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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Salutations are friendly greetings, literary and otherwise, which Christianity took over from the social life of antiquity, but filled with a new content of Divine love and made a symbol of a common brotherhood in Christ. Of literary greetings those in Romans 16:3-15 are the most striking and the most puzzling. Here are twenty-five persons and four house-societies, each apparently well known to St. Paul, and characterized by him with a particularity as brief as it is discriminating. This by one who had never been in Rome is quite impossible, it is said. Jülicher says: ‘One must presuppose a kind of popular emigration from the Pauline congregations in the East to Rome, in order to find so many friends of the apostle in Rome.’ [Note: Einleitung in das NT7, Tübingen, 1906, p. 95, Eng. tr., An Introduction to the NT, London, 1904, p. 109 f.] But there was a constant movement to Rome from all over the Empire, as well as a returning tide, and the Apostle with his rare knowledge of societies in Asia and Europe could easily have a score of personal friends in the capital, as well as an intimate knowledge of the Church there. David Schulz sought the solution in Ephesus, to which Church these words were directed. [Note: SK, 1829, p. 609 f.] Spitta claims that the Epistle to Rome is really two Epistles, the second being written from Spain later, after St. Paul knew the Romans from residence. [Note: Untersuchungen über den Brief des Paulus an die Römer (= Zur Geschichte und Litteratur des Urchristentums, vol. iii. pt. i.), Göttingen, 1901, esp. pp. 76, 82-91.] But this presupposes a second imprisonment-a point in dispute-and it is not wise to assume it unless necessary. The Acta Pauli (ed. C. Schmidt, Heidelberg, 1905) connects the death of St. Paul with the imprisonment of which we know. But in every city in which St. Paul worked there were Jews and Christians personally known to him who were now in Rome; cf. Juv. Sat. iii. 62 ff., and Strabo, xiv. p. 675 (ed. Amsterdam, 1707, p. 993), where he speaks of the city ‘full of Tarseans and Alexandrians.’

K. Erbes, in a suggestive article, thinks that, as St. Paul’s journey to Rome was well known in the city, many disciples met him at Forum Appii or Tres Tabernae, and gave him full particulars concerning the Roman congregation. Even before, brethren in Rome in deep sympathy had written to him, so that he was familiar with disciples there. In the Peter-Paul Acts (ed. R. A. Lipsius, Leipzig, 1891, p. 180 f.), it is said that St. Paul received in Malta a friendly letter from Rome by two messengers, and this occurs in the oldest part of these Acts. The greetings in Romans 16 may be a historical reminder of this letter. Christians also may have gone ahead to Rome from St. Paul’s various Churches to help and plead for him. How much Christians did in this way for lesser men we know from Lucian, de Morte Peregrini, 13, and Ignatius, ad Smyrn. 10, and Erbes gives interesting parallels between the Epistles of Ignatius and St. Paul. The Greek names in these greetings-there are also Latin-confirm what we know from other sources, that most of the members in Rome were Greek. In the Bulletino dell’ Instituto di Corrispondenza archeologica, Rome, 1881, p. 131 ff., H. Dessau gives eighty-one names in families in Ostia in which NT ones often recur. It can easily be proved by inscriptions in the time of Claudius and Nero that all the names in Romans 16 were Roman names. Erhes thinks that these were actual salutations sent to Rome by the Apostle, occasioned perhaps by these embassies and letters; and that this beautiful message covering with renown these humble and faithful workers might not be lost, they inserted it in the most appropriate place in the Epistle to the Romans. [Note: ‘Zeit und Ziele der Grüsse Rom. xvi. 3-15,’ in ZNTW x. [1909] 128-147.]

