Every language employs its own unique greeting. And although they may vary from culture to culture, these expressions remain an integral part of interpersonal communication. This may be why common greetings are the first phrases people attempt to learn when studying a foreign language or visiting a country for the first time. Indeed, greetings and salutations arrange settings for conversations and relationships; a simple acknowledgment boasts the potential to disrupt or enliven the tone and mood.
However, have you ever considered that a greeting can bestow blessing and even healing? This is the case when the Hebrew word shalom שָׁלוֹם is used as a greeting.
In the Hebrew Bible, the word shalom seems to be enigmatic—it expresses a wide range of meanings but, uniquely, all of its meanings are positive, such as “peace, prosperity, success, intactness, welfare, health, and salvation.” It conveys both good in the present and great expectations in the glorious future.
The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, commonly uses the Greek word εἰρήνη (eirēnē lit. “peace, harmony, rest”) for shalom. Likewise, early Rabbinic Writings emphasized the term as a noble greeting and highly elevated its spiritual insight. The phrase shalom aleikhem (“peace unto you”) became a settled phrase that Rabbis used to greet someone they hadn’t seen in a while. Moreover, in Jewish thought, the word could even encompass the name of God (based upon an interpretation of Judges 6:24). Therefore, to greet somebody with shalom was considered imparting God’s name over the one greeted.
This Old Testament custom is also found in the New Testament, as Jesus assigned even more significance to the shalom greeting. In His words, to greet somebody with shalom meant to deliver a blessing to the household. The worthy one would receive it and reply in the same manner (cf. Luke 10:5–6). It is not insignificant that Jesus greeted His disciples with shalom aleikhem after His resurrection (Luke 24:36–37; John 20:26). Paul greeted his readers with shalom in each of his letters in the salutation and the conclusion, similar to John and Jude. Evidently, this was one of the most prominent greetings for the early followers of Jesus.
For some present cultures, greetings may merely communicate words of courtesy and politeness. However, meaningful words like shalom express a voiced wish of goodwill and benediction over the person greeted. Believers are called to be a blessing to people. Let’s consider how we can impart blessings even with our greetings. So, I am finishing by saying, “Shalom to you!”
About the Contributors
Vladimir Pikman is the founding Executive Director of Beit Sar Shalom in Germany. He was also the founding President of the German Messianic Jewish Alliance and is the Vice-President of the International Messianic Jewish Alliance. He also serves Chosen People Global Ministries by coordinating the ministry in Western and Eastern Europe. Mr. Pikman’s desire is to lead people to the Lord, to find and equip new ministers, and to start new messianic ministries worldwide.