Biblical Archaeology Review 40:1, January/February 2014

Strata: The Bible in the News: Take It with a Grain of Salt

By Leonard J. Greenspoon

Recently, we (more precisely, my wife) purchased some Ezekiel bread, which we (more precisely, I) have enjoyed eating. The same company now makes products based on Genesis 1:29 (“I give you every seed-bearing plant … for food”). Although my initial impulse—to use these items as the basis for a column—has not panned out, the process has made me hungry for nourishment, both physical and spiritual. Although I use salt only sparingly, it is a necessary component of many foods. As such it appears frequently in the Bible, where it is also the name of what we today call the Dead Sea (the Salt Sea), a component in certain sacrificial offerings and a sign of a vibrant land gone bad.

Of all Biblical uses, I was sure that Lot’s wife (a pillar of salt) and Jesus’ “you are the salt of the earth” (part of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount) would garner the widest coverage in the modern popular press.

There is some debate among Biblical scholars as to the precise meaning when Jesus used the words “you are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Largely ignoring such nuances, writers in the popular press use the expression “salt of the earth” as virtually synonymous with another terrestrial image, “down to earth.”

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