Lot’s Wife Became a Pillar of Salt. What is the Literal Meaning?
It is going to be cumbersome to continually refer to Lot’s wife as: “Lot’s wife”. So, let’s make it a little more personal. According to the Hebrew Midrash, the name of Lot’s wife was either Ado or Idit (Edith). So we will refer to her as Idit in this definition. Before proceeding, let me explain the difference between literal and literalistic interpretation when reading Scripture. For example, we read in Scripture, "one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" (Deut. 8:3). The literalistic interpretation would have us translate the word mouth to mean that God has an actual biological mouth — lips and all. The literal interpretation would be the meaning that the Divine author actually intended to convey. In the case of this passage, mouth would be interpreted as that which sends out an expression. Only the Son and the Holy Spirit are ever described as being sent. The Father is always described as the one who sends, but is never, himself, sent.
In all writings relative to the Science & Theology of Salt in Scripture (aka STOSS), the case has been consistently made that the words dust and stone in Scripture are direct (and intentional, on God’s part) references to man’s salt and dust of DNA. More specifically, in the Bible, dust refers to single molecules of man’s DNA, while stone refers to the entire body of man’s DNA — his entire genome, collectively. Elsewhere on this website, I have made a compelling case for this belief. Consequently, I won’t repeat that information in this particular definition. Instead, I will provide the link to that article. It can be found at http://www.stossbooks.com/is-dna-in-the-bible.html. In it, I also discuss why differences in scientific terminology have kept hidden, up until now, the biblical hermeneutics behind the belief that DNA is both dust and salt.
Since we are going to be discussing the biblical event during which Idit became a pillar of salt, let’s look at the applicable sciences through which we can incorporate proper hermeneutical principles in order to correctly understand the meaning of that Genesis account. Scripture tells us, “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomor′rah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife behind him looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (Gen. 19: 24-26). I’m convinced that God did not turn Idit into a “different” material, i.e., geological salt, than she was prior to the event described in Genesis. Scripture was not using the word “became” as a description of a change in her substance, but rather a change in the state/condition of her substance. The Hebrew word for became (היה) translates as: to come to pass, to occur; wording which does not seem to support a translation that indicates a substantial (in the Thomistic sense) change of being.
Consider this: every single one of us is a pillar of salt. The difference between each of us and Lot’s wife is this: the former are living and moving pillars of salt. The latter, because of her disobedience and hesitation, became a dead and immobile pillar of salt. Let’s explain.
In 1953, scientists James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins published a paper titled, “A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid.” The first sentence of the article reads, "We wish to suggest a structure for the salt [SML] of deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.)." Russian scientist Maxim Frank-Kamenetskii in his book, Unraveling DNA: The Most Important Molecule of Life, tells us that DNA, despite being called an acid, is actually a salt. He further states that, while scientifically accurate, calling it an acid is an error in effective communication of the highest magnitude, comparing it to referring to ordinary table salt as hydrochloric acid. Under what circumstances does biological dust also qualify to be classified as a biological salt? It occurs when an ion of acid bonds with an ion of alkali metal. In DNA, the minerals of sodium and potassium, which are both ions of alkali metals, bond with the DNA backbone (the two sides of the double helix spiral ladder. The two sides of the biological ladder are composed of a phosphate group ... a derivative of phosphoric acid ... bonded with 5-carbon sugar). The result of this hydrogen bonding makes DNA a salt — a salt that is also scientifically classified as dust.
Is there enough salt in man to justifiably classify each individual as living pillars of salt? In every one of our cells, we have a complete copy of our salt/dust of DNA. We have trillions upon trillions of cells in our body. I have seen estimates of between ten and one-hundred trillion cells in the adult human body. We have so much salt of DNA in our body that we could place every strand end-to-end, and it would extend ten billion miles; enough to go to the planet Pluto and back. Yeah, I would say that we are all pillars of salt.
It is a fact that both dust and salt are scientifically accurate descriptions of man’s DNA. The only question remaining to examine is this: Is that the interpretation which God intended to convey in the Bible? In The Science & Theology of Salt in Scripture, this interpretation was tested against approximately one thousand five hundred Scripture passages. In every instance, STOSS both reaffirmed the Church’s teachings, while also contributing to a deeper understanding of the big picture of what God is teaching us through Scripture. Never did it contradict the Church’s teachings.
To further answer the question presented in the previous paragraph, I compare several of the various possible interpretations of Genesis 19: 24-26. However, in the interest of brevity, said comparison can be found in this endnote [#10]. Presently, however, there are two points which will reinforce my contention.
1. There is no scriptural basis for believing that God would annihilate one’s nature and replace it with a lower nature. In fact, there is scriptural evidence to the contrary. For us to believe that Idit became a pillar of geological salt, that is exactly what would have had to happen to her. The International Theological Commission has stated that the image and likeness of God, in which man was created, resides in the whole man, body and soul. If God had turned Idit into geological salt, the physical part of her human nature ... her body ... would be gone; not just corrupted, but annihilated. Geological salt is substantially different than biological salt. Therefore, the substance of her human nature would have been annihilated. Not even the fallen angels, whose sins were much more grievous than Idit’s, lost their angelic natures. Their angelic nature remained intact, but corrupted.Scripture and the Summa tell us that God does not annihilate anything. From the Summa we read,Now the nature of creatures shows that none of them is annihilated … Moreover, the annihilation of things does not pertain to the manifestation of grace [SML]; since rather the power and goodness of God are manifested by the preservation of things in existence [therefore annihilation of a nature would be contrary to God’s perfect goodness — SML]. Wherefore we must conclude by denying absolutely that anything at all will be annihilated … That things are brought into existence from a state of non-existence, clearly shows the power of Him Who made them; but that they should be reduced to nothing would hinder that manifestation, since the power of God is conspicuously shown in His preserving all things in existence, according to the Apostle: ‘Upholding all things by the word of His power’ (Hebrews 1:3) … and ‘I have learned that all the works that God hath made continue forever [Eccl. 3:14]. [Summa, I, q. 104, a. 4].’”
