Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks for the Words

If you find that you need to ‘butter someone up’, or wonder if the elderly man is ‘as old as the hills’, at ‘death’s door’, or about to ‘bite the dust’, you are thinking in biblical terms. Surprised? I was.

The Bible is a masterpiece of authoring and editing. Culturally so ingrained, often we don’t realize we are referring to it. Consider some of the phrases the Bible introduced into our lexicon:

• Turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6
• Apple of my eye (Deuteronomy 32:10
• The root of the matter (Job 19:28
• The skin of my teeth (Job 19:20
• Fell flat on his face (Numbers 22:31
• Pour out your heart (Psalms 62:8
• Wits’ end (Psalm 107:27)
• From time to time (Ezekiel 4:10
• Blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:14
• Scum of the earth (1 Corinthians 4:12-14)

National Geographic has just highlighted these and other fascinating insights in its December 2011 issue.

With re-readable plots and subplots, a balance of dialogue and description, and a thread that pulls the story from beginning to end, the original Bible text was, in some cases, inscribed on papyrus.  Notwithstanding those tedious chapters on lineage, and even with divine inspiration, how do you pull that off in a draft or two? 

In addition to the Greek and Hebrew-speaking authors, Latin and English translators (e.g., default editors) deserve some credit. Under King James I in England, the well-known English translation was first produced more than 400 years ago. And today, over 100 million Bibles are sold or given away each year. 

Since to everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1), Thanksgiving seems an appropriate time to stand in awe (Psalms 4:4) of the writers and editors of the Bible. Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. Julie,
    I enjoyed reading this post so much that I printed out the National Geographic article that inspired it. I love figurative language and I didn't realize that so much of it originated in the King James Bible. Thank for sharing this information. I hope your writing brings you happiness and many book deals. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

  2. Dear Julie,
    Thanks for sharing this information about the sayings that come straight from the Bible and giving credit to the writers and editors of the Bible, too. Studying where sayings came from and the year fascinates me.
    Believe in yourself,
    Submit your manuscript today.
    Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Ah, the beauty of the King James Bible. I miss its superior descriptive language when I hear passages from the Revised Standard version of the Bible read aloud. The music is missing. It's like hearing Chop Sticks instead of Chopin.

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  5. Julie,
    What a fascinating article. I love how we can connect to history and our ancestors through language. My family has passed down many phrases through the years. My father uses sayings constantly, but they are his own version: "That's the way the cookie bounces." or "They pulled the wool out from under him." I'm sure growing up with a mother whose second language was English influenced his style of speaking.

  6. So true! When society at large was more biblically literate, these allusions were better understood. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Great article -- and post!

    I had no idea...

  8. So glad this was as interesting to others as it was to me. And thanks for the kind thoughts!
    I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving.