I don’t know if I’m just wired to hearing such things but I’ve been noticing that words and phrases from the scriptures are increasingly turning up in the media and advertising. ‘Born again’ has popped up a number of times the most recent in relation to a new car and ‘Saviour’ was applied to a Sim-card and ‘Halleluiah’ to a telephone comparison site over the Christmas period. What about to advertise oven ready chips (or fries if you are across the pond) although that’s more a worship song than the scriptures. Even Handles Messiah has been adopted by advertisers.
It’s not unusual to find the scriptures and worship songs used in unexpected places.There are very few weddings secular or Christian where 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 isn’t used. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.—- Love never fails.”
‘Amazing Grace’ the most famous worship song in the world is currently the music for the promo of the American TV program CSI Confessions and of course a rugby or football match wouldn’t be the same without it. I’m sure you could tell me many other instances of this.
We could take umbrage when we might feel the ‘word’ is being used in an inappropriate way but I always try to remember that the word of the Lord is ‘Living and active’ Hebrews 4:12 and that we already have the victory and God’s ways are mysterious and not our ways so pray that the truth will be revealed in all its power and might. Remember that seeds can germinate and thrive in the most inhospitable of places.
Of course using words and phrases from scripture in literature is not new and increasingly occurred from the time of the publishing of the Bible in English starting with the Great Bible 1539 and the King James Version 1611.
I remember the first time I read Tennyson’s alliterative poem the Charge of the Light Brigade, the 23rd Psalm “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” and God’s challenge to Job “Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?” immediately sprung to mind.
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
That writer of Victorian Daring Do Ridder Haggard author of such exiting tomes as ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ and ‘She’ wasn’t averse to quoting Isaiah either “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
This particular quote has been widely used even Michael Jackson used it in one of his songs and presidents and politicians have used it many times over the centuries it is even paraphrased in the finale of ‘Les Miserables’.
Shakespeare’s plays proliferate with examples which tell us something about the man, he clearly knew his Bible. According to Wiki there are over 1300 instances where Shakespeare used quotes, referred to individuals or allegorical references from scriptures in his 30plus plays. It’s perfectly understandable he was living in a time when for the first time he could freely read ‘God’s word’ in his own language and what sublime language.
“Measure for Measure” comes from the gospel of Luke chapter 6 verses 36-38 KJV “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” In modern parlance you could paraphrase that “What goes around comes around”.
Hamlet contains 40 such references how about “Which blood like sacrificing Abels cries, even from the tongueless caverns of the earth, to me for justice and rough chastisement”.
“And he said, “What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground””. Gen 4:10 KJV Hamlet wanting justice for his murdered father.
What about “Blessed are the peacemakers on earth” Henry VI Part 2 from Matthew 5:9 KJV and Henry V “Dying so, death is to him advantage” from Philippians 1:21 as I said, there are over a thousand more and I’m sure you have your own particular quote which resonates with you.
When I first read Shakespeare with some trepidation but happily with a very good English literature teacher I couldn’t make head nor tail until I came to realise how wrapped up with the Bible and the culture of the day it is and just like the Bible it is so relevant now which is why it is as popular today as it was in the 16th century. The trapping of culture change but the heart and character of man does not.
Shakespeare wasn’t preaching or plagiarising the Bible the scriptures were woven into the warp and weft of his life. He could empathise with the patriarchs and the heroes of faith and knew that his audiences however noble or ignoble would grasp the level of his meaning grounded in the word as even the poorest one would be. The scriptures were read aloud in church and in the family home.
Today our everyday language is enriched with scriptural influence and our depth of understanding and communication is enhanced by the wealth of language that comes to us from the Bible, Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, Bunyan, and Blake et al. We’ve all been told to ‘Practice what you preach’ ; all know what a ‘David and Goliath’ battle is, or when someone has a ‘Damascus Road’ experience or ‘feet of clay’ . We’ve all heard of a ‘Scapegoat’ or the ‘Sacrificial lamb’ . We only have to look at ‘football’ again for a recent example. ‘I wash my hands of this’ when we don’t want to be involved, or ‘I don’t know you from Adam’ or ‘The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ and finally although I and I’m sure you could suggest many more, ‘My cup runneth over’ is used both joyfully or ironically. The scriptures permeate our everyday conversation.
It’s easy to understand why these allegories and quotes from scripture came into common use. Until recently, the majority attended church so would hear the scriptures read on a weekly basis, many would read their bible privately at home and Christian teaching and worship was in every school. The last census tells us that over two thirds of the population have a faith though not all are Christian. But today, because the powers that be, trying to make one faith fit all, this rich source of vocabulary and example is slowly ebbing away, but despite this these scripture reference are still used by those of faith and no faith alike.
I cannot resist just one more Phillipians 4 : 8 “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”. . In the words of Monty Python ‘Always look on the bright side of Life’ .
If you’ve been following my blog you will know that its real purpose is to help promote my first published novel “Reflections of the Old Past”. I live a pretty hectic but rich life, experience not wealth, and I don’t sit around hoping or worrying that people will buy my book. Some times I forget it entirely because really I think it should sink or swim by its own merit but I am continually urged to promote it by Amazon and others. Last week Amazon sent me a Royalty Payment Notification I’ve got to admit I was thrilled it’s just a trickle but it tells me that “Reflections of the Old Past” is still out there doing the doggy paddle most likely.