To Jupiter Dolichenus Optimus Maximus
(from) Tiberius Vibius Messinus
(who) releases the vow for salvation freely, as is deserved
...what do the terms “soteria” and “salus” really mean in these inscriptions? Moralee very briefly comments in his introduction that “salvation did not last a lifetime, much less for eternity, for this salvation pertained to specific moments of anxiety, sickness, disorder and dislocation”, and he briefly reiterates this view at later points: “the dedicators desired to be snatched from death, cured of terrible illnesses, the restoration, in short, of the wholeness of the body in the present”.
...these brief and scattered remarks do not strike me as a sufficient examination of what people meant when they asked the gods for “soteria” or “salus”, and why we should regard this request as particularly significant. Moreover, in the absence of any such discussion, the translation of these terms by “salvation” seems to me questionable. The English word “salvation” has strong and specific connotations that are surely to some extent misleading in the context of these inscriptions. Moralee does not explain his choice of translation, which is by no means inevitable: “preservation”, “safety”, and “well-being” are obvious options. I can imagine various advantages to the translation “salvation”: it perhaps was equally appropriate to both the Greek and the Latin words; perhaps its semantic range was wide enough to cover connotations of “soteria” and “salus” in pagan, Christian, and Jewish contexts.
From a review by James B. Rives (York University) of “For Salvation’s Sake” by Jason Moralee.