2. Think about this, if one interprets Genesis quite literalistically, one would have to admit that only Adam may have been made from actual geological dust … dust of the earth. For all the rest of us (Eve, the exception, is talked about at http://www.stossbooks.com/creation-of-eve.html), our body was made through one event — the union of a sperm cell (with the exception of Jesus) and an egg cell, both of which contain the biological salt/dust of DNA. Everything we are, from the physical body perspective, came from the sperm and egg — and only the sperm and egg. If you’re wondering about the cell material in which the DNA resides … nope, not salt, not dust! The structural material of the cell is composed of complex chemicals called proteins. Therefore, of all the cellular materials of the cell, only DNA can be identified as dust/salt. Recall that Scripture tells us we are made from the dust of the earth (cf. Gen. 2:7, 3:19, 18:27; Tobit 3:6; Job 10:9; Eccl. 3:20; and many others) and we will return to dust.
Proof that Salt & dust Are a Direct Reference to DNA
Think about this, if one interprets Genesis quite literalistically, one would have to admit that only Adam may have been made from actual geological dust … dust of the earth. For all the rest of us (Eve, the exception, is talked about at http://www.stossbooks.com/creation-of-eve.html), our body was made through one event — the union of a sperm cell (with the exception of Jesus) and an egg cell, both of which contain the biological salt/dust of DNA. Everything we are, from the physical body perspective, came from the sperm and egg — and only the sperm and egg. If you’re wondering about the cell material in which the DNA resides … nope, not salt, not dust! The structural material of the cell is composed of complex chemicals called proteins. Therefore, of all the cellular materials of the cell, only DNA can be identified as dust/salt. Recall that Scripture tells us we are made from the dust of the earth (cf. Gen. 2:7, 3:19, 18:27; Tobit 3:6; Job 10:9; Eccl. 3:20; and many others) and we will return to dust.
 Book of Jasher, Chapter 19, #52, http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/apo/jasher/19.htm, accessed 7/6/2019.
 Kadari, Tamar. "Lot's Wife: Midrash and Aggadah." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. February 27, 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (accessed July 12, 2019) https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/lots-wife-midrash-and-aggadah.
 J. D. Watson, Crick, F. H. C., with commentary by Tom Zinnen, “A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,” Nature (Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum) 171,737 1953 (April 1953).
 Maxim D. Frank-Kamenetskii, Unraveling DNA: The Most Important Molecule of Life trans. Lev Liapin, Revised ed., (Reading, MA: Perseus Publishing, 1997), 60.
 Note: an ion is an atom or molecule that has a net electrical charge, either negative or positive.
 Yinon Bentor, “Periodic Table: Sodium”, in Chemical Element.com, http://www.chemicalelements.com/elements/na.html (accessed 10/11/2011).
 “Phosphate Group,” Biology Dictionary, https://biologydictionary.net/phosphate-group/, accessed 8/8/2019.
 Weir, Kirsten. “20 Things You Didn’t Know About ... DNA.” Discover. June 13, 2011. Accessed April 8, 2017. http://discovermagazine.com/2011/apr/20-things-you-didnt-know-about-dna.
The options are the following: A). She was encased by raining brimstone (sulfur liquefied by extreme heat), causing her to become a pillar of the salt of DNA, and the DNA was the only salt present; B). She was miraculously transformed into a geological salt, replacing her salt of DNA. I don’t view this as likely (see main text for reasons); C). A chemical reaction occurred within the falling sulfur, causing it to become a salt. Sulfur could, for example, become a sulfide salt through a change in the number of electrons in the ion. This option is not likely considering Deuteronomy 29:22-23. These passages specifically separate the presence of the chemical salt from the elemental brimstone in the writer’s description of a burnt-out wasteland (i.e., Sodom and Gomorrah, among others); and finally, D). The molten sulfur in which she was encased could have been mixed with the geological salt that was abundant in the region.
Ignoring option ‘B’, the remaining three options leave us with a critical question that needs to be answered. All three of the remaining options involve scenarios in which multiple materials are involved. With option ‘A’, there’s sulfur and salt of DNA. With option ‘C’, there’s sulfur that has become a possible sulfide, and the salt of DNA. With option ‘D’, there’s the salt of DNA, sulfur, and geological salt. So the question is this: if multiple materials were involved, why did God only mention the salt in the demise of Lot’s wife? Why focus on the salt? There must have been a theological reason for mentioning salt. I believe it was God’s intention to use Idit’s DNA as a map legend and sign.
 International Theological Commission, “Communion And Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God”, ©Libreria Editrice Vaticana www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20040723_communion-stewardship_en.html, (accessed 2/19/2014), n. 9.