Common table salt is sodium chloride (NaCl), a crystallized solid at room temperature that easily dissolves in water. All life is dependent on salt, which contributes two of the major electrolytes in cells. However, salt can be lethal if levels aren’t carefully balanced. In fact, armies used to scatter salt on enemy fields to render the land infertile. Salt was also the most common ancient seasoning, being one of the five basic human tastes. Before refriger­a­tion, it was the primary means of preserving meat for consumption later. Salt production typically occurred at the seaside, particularly at the Dead Sea, by evaporating seawater in saltpans. Throughout human history, salt has always been a valuable commodity. The English word “salary” comes from the Latin word salarium, which was money paid to Roman soldiers to purchase salt.

Conversely, Mark uses the Greek word analos as the opposite of salty, translating literally to “without salt” or “saltless.” Matthew and Luke, however, use moraino, meaning “bland” or “tasteless.” Moraino could also mean “foolish,” as Paul quotes later in the New Testa­ment: “Professing to be wise, they became foolish (moraino).” (Romans 1:22)