googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: It’s Not Just an Expression

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It’s Not Just an Expression

English is a rich language and, in America especially, is full of vivid pictures, popular expressions, and interesting idioms. But many people don’t realize just how much the Bible has shaped our language. A lot of the expressions we toss around like clichés are taken directly from the Bible. I thought it would interesting to give a few examples.

We use so many expressions from the Bible that there would be no way to list them all in a single blog. The gospel of Matthew seems to be especially cited so I will limit my examples to that book.

There are some expressions that are actual verses taken from the Bible. People might or might not realize they are verses but they still apply them in many different situations. “Man shall not live by bread alone,” (4:4) is an example of this. Also, “Judge not lest ye be judged” (7:1) seems to be a favorite quote used by the irreligious.

The Sermon on the Mount seems to be a source of some of the most common expressions: “The salt of the earth” (5:13), “Turning the other cheek” (5:39), giving someone the “shirt off your back” (5:40), and “Going the extra mile” (5:41).

Ronald Reagan called the US a shining “city on a hill”; he took this phrase from Matthew 5:14. Some people believe Abraham Lincoln coined the phrase, “A nation divided against itself cannot stand” but he was actually quoting Jesus in Matthew 12:25.

Jesus had some harsh words for some of the religious leaders of His day. In His rebukes He used terms like, “A den of thieves” (21:13) and, “The blind leading the blind” (15:14). He admonished the religious leaders because they could not read, “The sign of the times” (16:19) and He warned the Apostles to beware of “Wolves in sheep’s clothing” (7:15).

When we make last minute changes or decisions we’re said to be waiting until the “Eleventh hour” (20:6). When a child says something funny we might say, “Out of the mouths of babes…” (21:16). Sometimes in a moment of frustration we might say, “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing” (6:3). When we’re especially angry we might say of someone, “I’ll have his head on a platter” (14:10-11). Graveyards where indigents are buried are often called, “Potters Fields” (27:10). When someone does not use his God-given talent we might say he’s “hiding his light under a bushel” (5:15). And when someone gives up we sometimes say he “Gave up the ghost” (27:50).

These represent a tiny handful of the hundreds of expressions taken directly from the Bible. Hopefully it gives you a good idea how rich the Bible is in its wisdom and and how enduring its advice can be. I encourage anyone to study it more!

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