Matthew 5:13 #VOTD [Commentary + Memorization Tutorial Video]

Verse of the Day 2.25.18: Matthew 5:13

  1. Text
  2. C4C Translation
  3. Commentary
  4. Memorization

Today, C4C is studying Matthew 5:1-16. After the Beatitudes, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorts His followers to be the figurative salt of the earth — seasoning the land with Christ-like character and conduct (Mt 5:3-12),1 and preserving the world from moral decay.2

Text

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.3

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.4





C4C Translation

You are the salt of the earth. But if salt is made tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to thrown outside and trampled under peoples’ feet

Salt

Though scholars debate which are relevant to this passage, salt (ἅλας | halas) has several possible, metaphorical meanings.5

  1. Purification — Salt was added to Israelite sacrifices and was used to purify a polluted stream. (Ex 30:35, Lev 2:13, 2 Ki 2:19-22; Ezra 6:9, Ezek 43:24)6
  2. Seasoning — Salt was used to add flavor to food. “To eat salt” was a figurative expression for partaking in a meal.7
  3. Preservation — Salt was used as a preservative for meat to prevent spoilage.8
  4. Fertilizer — Salt was used, in small amounts, to fertilize for soil (or the earth).
  5. Covenant — Salt was a sign of the covenant between the LORD and Israel. Because salt lasted so long, it became a metaphor of the long-lasting nature of a covenantal bond (Lev 2:13, Num 18:91, 2 Chron 13:5). 9
  6. Wisdom — Ancient Rabbis often used salt as a metaphor for wisdom (cf. Col 4:6).10
  7. Brightening — Apparently, salt was also used to “brighten the light of lamps.”11

Earth

Earth (γῆ | ) most likely refers to the people of the earth.12

Made Tasteless

Other translations opt for “lose its saltiness” (NIV). Chemically, sodium chloride cannot lose its saltiness. However, the first-century Jews were not working with pure NaCl. The salt near the Dead Sea was mixed with other minerals. Therefore, over time, it was possible that the actual salt could have been washed out, leaving behind a “useless residue.”13

Nonetheless, the verb translated made tasteless (μωραίνω | mōrainō) appears to be a pun.14 The play on words is probably more apparent in Hebrew or even Aramaic, which Jesus spoke (cf. Mk 15:34),15 “where the verb tāpēl can mean both to be tasteless and to be foolish.”17

Commentary

Just as water is wet by nature and light it light by nature, so salt is salty by nature. For “…nature and function are inseparable in both salt and light…” 18 In the same way, followers of Christ, by nature, should exemplify a Christ-like nature (Mt 5:3-12). If we foolishly fail to exhibit a Christ-like nature, we are acting in ways contrary to that nature — like salt losing its saltiness. Thus, we are no longer good for anything. “A foolish disciple has no influence on the world.”19

Renowned New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg sums it up quite nicely:

Believers who fail to arrest corruption become worthless as agents of change and redemption. Christianity may make its peace with the world and avoid persecution, but it is thereby rendered impotent to fulfill its divinely ordained role. It will thus ultimately be rejected even by those with whom it has sought compromise.20

Keeping their Christ-like saltiness, followers of Christ are to endeavor to season society with Christ-like and prevent moral spoilage.

Memorization

Memorize Matthew 5:13 after watching a brief video tutorial demonstrating the How to Memorize Any Bible Verse in Less Than Five Minutes method below:

Sources

  1. J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010), 331.
  2. Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 102.
  3. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Mt 5:13.
  4. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Mt 5:13.
  5. The first five items were ordered in such a way by Chamblin, but several commentators agree on many of these possible uses. J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010). Michael Green, The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 91. R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 117. R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 174. Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 102. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 104. John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005), 212. Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Mt 5:13.
  6. J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010).
  7. J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010)
  8. J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010)
  9. J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010)
  10. R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 117.
  11. John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005), 212.
  12. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 104.
  13. R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 175. “This is not the scientifically impossible notion of salt becoming flavorless but rather the common problem in the ancient world of salt being mixed with various impure substances and therefore becoming worthless as a preservative.” Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 102. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 104.
  14. Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Mt 5:13.
  15. “…This verse therefore belongs to those few where we have the very words of Jesus preserved; for, while he may well have conversed freely in colloquial Greek, yet with his disciples he presumably used Galilean Aramaic…” R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 326.
  16. R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 175. The Greek word means to “make foolish, show to be foolish.”16William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 663.
  17. J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010), 331.
  18. R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 117.
  19. Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 102.
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Imperfect servant striving to be an unapologetically apologetic ambassador for Jesus the Christ. Princeton University Alum | Palmer Theological Seminary Student