. Hence they are evaded in crowded streets, and by persons in haste, as was the case, for the same reason doubtless, among the Jews (2Ki 4:29; Lu 10:4). Specimens of this conventional intercourse are given by Lane (Mod. Egypt. 1, 253), who says that to give the whole would occupy a dozen of his pages. There are set answers, or a choice of two or three answers, to every question; and it is accounted rude to give any other answer than that which custom prescribes. They are such as those by which the Israelites probably prolonged their intercourse. If one is asked, "How is your health?" he replies, "Praise be to God!" and it is only from the tone of his voice that the inquirer can tell whether he is well or ill. When one greets another with the common inquiry, "Is it well with thee?" (see 2Ki 4:26) the answer is, "God bless thee!" or "God preserve thee!" An acquaintance on meeting another whom he has not seen for several days, or for a longer period, generally says, after the salam, "Thou hast made us desolate by thy absence from us;" and is usually answered, "May God not make us desolate by thy absence!"
(2.) The gestures and inflections used in salutation varied with the dignity and station of the person saluted, as is the case with the Orientals at this day. SEE ATTITUDE. The obeisance with which this is accompanied varies according to the degree of respect designed to be shown to the person addressed, and this rises nearly according to the following scale:
1. Placing the right hand upon the breast;
2. Touching the lips and the forehead or turban (or the forehead and turban only) with the right hand;
3. Doing the same, but slightly inclining the head during the action;
4. The same as the preceding, but inclining the body also;
5. Still the same, with the addition of previously touch, ing the ground with the right hand;
6. Kissing the hand of the person to whom obeisance is paid;
7. Kissing his sleeve;
8. Kissing the skirt of his clothing;
9. Kissing his feet; and
10. Kissing the carpet or ground before him.
Persons distinguished by rank, wealth, or learning are saluted by many of the shopkeepers and passengers as they pass through the streets and market-places of Eastern cities, and are, besides, often greeted with a short ejaculatory prayer for the continuance of their life and happiness. Such were "the salutations and greetings in the market place" of which the scribes were so extravagantly fond (see Mr 12:28). When a very great man rides through the streets, most of the shopmen rise to him and pay their respects to him by inclining the head and touching the lips and forehead or turban with the right hand. It is usual for the person who returns the salutation to place at the same time his right hand upon his breast, or to touch his lips, and then his forehead or turban with the same hand. This latter mode, which is the most respectful, is often performed to a person of superior rank, not only at first with the salam, but also frequently during a conversation. In some cases the body is gently inclined, while the right hand is laid upon the left breast. A person of the lower orders in addressing a superior does not always give the salam, but shows his respect to high rank by bending down his hand to the ground, and then putting it to his lips and forehead. SEE BOWING.
It is a common custom for a man to kiss the hand of his superior instead of his own (generally on the back only, but sometimes on both back and front), and then to put it to his forehead in order to pay more particular respect. Servants thus evince their respect towards their masters. Those residing in the East find their own servants always doing this on such little occasions as arise beyond the usage of their ordinary service; as on receiving a present, or on returning fresh from the public baths. The son also thus kisses the hand of his father, and the wife that of her husband. Very often, however, the superior does not allow this, but only touches the hand extended to take his, whereupon the other puts the hand that has been touched to his own lips and forehead. The custom of kissing the beard is still preserved, and follows the first and preliminary gesture; it usually takes place on meeting after an absence of some duration, and not as an everyday compliment. In this case the person who gives the kiss lays the right hand under the beard, and raises it to his lips, or rather supports it while it receives his kiss. This custom strikingly illustrates 2Sa 20:9. In Arabia Petraea and some other parts it is more usual for persons to lay the right sides of their cheeks together. These acts involved the necessity of dismounting in case a person were riding or driving (Ge 24:64; 1Sa 25:23; 2Ki 5:21). The same custom still prevails in the East (Niebuhr, Descript. p. 39). Among the Persians, persons in saluting often kiss each other on the lips; but if one of the individuals is of high rank, the kiss is given on the cheek instead of the lips. This seems to illustrate 2Sa 20:9; Ge 29:11,13; Ge 33:4; Ge 48:10-12; Ex 4:27; Ex 18:7. SEE KISS.
Another mode of salutation is usual among friends on meeting after a journey. Joining their right hands together, each of them compliments the other upon his safety, and expresses his wishes for his welfare by repeating, alternately, many times the words selamat (meaning, "I congratulate you on your safety") and taiyibin ("I hope you are well"). In commencing this ceremony, which is often continued for nearly a minute before they proceed to make any particular inquiries, they join their hands in the same manner as is usually practiced by us; and at each alternation of the two expressions change the position of the hands. These circumstances further illustrate such passages as 2Ki 4:19; Lu 10:4. SEE HAND.
II. The epistolary salutations in the period subsequent to the Old Test. were framed on the model of the Latin style: the addition of the term "peace" may, however, be regarded as a vestige of the old Hebrew form (2 Macc. 1:1). The writer placed his own name first, and then that of the person whom he saluted; it was only in special cases that this order was reversed (2 Macc. 1:1; 9:19; 1 Esdr. 6:7). A combination of the first and third persons in the terms of the salutation was not unfrequent (Ga 1:1-2; Phm 1:1; 2Pe 1:1). The term used (either expressed or understood) in the introductory salutation was the Greek χαίρειν in an elliptical construction (1 Macc. 10:18; 2 Macc. 9:19; 1 Esdr. 8:9; Ac 23:26); this, however, was more frequently omitted, and the only apostolic passages in which it occurs are Ac 15:23 and Jas 1:1, a coincidence which renders it probable that James composed the letter in the former passage. A form of prayer for spiritual mercies was also used, consisting generally of the terms "grace and peace," but in the three pastoral epistles and in 2 John "grace, mercy, and peace," and in Jude "mercy, peace, and love." The concluding salutation consisted occasionally of a translation of the Latin valete (Ac 15:29; Ac 23:30), but more generally of the term ἀσπάζομαι, "I salute," or the cognate substantive, accompanied by a prayer for peace or grace. Paul, who availed himself of an amanuensis (Ro 16:22), added the salutation with his own hand (1Co 16:21; Col 4:18; 2Th 3:17). The omission of the introductory salutation in the Epistle to the Hebrews is very noticeable. There are Latin monographs on the subject in general by Mayer (Gryph. 1703), Allgower (Ulm, 1728), Schmerschl (Jena, 1739), Heyrenbach (Vien. 1773), and Purmann (Frankf.-on-the-Main, 1749). SEE EPISTLE.