He Ate Salt With Them


Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances are summarised at the beginning of the first chapter of the book of Acts. There are some very interesting aspects to this summary and there are some which are hidden in most English translations of the Greek text.

“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 1:3-5 NIV)

The first thing to note that there were three proofs that Jesus gave to His disciples, to confirm His resurrection ;

  • He appeared to them
  • He taught them
  • He ate with them

The first two are logical and expected, however the third is somewhat surprising.

Why was it necessary for Jesus to eat with His disciples in order to prove His resurrection?

We know from other passages that eating food was a means of proving physical reality, that what they were seeing was not an incorporeal spirit but a real physical person. By eating with the disciples Jesus reassured them that He was not a ghost but a real living person.

However the specific vocabulary used by Luke gives us a deeper insight into what Jesus was doing.

The word translated “eating with them” is the Greek word συναλιζομενος (synalizomenos) which means literally “eating salt with them”.

Why does Luke choose this word to describe Jesus’ eating with the disciples?

There are some clues in texts in the Old Testament which speak about the creation of covenants – binding agreements – between God and Man.

“Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.’” (Numbers 18:19 NIV)


Don’t you know that the Lord, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants for ever by a covenant of salt? (2 Chronicles 13:5 NIV)


Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings. (Leviticus 2:13 NIV)


We see that covenants are often symbolised by salt and the reasons for this are obvious.

In the ancient world salt was the most common agent of purification, to prevent spoiling and decay. It was also used as a preservative.

Therefore linking salt to the creation of covenants symbolised both their incorruptibility and permanence.

Speaking of the Jewish tradition, Rabbi Koniuchowsky  has written,

“All salt covenants then are eternal, and eternally binding on the sons and daughters of Yisrael … Salt was also used to seal a bond of friendship forever. Brethren at an Israelite table would seal their friendship by the sharing of salt. Salt was a means in Yisrael by which friends solidified and preserved their commitment to each other by a covenant of shared salt at a table of shared community.”[1]

Thus the act of eating salt together was a symbol of the re-affirmation of friendship and mutual commitment – it was a bonding ceremony.

By eating salt with His disciples Jesus thereby affirmed the everlasting nature of the new covenant He had established between Man and God.

By eating salt with them, Jesus makes clear this new covenant is eternal, it cannot be altered or cancelled.

By eating salt with them Jesus confirms His friendship with them and commitment to them – He will never leave them.

‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ (Hebrews 3:5b NIV)

However there is another aspect to salt – the purification of sacrifices.

In the Christian religion we don’t just bring sacrifices to God – we ARE sacrifices.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV)

To be acceptable these sacrifices need to be purified – from wrong motivations, imperfect execution.

Jesus made this clear when He told His disciples,

“Everyone will be salted with fire. ‘Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.’” (Mark 9:49-50 NIV)

Right actions need to flow from right motivations and expressed in right relations. Something the apostles took to heart.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6 NIV)

By eating salt with His disciples Jesus reminds them of their constant need to purify their offerings (themselves and their lives) in order that they might be acceptable to God.

All of the above meaning of “eating salt together” is neatly summarized in the following quote,

“So different meanings come together here: covenant renewal, the gift of life, and purification of one’s own being for self-offering to God”[2]

And we mustn’t forget that Jesus continues to join His disciples for table fellowship.

In the Eucharist we make an offering (of ourselves), we receive Christ’s body and blood (the bread and the wine).

By so doing we are purified and also strengthened with divine power in order to express the everlasting and incorruptible “covenant of salt” in our lives.


[1] Rabbi Moshe Yoseph Koniuchowsky visited online at http://www.hebroots.org/hebrootsarchive/0209/0209b.html on 03/06/14

[2] Ratzinger J. “Jesus of Nazareth – Vol 2”, p272