The religious interest, however, so predominates in the NT that salutations like those in Romans 16 are rare. They are swallowed up in the ever-recurring prayer (in which, perhaps, greeting also is not wanting) that the grace of God or of Christ may be with the Christians. And the community or brotherhood seems to supersede the personal element. ‘The churches of Asia salute you’ (1 Corinthians 16:19); ‘All the brethren salute you’ (1 Corinthians 16:20). If Aquila and Prisca salute, ‘the church that is in their house,’ the society usually meeting in their triclinium or dining-room is immediately brought in (1 Corinthians 16:19). Again, ‘All the saints salute you’ (2 Corinthians 13:13), where the word ‘saints’ is to be interpreted as equivalent-without losing its religious significance-to our word ‘members.’ This universality of Christian interest, or inclusiveness of brotherhood, appears often: ‘Salute every saint in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:21); ‘The brethren which are with me salute you’ (Philippians 4:21), where all the Christians who were wont to assemble in prison or in his hired rooms (Acts 28:30) to console St. Paul, or were actually present when he dictated this letter, join in his salutation; ‘All the saints salute you, especially they that are of Caesar’s household’ (Philippians 4:22), where we are reminded of what recent research in inscriptions has shown, not to speak of the literary evidence-that converts, and some of them of high rank, were in the Imperial Court, besides many in the city of the highest circles. [Note: See A. Harnack, The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries, Eng. tr.2, 2 vols., London, 1908, Index, s.v. ‘Rome.’] Sometimes St. Paul is so anxious to bring home to the societies his loving greetings that he takes the pen from the amanuensis and adds these in his own hand (1 Corinthians 16:21, Colossians 4:16). In the form ‘All that are with me salute thee’ (Titus 3:15) there is nothing unusual, as the same appears in the papyri. [Note: A. Robinson, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, London, 1903, p. 280.] The Christian note, of course, is peculiar: ‘Salute them that love us in faith’ (ib.). In the midst of other associations, in and for Christian society alone St. Paul lived and worked. On account of a danger of a false Judaizing, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews brings in the Christian leaders in a unique way. The democracy of Christianity is seen both in the inscriptions or opening words of the Epistles and in the greetings at the close, where mention of ministers or officers is generally absent, in a way impossible after a.d. 80 or later. But in Hebrews we have: ‘Salute all them that have the rule over you [better, ‘all your leaders,’ ἡγουμένους], and all the saints’ (Hebrews 13:24). The author is determined, as in desperation over theological and other (Hebrews 13:4) dangers (cf. the Epistles of Ignatius), to refer the believers again (see Hebrews 13:7) to their guides and other helpers, of whose correctness he is convinced. Even their salutations must first be given to them. The personal touch is in 2 John 1:12 and more remotely in 3 John 1:14. James, 2 Peter, 1 John, and Jude omit greetings at the end.

Of greetings in practice, the kiss, well known in Oriental lands, is urged five times, besides being mentioned in Acts 20:37 -‘Salute one another with a holy kiss’ (1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, Romans 16:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:26 [‘all the brethren’], and 1 Peter 5:14 [‘Salute one another with a kiss of love’]). The thought at the back of it in ancient folklore was the communion of soul with soul, or the forming of a covenant, for the soul flows out of the nose or mouth. This significance held long in magic. When the sorcerer attempts to awaken the dead by a kiss, he will pour his own soul into him (cf. 2 Kings 4:34), as Jahweh makes man a living soul by breathing (Genesis 2:7). [Note: Gressmann, in RGG iii. [Tübingen, 1911] 1908.] In ancient Rome the kiss was a sign of family relationship, so that there developed a formal law of the kiss (ius osculi) between relatives, going as far as those between whom marriage was forbidden. It was also a sign of peace or agreement. The salutation by the kiss was taken over under Christianity as a matter of course, but, like everything else, purified and sanctified. References in the NT presuppose an assembly for worship, where the Epistles are read, the kiss being not yet perhaps a formal part of the service, but a general practice on the ground of brotherly love in religious communion. Whether in NT times the kiss was promiscuous between the sexes cannot be answered certainly, though it is risky to argue from later custom that it was. [Note: As do E. Venables in DCA ii. 902 f., F. Cabrol in Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne, Paris, 1903 ff., ii. 117 f., and A. E. Crawley in ERE vii. 740 f.] The separation of the sexes in the assemblies, the strict subordination of women amounting to a depreciation on the part of St. Paul (1 Timothy 2:9-15), and general customs among both Jews and Greeks, make it exceedingly unlikely that the kiss was given promiscuously. If so, it was, as Cabrol says, a sign of the purity of morals among Christians. But later, in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, with the growth of larger freedom and self-confidence, the kiss became more general. It has been argued, though on slight grounds, that it was a custom in the Jewish synagogues. [Note: C. Conybeare, in Exp, 4th ser., ix. [1894] 460-462.]

