“He left that place.
He entered their synagogue.”
Καὶ μεταβὰς ἐκεῖθεν ἦλθεν εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτῶν.
Matthew has Jesus leave the fields and enter the local synagogue. This is similar to Mark, chapter 3:1, and Luke, chapter 6:6. Jesus left the grain fields where he had been (Καὶ μεταβὰς ἐκεῖθεν). Then he entered their synagogue (ἦλθεν εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτῶν). Clearly, Jesus was a good Jewish person, so that he had no trouble or unease about entering the local synagogue, probably at Capernaum. The discussion that began in the fields now switched to the synagogue.
The salt of the earth!
But if salt
Has lost its taste,
How can saltiness
It is no longer good
But is thrown out.
It is trampled
Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς· ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται; εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι εἰ μὴ βληθὲν ἔξω καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων.
This saying of Jesus can be found in Mark, chapter 9:49-50, and Luke, chapter 14:34-35, but not connected to the Beatitudes at all and with different phraseology. Salt was important not just as a spice and preservative but it represented wisdom and purity in the ancient world and Judaism. Matthew has Jesus turn to his disciples to remind them that they are the salt of the earth or the land (Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς). Meanwhile, the other two gospel writers just had statements about salt, rather than speaking explicitly to the disciples. Matthew then switched to the 3rd person from the 2nd person, when he explained about salt losing its taste (ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ). How can the taste be restored to the salt (ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται)? That salt was now useless, impotent, and not good for anything (εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι). The end result of this tasteless salt was that it should either be thrown away (εἰ μὴ βληθὲν ἔξω) or have people trample it down (καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων).
“In those days,
John the Baptist
In the wilderness
Ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις παραγίνεται Ἰωάνης ὁ βαπτιστὴς κηρύσσων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τῆς Ἰουδαίας,
Matthew now switched to more common material about Jesus and his life. John the Baptist is mentioned in all four canonical gospels. In fact, if anything, Matthew seemed to be following Mark, chapter 1:4, since Mark began his gospel with this story. Matthew began this episode with his trademark transitional phrase, “In those days it happened (Ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις).” John the Baptizer (Ἰωάνης ὁ βαπτιστὴς) came preaching (παραγίνεται…κηρύσσων) in the wilderness or desert in Judea (ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τῆς Ἰουδαίας). This wilderness was southeast of Jerusalem and west of the Dead Sea. Apparently, John the Baptist was a Jewish itinerant preacher in the early first century CE. He used baptism, some kind of dipping in water, as the central symbol or sacrament of his messianic movement. Thus, he became known as the one who baptizes, the Baptizer, John the Baptist. He certainly had a relationship with Jesus, but the exact relationship between John and Jesus is also problematic. According to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1:36, John’s mother and Jesus’ mother were relatives of some sort. Both John and Jesus may have originally been co-workers. However, they separated as Jesus went along a different route. However, the shadow of John the Baptist appeared again and again in the biblical stories about Jesus and his apostles. Some believe that Jesus may have been a follower or disciple of John, but the textual indications are that John saw himself as subservient to Jesus. Some of Jesus’ early followers had previously been followers of John, as in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 19:2-6. There may have been some contact between John the Baptist and the Qumran-Essene community, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Thus, John might have been associated with them or part of their community for a while. John the Baptist died by beheading, as explained later in this gospel, chapter 14:10. Thus, John the Baptist has been revered as a prophet and a Christian saint throughout the centuries.