During the last two weeks, while was at Camp Dodge, IA, for Annual Training, I had the opportunity to attend several sessions of Bible Study hosted by a Baptist chaplain (always a bad idea for me, but what else was there?). I can’t say that I personally grew as a result of the sessions, but I did get some other people to think a little bit.
At one point, after we discussed the Beatitudes, we talked about how the Christ (and boy did “the Christ” raise a few eyebrows) generally avoided healing lots of people; instead focusing his time on His disciples. The chaplain agreed with the general consensus, that he didn’t know why the Christ wouldn’t heal as many people as possible (it was “a mystery”). I proposed the following:
The Christ is both fully human and fully Divine. Consider yourself in His position–you know that in order to fulfill your destiny and save the human race, you must soon face a final temptation between rulership of the Earth, and death. Would it be easier to face that temptation have spent weeks discussing spiritual truths with you disciples and preparing them for stewardship, or having spent weeks being adored as the Son of God by grateful crowds?
Also, we discussed the disciples as the “salt of the Earth.” The other students actually pulled references out of their Bibles that talked about salt as “tasting good” and “useful for melting ice.” (sigh)
Let’s put aside for a moment the idea that “melting ice” was really a big problem in first century Judea: Salt was incredibly valuable. Wages were often paid in salt–that’s where the expression “worth his salt” comes from. Back then, you could grow your own produce, you could raise your own livestock… but salt had to be mined. And unlike precious metals and gemstones, salt was necessary to live.
Today, we can create sodium chloride artificially; we even get too much of it in our diet. Back then, diseases of salt-deficiency were quite common, and even deadly.
As for salt “losing its saltiness” and being “trampled underfoot,” I actually had to point out that “saltiness” is a chemical property of sodium chloride and cannot be lost; the Christ was speaking hypothetically. However, if salt did lose its saltiness, it would just be a rock (not the fine granules we see in the supermarket. It would be trash, and the Jews would treat it like middle-easterners have always treated trash: throw it out the window. It will either rot away, be blown into the desert, or be trampled underfoot (in the case of a rock) until it disappears into the roadway.
Of course, I really raised eyebrows when they started talking about the infallibility of the Bible. Sorry, I don’t worship the Bible, and I don’t need it to be infallible. The group asked me for an example of a contradiction in the Bible: I pointed out that the Christ is not only given two different genealogies, but that they are both patrilineal genealogies. Oh, the aneurisms and logical contortions that ensued. We finally “agreed to disagree.” Ahem.