(ssal yoo tay' shuhn) Act of greeting, addressing, blessing, or welcoming by gestures or words; a specific form of words serving as a greeting, especially in the opening and closing of letters.
In the Ancient Near East, a salutation covered a wide range of social practices: exchanging a greeting (“Hail”), asking politely about another's welfare, expressing personal regard, and the speaking of a parting blessing (“Go in Peace”). Physical actions, such as kneeling, kissing, and embracing, were also involved. The salutation functioned to maintain close, personal contact and to foster good relations. Though the practice continued into the first century, Jesus and early Christians transformed the act of saluting. Jesus critiqued the Pharisees for practicing long, protracted deferential salutations (Mark 12:37-40;
Luke 20:45-47; compare
Matthew 23:1-36) and forbade His disciples from practicing such public displays (Luke 10:4). Instead, Jesus endorsed a salutation when it signified the long-awaited presence of messianic “peace” (Hebrew, shalom), that is the “peace” of the kingdom of God (Luke 10:5-13;
Mark 15:18; compare
Luke 2:14,Luke 2:29). Paul, as do other New Testament authors, also transformed the salutation to speak of newness brought on by the cross and resurrection. The typical greeting in Greek letters was the infinitive “to rejoice” (charein). Paul never opened his letters with this greeting; instead, the apostle fused the Greek word for the typical Hebrew blessing, “Peace” (einrene), with the noun form of the Greek blessing, “Grace” (charis), to yield the distinctly Christian salutation: “Grace and Peace” (charis kai eirene). By such a subtle change in the form of Greek letter writing, Paul was able to invoke the range of apostolic blessings found in Jesus: mercy from God (“grace”) and eternal well-being from God's presence (“peace”). See Letter.
Carey C. Newman