Looking for inspiration…hmmm, inspiration. I like that. Today’s clichés will come from the Bible. I enjoyed this subject, because with all the obvious proverbs, there are definitely a lot of clichés that I had no idea came from the Bible. I suppose this is a good time to admit that my religious education is sadly lacking.
When I was quite young, I remember my father telling my brother and I that we could believe anything we wanted. However, after growing in up in two rather intensely religious households, both my mother and father chose to leave that world behind. So the little I learned came from my grandparents during vacations and was swiftly forgotten after I went home.
So the clichés I chose are ones I would not have thought came from the Bible. Clearly, there are many more. Maybe a part two will be forthcoming?
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush: a definite, although lesser, advantage is better than throwing it away for a unsure, although greater, advantage. The first original phrase was from Ecclesiastes IX – A living dog is better than a dead lion. However, as sporting birds became more popular, the phrase mutated through the centuries. By the late 1600s, it was a known fact that one falcon was well worth two possible prey birds in a bush.
A house divided against itself cannot stand: solidarity is need for a group to succeed. Now, most recently you may have heard a gigantic Lincoln tell this nugget to Ben Stiller’s character in A Night at a the Museum. But it actually is quite a bit older than Mr Lincoln (and certainly older than the movie).
“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand”.*
To cast the first stone: to be the first to attack a “sinner”. I put that in quotations as what determines a sinner is many and varied. And mostly incorrect. In reading the Bible, Jesus teaches to not attack a “sinner” unless you yourself are clearly without sin. And while the attacker may be innocent of the sin of the “sinner,” it is quite unlikely that they have no sin themselves. In other words, give the benefit of the doubt so that you may also receive the benefit of the doubt. The phrase itself comes from John 8:7, and the earliest finding of it is:
Miles Coverdale’s Bible, 1535:
Now whyle they contynued axynge him, he lift him self vp, and sayde vnto them: He that is amonge you without synne, let him cast the first stone at her. *
Give up the ghost: to die, or cease working–in the case of inanimate objects. Found in Acts 12:23, the phrase was originally intended for someone who did not honor God, and therefore was “smote,” and eaten by worms, and gave up his ghost. The phrase became a popular saying in literature. It has mostly been used for inanimate objects in recent years, clearly meant to be droll since there are no ghosts to be given up from machines.
In the twinkling of an eye: Quickly, in an instant. Another phrase that came from the Bible– 1 Corinthians 15:52– that later was used in other literary circles. Most famously (although certainly not the last) by Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice:
“I’ll take my leave of the Jew in the twinkling of an eye.”
As a note, all of these meanings are based on the King James version.