Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cultural Literacy and the Bible - Part 3

This is a continuation of two previous posts. Can you identify these common literary phrases and their Biblical origins? Answers follow.

1. “Thirty pieces of silver”

2. "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"

3. "Forbidden fruit"

4. “the mark of Cain”

5. "Babel"


1. "Thirty pieces of silver" is a term also sometimes called “blood money”—money received for the life of another human being. It is also used proverbially to refer to anything paid or given for a treacherous act. The original reference is to the money Judas Iscariot received for betraying Jesus to the authorities.

2. "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalype" are figures in the Book of Revelation who symbolize the evils to come at the end of the world. The figure representing conquest rides a white horse; war, a red horse; famine, a black horse; and plague, a pale horse.

3. "Forbidden Fruit" is a term used commonly to refer to anything that is tempting but potentially dangerous. It is often associated with sexuality. It refers to the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, often pictured as an apple, which God forbade Adam and Eve to eat. Their disobedience brought about the Fall of Man.

4. "The mark of Cain" now refers to an individual’s or humankind’s sinful nature. The first children of Adam and Eve, born after the Fall of Man. Once, when they were grown men, both Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God. When Cain saw that Abel’s pleased God whereas his did not, Cain murdered his brother out of jealousy. For his crime, Cain was exiled by God to a life of wandering in a distant land. God “set a mark upon Cain” to protect him in his wanderings.

5. "Babel" is confusion and noise. (BAY-buhl, BAB-uhl) In the Book of Genesis, the descendants of Noah built a tower that they intended would reach up to heaven itself, increase their reputation, and make them like God. God prevented them from completing the tower by confusing their language so that they could no longer understand one another’s speech. From that time forward, according to the Bible, the peoples of the Earth would be scattered, speaking different languages.

Information verified by :

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefil. Copyright © 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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