Though salutations are as old as man, nevertheless their peculiar forms express much about the culture within which the greeter lives. The Hebrew greets with the word "Shalom," which is actually a prayer: "May God grant you peace." The Pauline epistles combine the Hebrew greeting with a revised Greek salutation substituting the Christian word "grace" for the Greek word "greetings." Both the Old and the New Testaments agree that when a greeting is extended it is the equivalent of a prayer to God that what it expresses may come into reality in the life of the one saluted. Consequently greetings were withdrawn where they did not find a worthy acceptance (Matthew 10:13), and in the case of false teachers were withheld entirely, for in greeting a false teacher one shared in his wicked work (2 John 10, 11).
The Anabaptists took seriously the matter of salutations. In Strasbourg Bucer complained that Marpeck would discuss matters of religion with him in the council chambers, but withheld a civil greeting from him on the street. Furthermore the Anabaptists were noted by their in-group greeting forms. According to Justus Menius they used the Biblical formula: "The peace of the Lord be with you," with the response, "and with your spirit." In Swabia, Thuringia, and Münster this salutation, or one very similar to it, is attested. Spies at times used this greeting to betray members of the group, e.g., Georg Libich.
That this practice was not a mechanical imitation of Biblical practices is clear from Riedemann's statement: "He who salutes and he who is saluted must both be children of peace, if God is to add His blessing." Sebastian Franck says: "Whoever does not belong to their sect they hardly greet, nor do they offer him the hand," and Schwenckfeld concurs by saying, "Indeed they are allowed to greet their brothers, but not the heathen." Of the Anabaptists of Friesland it was said that they could be recognized by their greeting, "The peace of the Lord be with you!" The response was "Amen," or "May this be true!" with a handshake and a kiss. Or one said, "The peace of God be with you!" and the other replied, "That must be amen." (Vos, Menno Simons, 87.)
In later times Anabaptist-Mennonite practice has been commonly dictated by current cultural practices, although in letters one often finds salutations which are more closely in line with the Biblical salutations. It is a frequent practice in some Mennonite groups to use a formalized opening and closing in letters, which are Christian greetings. At the opening such phrases are used as "Greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus," or "Greetings with [a Scripture verse is quoted]," and at the closing such phrases as "Yours in Christ," or "Yours in His Service." When the kiss is used as a greeting in the Mennonite Church (MC) and related groups, it is accompanied by a handshake and the phrase "God bless you."
Franck, Sebastian. Chronica, Zeitbuch vnnd Geschichtbibell von anbegyn bisz in diss gegenwertig M.D.xxxvi. jar verlengt. Ulm: J. Varnier, 1536: Folio 444 r.
Heyer, Fritz. Der Kirchenbegriff der Schwärmer. Leipzig, 1939: 56 f.
Krebs, Manfred and Hans Georg Rott, eds. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer, VII. Band: Elsaß I: Stadt Strasbourg, 1522-32. Quellen und Forschungen zur Reformationsgeschichte XXVI. Band. Gütersloh, 1959.
Schwenckfeld, Caspar. Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Haertel, 1907-1961: XII, 107.
Vos, Karel. Menno Simons, 1496-1561, zijn leven en werken en zijne reformatorische denkbeelden. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1914: 87.
Cite This Article
Klassen, William. "Salutations." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 20 Apr 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Salutations&oldid=84805.
Klassen, William. (1959). Salutations. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 April 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Salutations&oldid=84805.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 1118-1119. All rights reserved.
©1996-2019 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.