Biblical literacy lets you have more in common with other believers. This common knowledge helps Christians communicate, work, play, and live together, ultimately forming a community of individuals that can - given time - become a vibrant Christian culture. Fractious on theology maybe, but united in values, so no one has doubts about what the definition of "is" is.
E.D. Hirsch makes this point (much better) on a secular level in Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. In it, he lamented the loss of common knowledge that unites us as Americans. "Unlike expert knowledge (Cultural Literacy) is meant to be shared by everyone....this shared information is the foundation of our public discourse."
Dr. Hirsch's book was a bestseller and eventually morphed into the Core Knowledge Foundation, which assembles a core curriculum each year of worthy knowledge that all American students should know. Mastering the list won't make you a "deep thinker", but it will help you speak intelligently with others across the country (or across the aisle).
Yeah, But What About Us?
Three paragraphs in and I'm already losing you? Alright, to the chase we cut...
Biblical readership in the USA is declining, and many Biblical references previously used in common American speech are falling out of use. That's a shame, because these soundbites share Christian wisdom, and our culture is poorer for this loss. But the more we read the Bible, the more we can understand and keep this wisdom alive, and in a small way, preserve the Judeo-Christian contribution to American culture.
THE LOGICAL THEOLOGICAL CULTURAL LITERACY QUIZ Remember when I said, "There's no quiz later."? Well, it's "right now" wherever you are.... so we can take a quiz now .. we just won't take one, you know, "later".
Please remain seated and keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.... Siéntate y no te preocupes o realmente te daré algo por qué llorar.
The following quiz tests your knowledge of Biblical figures of speech that are (or were) a common part of everyday American speech.
Give yourself 7 points for each correct answer.
Tally up your scores to see your Biblical/Cultural Literacy ranking.
What is a "Job's Comforter"?
A. An inflatable mat latticed with holes, used in hospitals to prevent bedsores
B. Someone who tries to make you feel better, but makes you feel worse.
C. A 1940s placebo prescribed to hypochondriacs in Southern states.
D. A good friend who provides wise counsel during your time of need.
QUESTION 2 When someone calls you a "philistine" what are they saying about you? A. You are very tall and proud of it. B. You are secular but cultured enough to appreciate religious arguments.
C. You are ignorant and uncultured.
D. You use big words to impress people, but you are using them improperly.
When someone "offers you the olive branch", what are they doing? A. Trying to make peace
B. Threatening you with punishment (Hebrew for "getting the switch". IYKYK.)
C. Selling you an Olive Garden franchise D. Warning that your problems are only beginning
What is a "Leviathan"?
A. An enormous beast associated with the forces of chaos and evil
B. Amy Schumer
C. A highly influential work on politics by 19th-century English author Edmund Burke.
D. Both A and C
What is 'Manna from Heaven"?
A. Like rain on your wedding day
B. A free ride, but you already paid
C. An unexpected good fortune
D. 10,000 spoons, when all you need is a knife
What is the "Valley of the Shadow of Death"?
A. Any Dallas Cowboys playoff game
B. The very center of a cemetery
C. The perils of life
D. The "Good Samaritan" road
What is a 'Doubting Thomas"?
A. A highly gullible person who refuses to believe anything (out of fear)
B. An apostle assigned to argue the other side of a disputed position
C. Someone who is too "touchy-feely", WAYNE.
D. Someone who demands physical evidence for everything, even when it's obvious
What is "The Writing on the Wall"? A. Graffiti on the subway walls, and tenement halls B. When you see something that predicts bad things are about to happen
C. 20 minutes in Time Out (if Mommy's in a good mood)
D. False prophesy that has popular acceptance but doesn't happen
QUESTION 9 What does a "Leopard Can't Change Its Spots" mean?
A. Wanting something won't make it happen. You have to act.
B. You are what you are, even if you try to change.
C. Sometimes you just have to ask for help if you want to change.
D. Clothes make the man/leopard. What's in YOUR closet?
What does "A Little Birdie Told Me" imply? A. They can't remember who told them something, but it's true.
B. Larry's talking trash again, Coach.
C. They'll tell you a secret, but won't disclose the source.
D. Varys knows something.
ANSWERS 1-B Found in the Book of Job. The brainiacs were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. Later came a punk named Elihu shooting his mouth off. 2-C Philistines were enemies of Israel. During the 1600s, as a result of the negative depiction of the Philistines in the Bible, the word "Philistine" came to be applied figuratively to anyone considered an enemy.
3-A Genesis 8:11, "The dove returned to the Ark with an olive leaf in its beak, showing that God's punishment of man's sin was relenting." 4-A In Isaiah 27:1, Leviathan is a serpent & symbol of Israel's enemies, who will be slain by God. (Amy Schumer has a sense of humor... she can take it).
5-C Exodus 15-15, God gave manna each day to the grumbling Hebrews. 6-C Psalm 23, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." 7-D John 20: 24, " But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Relax, there is no Wayne. 8-B Daniel 5:5, "Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking." 9-B Jeremiah 13:23, "Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil." 10-C Ecclesiastes 10:20, "Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.”
So How Did You Do? 0-7 See Pastor Derrick RIGHT NOW
14-28 Do You Need a Ride on Sunday?
35-49 Save us a seat in the 9:00 service 56-63 You Wanna Job Around Here? 70 Wanna refinance your Seminary tuition?
Relax, this quiz is just for fun. Amy Schumer gets the joke. There is no Wayne. Plus, you can improve your score by enrolling in a Bible Reading Course like The Bible Recap or going the DIY route. There are HUNDREDS of Biblical expressions in American English, and it's so rewarding when you discover one for the first time. Let me know your favorites in the comments below.
Next Time: The Worst Top Ten List of 2024. And maybe I'll figure out why Wix won't let me text-wrap graphics anymore.
During Covid, the author rediscovered cityonahilldfw.com. Post-vaccination he snuck into a service and felt zero social pressure.
He's a member now and everyone knows he sucks at small talk. They don't care: it ain't that kind of church.