This contains a discussion of Christian Exegesis, or biblical interpretation. There is
some science stuff as well and a comparison of the two.
But if that kind of religious debate is not your cup of
tea, you might want to skip this post. We'll wait for
you to move on.........
Ye are the salt of the earth:
but if the salt have
lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is
thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be
trodden under foot of men. Matthew 5:13 King James
From a purely chemical reasoning, I really don't see how it
could "lose flavor". . The flavor comes from the ionic bond
breaking when it goes into solution, as in when it dissolves
in the saliva in your mouth. IF there is physical salt, then
those bonds are present. If the bonds are present, then they
will break in solution. If they break in solution, there will
be flavor. Therefore, they must be talking about something
else. I think what has happened here is that a copy error
occurred in later editions, and someone changed "savour" to
I have also read this (in Mark) as "has lost its
saltiness". Comparing the two, that would indicate the
meaning as "that which makes it salt". If salt isn't salt,
then it is simply dust, and should be put where the rest of
the dust is...... In the street to be trod upon, because that
is what makes dust.
But I will tell you that the intensity of flavor does
change with the salt composition. PCl,
commonly known as "lite Salt", used primarily by people on a
low sodium diet, is less "salty" tasting than NaCl. On the other hand, most places are
going to have only one kind of salt. The P- Cl+ doesn't form
when the stronger bonding Na- is present. The Na is stingy,
and takes the Cl+ all for itself. Why? Don't know, not a
chemist. But those two salts are not found together in
The other concept that you might consider is that the Bible
was discussing the preservative nature of salt. If salt has
lost its ability to save (savour), then what will preserve the
salt? Salt was THE preservative method, and salt mined from
the earth (like in Salzburg,
Austria, or in Wiesliczka,Poland,
or in Krewka, Pakistan) has
been in existence since the beginning of the world. So if you
want to save something, wrap it in salt. If your salt doesn't
save your stuff, then throw it away as worthless.
Now, as to my interest in the passage..... Salt comes in
a rocks, or in gravel if you have a lot of it. larger towns
pave their streets to stave off the mud. Spreading gravel is
the equivalent of paving. If you have a large salt mine to
hand (like you know, the Dead Sea, maybe), it is easier to
mine the salt than it is the limestone, and break it into
gravel. This is very dirty salt, pretty much the equivalent of
our road salt, and definitely not fit for eating, or
preserving food FOR eating. For that purpose it has to be
washed and refined several times. That refining is what makes
salt so expensive. This raw stuff is literally dirt cheap.
Road engineers will use whatever gravel is closest and
easiest to access. Sand stone, limestone, granite, broken
reef, coal cinders, what ever they can get cheaply.
Why would Jesus have used this visual if the common culture
was not familiar with the image?
From an engineering perspective, this has some really
interesting characteristics. Rain does not percolate down
through the soil like it does here. It evaporates back UP out
of the soil in that region. So the cycle would be.... Salt
the road, rain falls and dissolves the salt, enters the earth
to a depth of no more than 18", then evaporates leaving the
salt behind. The Salt then hardens the soil, creating a hard
surface that is more impervious to rainfall than the
surrounding ground. IOW, it
creates a hard pack road NATURALLY!!!!! in *my* book,
that's pure f*****g GENIUS!
Cultural support for this theory comes from a practice
distinct to the region. EVERYbody
goes barefoot everywhere around the world. Indians, American
Indians, Polynesians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Mayan.
Everybody. But the ONLY place that has a ritual foot washing
with oil is the Holy Land.
Normal dust does not dry out the feet severely. Salt dust
will cripple the feet in less than a week because it will dry
the skin and make serious bleeding cracks. The only way to
correct that is to wash the salt dust off, and rub oil into
the skin. And this practice is documented not once, but
several times in the gospels. Mary does it to Jesus. Jesus
does it to the disciples, widows to saints.
At least, that is MY take on it.