R. Seeberg thinks, from the ancient custom of the kiss in the Lord’s Supper service, and from the passages on the kiss in the Epistles, that the Epistles especially (not so much the Gospels) were read in the evening service, to which in the early Church the Supper was limited, and that the kiss as a part of the worship took place after that reading. ‘So the writer of the Epistles reckons that his Epistle will be read in that evening service, in which worship and sociability flow together, so that he tries to prepare hearts for the reception of the Lord, whom they await in the Supper.’ Besides, in 1 Corinthians 16:22, after the kiss of 1 Corinthians 16:20 comes the Marana tha (‘The Lord is coming’ [not, Maran atha, ‘The Lord has come’]) and the benediction, and we know from the Didache that the Marana tha was an element of the oldest liturgy of the Supper; consequently St. Paul in this passage connects an exhortation to the kiss with the Supper liturgy. He therefore expects that his Epistle will be read immediately before the Supper. The Lord’s Supper kiss at the end of different NT Epistles proves that these Epistles are intended to be read in the evening public worship. [Note: ‘Kuss and Kanon’ in Aus Religion und Geschichte, i. [Leipzig, 1906] 118-122.] This is an ingenious and suggestive interpretation. Unfortunately, we have not sufficient light to estimate it.

As we go into the post-Apostolic Age, we find the kiss a secure part of public worship. ‘When we have ceased from prayer, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the presiding brother bread and a cup of wine’ (Justin Martyr, Apol. i. 65). Athenagoras quotes an extra-canonical Scripture warning against an abuse of the kiss, saying that ‘the kiss, or rather the salutation, should be given with the greatest care; since, if there be mixed with it the least defilement of thought, it excludes us from eternal life’ (Legat. 32). Clement of Alexandria also recognizes abuses which crept in, and refers to the resounding kisses in church which made suspicions and evil reports among the heathen, and claims that the kiss must be ‘mystic’ (Paed. iii. 11). Tertullian presupposes omission of the kiss when fasting, but declaims against the omission (except on Good Friday), believing that the kiss of brotherhood is a part of every true prayer (de Orat. 18). On the other hand, he refers to the embarrassment the custom causes in the case of an unbelieving husband who is unwilling for his wife ‘to meet any one of the brethren to exchange a kiss’ (ad Uxor. ii. 4). Origen refers the custom of the kiss after prayer to Romans 16:16 and other Scripture, and says that the kiss must be holy, chaste, and sincere, an expression of peace and simplicity (ad Rom. x. 33 [Migne, PG xiv. 1283]). The Apostolic Constitutions (viii. 11) insisted on order in this part of the service; the clergy to kiss the bishop, the laity the men, the women the women, going back in this last particular to the probable use of the Apostolic Church.

Literature.-Besides the books mentioned in the footnotes see J. E. Frame, International Critical Commentary , ‘Thessalonians,’ Edinburgh, 1912, p. 216; A. Robertson and A. Plummer, ib. ‘1 Corinthians,’ do., 1911, p. 399; G. Wohlenberg, Der erste und zweite Thessalonicherbrief, Leipzig, 1903, p. 122; K. Leimbach, in Zeitschrift für die hist. Theol. xli. [Gotha, 1871] 430-435; V. Schultze, article ‘Friedenskuss’ in PRE [Note: RE Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche.] 3 vi. 274 f.; C. Krieg, in F. X. Kraus, Realencyklopädie der christlichen Altertümer, 2 vols., Freiburg i. B., 1881-85, i. 542-544, where older literature is given, and where reference to ZWT [Note: WT Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Theologie.] should be vol. xx. (not vol. xl.) p. 108; T. K. Cheyne, in Encyclopaedia Biblica , s.v. ‘Salutations.’

J. Alfred Faulkner.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Salutations'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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