Biblical Archaeology Review 37:2, March/April 2011

Strata: The Bible in the News: Exactly Who Are the Salt of the Earth?

By Leonard J. Greenspoon

When, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of his audience as “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13), he was obviously paying them a high compliment. Salt preserves; it also adds taste and flavor. Even today, being called “the salt of the earth” is frequently a good thing—but not always.

Let’s start by accentuating the positive: “I don’t mean to name drop,” confides a columnist for The Irish Sun, “but I have interviewed Angelina Jolie three times now.” The reporter’s verdict, as displayed in the feature’s title: “Angelina Is Salt of the Earth.” Elsewhere in the starry heights, Clint Eastwood’s character in the movie Gran Torino, Walt Kowalski, is favorably described by The Australian as “a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy.”

Several notches down (or, for some, a number of notches up) is the world of sports. A reporter for Montreal’s Gazette is emphatic in his praise for one of Team Canada’s players in the 2010 Winter Olympics: Brenden Morrow is a “salt-of-the-earth person, salt-of-the-earth player … [He] embodies nearly all the characteristics Canadians so admire in hockey players: bravery, unselfishness, resilience, toughness and honesty.” Come to think of it, those are traits that we all admire, and not only in hockey players.

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