SALIVA (Hebrew, "roḳ"):
Spittle. To spit in a person's face was regarded as an expression of the utmost contempt for him (Num. xii. 14; Deut. xxv. 9; Isa. 1. 6; Job xxx. 10; Matt. xxvi. 67; Lev. R. ix. 9). It was also a sign of disrespect to spit in front of a person (Josephus, "B. J." ii. 8, § 9; Sifre, Deut. 291; Yeb. 106b, where the Pharisaic interpretation of Deut. xxv. 9 is given); wherefore it is stated (Ber. ix. 5, 62b) that "one should not spit in the Temple precincts." Levitical impurity, however, is not ascribed to the saliva by the Mosaic law as it is in the law of Manu (v. 135), except in the case of one having an impure issue (Lev. xv. 8).
Healing properties, especially in eye-diseases, were ascribed to saliva by the Jews and the early Christians as well as by the Greeks and Romans (Yer. Shab. xiv. 14d; Yer. 'Ab. Zarah ii. 40d; Sanh. 101a; B. B. 126b; Mark vii. 33, viii. 23; John ix. 6; comp. Pliny, "Historia Naturalis," vii. 2; xxviii. 4, 7, 22). The power of curing eye-diseases with saliva was ascribed to the emperor Vespasian (Tacitus, "Historia," iv. 8; Suetonius, "Vespasianis," vii.). Both ancient and modern superstition attributed to spittle the power to ward off malign influences (see Krenkel, "Beiträge zur Aufhellung der Geschichte des Apostels Paulus," 1890, pp. 84-88; Grimm, "Deutsche Mythologie," p. 681).
- Riehm, Biblisches Realwörterbuch, and Winer, B. R. s.v. Speichel.