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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Salutations

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at meeting are not less common in the east than in the countries of Europe, but are generally confined to those of their own nation or religious party. When the Arabs salute each other, it is generally in these terms: Salum aleikum, "Peace be with you;" laying, as they utter the words, the right hand on the heart. The answer is, Aleikum essalum, "With you be peace;" to which aged people are inclined to add, "and the mercy and blessing of God." The Mohammedans of Egypt and Syria never salute a Christian in these terms: they content themselves with saying to them, "Good day to you;" or, "Friend, how do you do?" Niebuhr's statement is confirmed by Mr. Bruce, who says that some Arabs, to whom he gave the salam, or salutation of peace, either made no reply, or expressed their astonishment at his impudence in using such freedom. Thus it appears that the orientals have two kinds of salutations; one for strangers, and the other for their own countrymen, or persons of their own religious profession. The Jews in the days of our Lord seem to have generally observed the same custom; they would not address the usual compliment of, "Peace be with you," to either Heathens or publicans; the publicans of the Jewish nation would use it to their countrymen who were publicans, but not to Heathens, though the more rigid Jews refused to do it either to publicans or Heathens. Our Lord required his disciples to lay aside the moroseness of Jews, and cherish a benevolent disposition toward all around them: "If ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?" They were bound by the same authority to embrace their brethren in Christ with a special affection, yet they were to look upon every man as a brother, to feel a sincere and cordial interest in his welfare, and at meeting to express their benevolence, in language corresponding with the feelings of their hearts. This precept is not inconsistent with the charge which the Prophet Elisha gave to his servant Gehazi, not to salute any man he met, nor return his salutation; for he wished him to make all the haste in his power to restore the child of the Shunamite, who had laid him under so many obligations. The manners of the country rendered Elisha's precautions particularly proper and necessary, as the salutations of the east often take up a long time. For a similar reason our Lord himself commanded his disciples on one occasion to salute no man by the way: it is not to be supposed that he would require his followers to violate or neglect an innocent custom, still less one of his own precepts; he only directed them to make the best use of their time in executing his work. This precaution was rendered necessary by the length of time which their tedious forms of salutation required. They begin their salutations at a considerable distance, by bringing the hand down to the knees, and then carrying it to the stomach. They express their devotedness to a person by holding down the hand, as they do their affection by raising it afterward to the heart. When they come close together, they take each other by the hand in token of friendship. The country people at meeting clap each other's hands very smartly twenty or thirty times together, without saying any thing more than, "How do ye do? I wish you good health." After this first compliment, many other friendly questions about the health of the family, mentioning each of the children distinctly, whose names they know. To avoid this useless waste of time, our Lord commanded them to avoid the customary salutations of those whom they might happen to meet by the way. All the forms of salutation now observed appear to have been in general use in the days of our Lord; for he represents a servant as falling down at the feet of his master, when he had a favour to ask; and an inferior servant, as paying the same compliment to the first, who belonged, it would seem, to a higher class; "The servant, therefore, fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all,"

Matthew 18:26 ; Matthew 18:29 . When Jairus solicited the Saviour to go and heal his daughter, he fell down at his feet: the Apostle Peter, on another occasion, seems to have fallen down at his knees, in the same manner as the modern Arabs fall down at the knees of a superior. The woman who was afflicted with an issue of blood touched the hem of his garment, and the Syro-Phenician woman fell down at his feet. In Persia, the salutation among intimate friends is made by inclining the neck over each other's neck, and then inclining cheek to cheek; which Mr. Morier thinks is most likely the falling upon the neck and kissing, so frequently mentioned in Scripture, Genesis 33:4 ; Genesis 45:14 ; Luke 15:20 .


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Salutations'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/s/salutations.html. 1831-2.

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