salt of the earth

S

salt of the earth

Meaning

  • A person who is considered to be honest, dependable, and trustworthy.
  • Someone who is humble, genuine, and unpretentious.
  • People who form the backbone of society due to their hard work and integrity.
  • Individuals who are essential or invaluable to a community or group.

Example Sentences

  1. Alicia is the salt of the earth, always willing to help without expecting anything in return.
  2. Our firefighters are the salt of the earth, risking their lives every day.
  3. Mark is the salt of the earth; he never seeks recognition.
  4. Teachers are the salt of the earth; they shape young minds.
  5. The Sikh community is the salt of the earth and is always ready to help in times of crisis.

Origin and History

Though the phrase “salt of the earth” holds ancient roots in biblical scripture, it has sparked a lively linguistic debate over its true meaning. Originating from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:13, King James Version):

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?”

The expression “You are the salt of the earth” was a commendation of the everyday people he addressed—fishers, shepherds, and laborers—extolling their worthiness and virtue.

The reference, however, wasn’t to the flavor of salt but to its intrinsic value. In ancient times, salt was highly prized for its role in preserving food, so much so that it was used as a form of currency. Roman soldiers sometimes received their wages in salt, giving rise to the term “salary,” derived from the Latin word “sal,” meaning salt.

Biblical scholars speculate that the phrase “of the earth” could allude to salt’s use in hastening combustion in earthen ovens or to the pure salt extracted from the earth itself, such as the cliffs of Jebel Usdum, in contrast to inferior salt collected from the flats along the Dead Sea.

Furthermore, “of the earth” implies a connection between virtuous individuals and the land, whether literally as farmers or herders or metaphorically as genuine, down-to-earth people. Given that Jesus’ audience is primarily composed of everyday individuals, it’s no wonder that today, “salt of the earth” more commonly refers to ordinary, humble individuals rather than the elite.

The phrase ‘the salt of the earth’ made its English debut in Chaucer’s Summoner’s Tale around 1385, although Chaucer likely drew inspiration from Latin translations of the Bible.

Ye been the salt of the erthe and the savour.

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