‘Peace Be With You’ by Myra Kahn Adams for Town Hall
Author’s Note: Readers can find all previous volumes of this series here. The first 56 volumes are compiled into the book “Bible Study For Those Who Don’t Read The Bible.” Part Two with volumes 57-113 will be published later this year.
Thanks for joining today’s study about “Peace be with you.” But before we examine Scripture, let’s review the history of prominent peace symbols.
We begin with the circular symbol representing the mid-1960s and 70’s protest culture — most notably against the Vietnam war. This now-iconic symbol first appeared in Great Britain during an anti-nuclear war march in 1958. Interestingly, its British graphic designer Gerald Holton said he “toyed with the idea of using the Christian cross as the dominant motif.”
Next is the two-finger “V” sign synonymous with “peace” and humorously coupled with the hippie greeting, “peace, man.” The sign, also originating in Great Britain, signaled “V” for “victory” during the Second World War — made famous by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Then, decades later, the “V” morphed into peace.
I speculate that Churchill could have been inspired by centuries-old Christian art depicting Jesus holding up two fingers.
Circling back to the Bible, “Peace be with you,” often associated with Jesus, appears 32 times, with seven references in the Old Testament and 25 in the New. Continuing the tradition, today in Israel, “Peace be upon you” —“shalom aleichem” in Hebrew — is a standard greeting meaning “hello and goodbye.”
The phrase appears for the first time in Genesis, the Hebrew Bible’s first book, during the story of Joseph and his brothers:
“But he [Joseph’s steward] said, ‘Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them” (Genesis 43:23).
The phrase is found next in the book of Judges when the Lord spoke to Gideon: