An atheist recently attacked the credibility of the Bible by quoting Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its savor, how shall it be seasoned? It is good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden underfoot.” The atheist complained that Jesus was incredibly ignorant because salt can’t lose its “savor” no matter what happens to it. Reading the whole verse and understanding something about salt makes this attack an excellent example of ignorance about science and faith.
Today we get salt from well over 90% pure salt deposits. Halite (sodium chloride) is the mineral name, and the city of Detroit, for example, is built over a salt deposit that is, in fact, some 99% pure halite. That is true in many other places, but not in the Dead Sea, where the salt came from in Jesus’ time. Dead Sea salt is a mixture of the minerals halite (table salt), gypsum (calcium sulfate used in drywall), and other minerals. The halite part of Dead Sea salt was used for seasoning food or preserving meat, but the gypsum was used for footpaths. This is what Jesus referred to when He said, “the salt has lost its savor,” and His listeners would have understood that.
The lesson here is that you can’t read the Bible in 2022 and understand what was written some 2000 years ago unless you investigate what life was like back then. It is essential to understand that the biblical account is not about Americans living in modern times. People have not changed spiritually, but society and customs have made enormous changes. Add to that the fact that the original biblical manuscripts were not written in English, and Bible translators may not understand the culture in which they were written. Even languages have changed over the years, which is a problem with the King James translation.
For non-scholars, it is essential to be critical of Bible critics and Bible translations. Was the version you use translated by people who knew the culture and conditions while avoiding their own biases? God has provided us with tools through honest scholars that help us find answers to complex Bible issues. Nevertheless, we still need to apply the principle, “Study to show yourselves workmen who do not need to be ashamed rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
— John N. Clayton © 2022