Paul's greetings and closings

From: Randy LEEDY (
Date: Wed Sep 23 1998 - 14:56:27 EDT

A student asked me to evaluate a comment of John Piper's (in FUTURE
GRACE) regarding Paul's epistolary greetings and closings. Noting that
the invariable formula is CARIS hUMIN at the beginning and CARIS MEQ'
hUMWN at the end, Piper explains, "The meaning I would suggest is
this: at the beginning of his letters Paul has in mind that the letter
itself is a channel of God's grace to the readers. Grace is about to
flow from God through Paul's writing to the Christians.... But as the
end of the letter approaches, Paul realizes that the reading is almost
finished and the question rises, 'What becomes of the grace that has
been flowing to the readers through the reading of the inspired
letter?' he answers with a blessing at the end of every letter: 'Grace
(be) with you."

My reaction is that his is an over-reading. However true it is that
Paul's letters are a means of grace and that Paul was well aware of
that fact, it seems to me that the difference is simply one of
convention and, further, that Paul has in mind a great variety of
possible manifestations of God's grace in addition to his letter. It
seems natural that at the beginning of the letter (or any sort of
communication, for that matter) he should say something like "I trust
that my letter finds you experiencing God's grace" and that at the end
he should express his hope that this experience will continue. It
seems like a Christian form of the greeting "I hope all is well" and
closing "I hope things will go well," which do not necessarily imply
that the writer is speaking of the effects of his letter at all.

Do secular ancient letters bear me out? I've seen plenty of papyri
that simply say CAIRE or CAIREIN, followed by a prayer wish for
prosperity and health. But these are not exactly parallel to CARIS
hUMIN. Do any secular letters express a wish in the exact form of the
NT grammar, only using terms that cannot signify that writer's hope
regarding the effects of his letter?

Thanks for any help. It's class time; can't proofread; hope I got
things right or reasonably close!

In love to God and neighbor,
Randy Leedy
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC

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