Posts Tagged ‘salt’

Salt, an exercise


Matt 5.13 Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τ λας τῆς γῆς: ἐὰν δ τ λας μωρανθ, ν τνι λισθσεται; εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι εἰ μὴ βληθὲν ἔξω καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt has lost its flavor, however will it be “salted”?  It’s become good for nothing, except to be tossed outside beneath (the feet) of men.

Compare with

Luke 14.34Καλὸν οὖν τ λας: ἐὰν δ καὶ τ λας μωρανθ, ν τνι ρτυθσεται; 35οὔτε εἰς γῆν οὔτε εἰς κοπρίαν εὔθετόν ἐστιν: ἔξω βάλλουσιν αὐτό. ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω.

And so salt is good! But if the salt has lost its flavor, however will it “be salted”? neither for the earth nor for manure is it useful. They throw it outside. He who has ears to hear let him hear.


Mark 9.49πᾶς γὰρ πυρὶ λισθσεται. 50Καλὸν τ λας: ἐὰν δ τ λας ἄναλον γένηται, ν τνι αὐτὸ ἀρτύσετε; ἔχετε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ἅλα, καὶ εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἀλλήλοις.

For everyone will “be salted” with fire.  Salt (is) good. but if it has become un-salty, however will you season it? Have in yourselves salt, and make peace among each other.

and finally, from Saint Paul

Colossians 4.6 ὁ λόγος ὑμῶν πάντοτε ἐν χάριτι, ἅλατι ρτυμνος, εἰδέναι πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ ἀποκρίνεσθαι.

(May) the talk among you all always (be) in grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know who to respond to everyone.


The noun salt, λς, doesn’t get too much press in the New Testament; in only these four passages does salt appear.  In Mark, the model which Matthew and Luke theoretically use, salt is very good (!), but not before stating that everyone will be “salted” with fire.

λισθσεται : ἁλίζω is a verb based on the noun ἅλς, salt, so to salt, to season with salt. ἁλισθήσεται is a particularly delicious form, present in all three witnesses [a future, passive, 3rd, singular form]. It is likely Matthew and Luke borrowed the form from Mark, but perhaps not the concept entire. It is very likely the form references Leviticus (LXX) 2.13:

καὶ πᾶν δῶρον θυσίας ὑμῶν ἁλὶ λισθήσεται οὐ διαπαύσετε ἅλα διαθήκης κυρίου ἀπὸ θυσιασμάτων ὑμῶν ἐπὶ παντὸς δώρου ὑμῶν προσοίσετε κυρίῳ τῷ θεῷ ὑμῶν ἅλας,

Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings [NIV].

Same form, future, passive, etc.

Now Paul (or Paul’s crew, as we are not positive who wrote this epistle to the Church in Colossae) was writing arguably before any of these Gospels, but Colossians may be a bit more contemporary with the writing of Mark and subsequent gospels.

But I’m still concerned with Mark’s expression, πυρὶ ἁλισθήσεται, seasoned (literally, “salted”) with fire,” and how this expression didn’t carry on into either Matthew or Luke. And so the issue is not so much salt, though it is the salting verb, but fire.

πῦρ, where we get our English pyro– words, which brings back up the sacrificial vocabulary found through out the Old Testament. And salt was indeed included as a part of the rites of the sacrifice, as we say in the Leviticus passage.


Has Mark inverted the formula? Instead salting something on fire or having been sacrificed, as in Leviticus, will the salted (“You are salt…”, “talk… seasoned with salt”) be visited with fire?

And, if this is the case, have Matthew and Luke softened the Jesus’ (apocalyptic?) tone by leaving out the expression?

Finally, was this salt and seasoned vocabulary a Markan invention, playing off the Old Testament sacrifice motif, that Matthew and Luke recognized? Was Paul likening our conversations among each other as a part of our sacrifice to God? Was salt a preached theme hovering around the churches of the early Jesus movement? Was salt a theme we’d like to send back to Jesus’ ministry itself?


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