Dr Brian Harris; Vose Principal

On Quoting Shakespeare and Scripture…

A delightful post widely circulated on Facebook highlighted how many English expressions originate from Shakespeare. Here is a taster:

If you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a doornail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then — by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! For goodness’ sake! What the dickens! But me no buts — it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.” (Bernard Levin)

Even Prince Charles has got in on the act, and in this YouTube clip recites some of Levin’s work. True, purists will be quick to point out that many of the sayings attributed to Shakespeare were simply popular folk sayings from his time that he helped immortalise, but his achievement is still astonishing.

If we often quote Shakespeare unawares, it is worth pondering how often we quote the Bible, often oblivious to the original context of our sentiment.

Here are 20 sayings and concepts from the Bible that are deeply embedded in everyday language. It only took a few minutes to track over 80 options, so many more could be added. Feel free to suggest your favourites.

If you do something at the eleventh hour, you are quoting Matt 20:6.

If you are at your wits end, you are quoting Psalm 107:27.

If you gasp at some avoided danger and say that you escaped by the skin of my teeth, you are quoting Job 19:20.

If you are disappointed that someone has feet of clay, you are summarising a concept from Daniel 2:39-43.

If you are longing for a land of milk and honey, so was Moses in Exodus 3:17.

If you see some poor innocent being led like a lamb to the slaughter you are citing Isaiah 53:7.

Even if you can move mountains, you are still referencing 1 Corinthians 13:2.

If you can read the writing on the wall, you are imitating the events of Daniel 5.

If you wearily note that there is nothing new under the sun, you are echoing Qoheleth’s sigh in Ecclesiastes 1:9.

If you reflect that it is better not to cast pearls before swine, you are agreeing with Jesus in Matthew 7:6.

If you are grateful for a good Samaritan, you might enjoy the parable about one in Luke 10:30-37.

If you are worried that someone might fall by the wayside, you are sensing the sadness of Luke 8:5.

If you are tempted by forbidden fruit, so were Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:1-7.

If you ask am I my brothers keeper, you might like to consult Gen 4:8-10 for some sobering context.

Though someone might look as old as Methuselah, Genesis 5:27 reminds us that they probably aren’t.

If you suggest an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, you could be citing either Exodus 21:3-5 or Leviticus 24:19-20, but have clearly forgotten Matthew 5:38-39.

If you remember that man does not live by bread alone, so did Jesus in Matthew 4:4 when he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3.

If you lament how the mighty have fallen, you are remembering the cry of 2 Samuel 14:3 after the death of Jonathan 3000 years ago.

If someone tries to put words in your mouth, they are doing a Joab according to 2 Samuel 14:3.

You might say that someone is the apple of my eye, but do remember that that is what God says about you. Actually, God says it twice – Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8.


To read more from Dr. Brian Harris, see what he has posted from his blog onto our website.