1 Peter 5:13
She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son.
Truth to Learn
A greeting may come in many forms. The early church used a hug.
Behind the Words
The word translated “elect together with” is suneklektē, which is a feminine noun. It is made up of sun, meaning “together” and a feminine form of eklektos, meaning “selected one” or “chosen one.” The case of this noun indicates that it is the subject of the sentence.
“Greets” is from the Greek word aspadzomai, which is made up of the particle a, implying “union” and a presumed form of spaō, meaning “to draw” or “to pull.” Hence, it literally means “to pull into an embrace.” This “hug” was used as a common salutation either in greeting or bidding farewell to guests.
Today’s verse is one of those that looks innocuous enough but which has been discussed and argued over almost since the day it was written. None of these issues concern any particular doctrinal view, so they become nothing but a tempest in a teapot. Nonetheless, here’s some of the discussion.
The verse literally reads (with the word order of the original Greek): “greets you the in Babylon together-elect one and Mark the son my.”
The first thing you will notice is that there is no mention of “the church” at all in the original (some translations say “the church in Babylon …”). Hence, we get, “The together-elect one in Babylon greets you.” Some have argued that Peter is referring to his own wife who is one of the elect, as are the people to whom Peter is writing this letter. Others, however, argue that it makes no sense for Peter to single out a particular woman and, since “church” is a feminine noun in Greek, he must be referring to the church which is in Babylon. We leave it to you to decide for yourself. Either way, she offers you a greeting in the form of a warm embrace.
The second point of contention is whether Peter is referring to the literal Babylon on the Euphrates River (in modern day Iraq) or whether he is using this as a code word for Rome itself. There was a fairly large population of converted Jews in Babylon at that time and Peter, as the apostle to the Jews, could certainly have been there. Given that there is no obvious reason that he would have been trying to conceal his presence in Rome from other Christians (if he were there), it doesn’t make a lot of sense for him to use a code word. The vast majority of Biblical scholars believe that Peter was actually writing from Babylon on the Euphrates.
The final discussion point in this verse is over who Peter is referring to as “Mark my son.” Most scholars are in agreement that this is John Mark, the author of the second Gospel. It is believed that Mark wrote his Gospel account based on what was told to him by Peter. He is referred to as a son, perhaps because Peter had a significant part in Mark’s conversion.
Regardless of what you believe about the contentious portions of this verse, it is clear that the early church considered hugging a proper way to greet and to say good-by? Hugs to you!
In God’s service, for His glory,
Copyright © 2009 Will Krause. All rights reserved.
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