Biblical Allusions

Biblical Allusions

  • Absolom: a son who brings heartache to his father; from the third son of David, King of Israel. Exiled for three years before he was allowed to return to the court or see his royal father, Absolom plotted to cause a rebellion against his father to overtake the kingdom because he heard Solomon was to succeed David. When Absolom was killed in battle, King David grieved for his son in spite of his treachery against him.
  • Alpha and Omega: The beginning and the end, from a quote in Revelations in the New Testament.
  • Antedeluvian: Antedeluvian is Latin for “before the flood,” referring to the flood Noah rode out in Genesis. Something very old or outdated is sometimes exaggeratedly called antedeluvian. The professor’s antedeluvian beliefs made him ill-suited for classroom teaching. 
  • Cain: a brother who kills a brother; from the story of Adam and Eve’s son Cain, who killed his brother Abel out of jealousy.
  • Daniel: one known for wisdom and accurate judgment; from a wise leader in the Old Testament who was able to read the handwriting on the wall.
  • David and Bathsheba: represents a big sin; from King David’s affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. After they had an affair and she became pregnant, David had her husband Uriah put on the front lines of battle so he would die. The "Bathsheba Affair" formed a critical turning point in King David’s life. Prior to this, he had prospered greatly, but afterward, his personal fortunes were greatly diminished. Nathan the prophet confronted David after he took Bathsheba for his wife and trapped him into admitting his own guilt.
  • Eye of the Needle: A very difficult task; from famous narrow gateway called “the needle.” In the NT, Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.
  • Get behind me, Satan: Phrase said by Jesus to Peter, insinuating that Peter’s encouragement amounted to temptation.
  • Goliath: Goliath was a giant warrior—more than nine feet tall—who was slain by David in I Samuel. In modern usage, both giants and very large or powerful people or things are called goliaths. Small bookstores can’t compete against national chain goliaths. "David and Goliath" can be used together to reference two forces of unequal power.
  • Good Samaritan: The book of Luke recounts the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which a man is attacked by thieves and left at the side of the road. A passing Samaritan binds his wounds, takes him to an inn, and cares for him. A good Samaritan now refers to anyone who freely helps others in their time of need. If not for the good Samaritan who jump-started her car, she might still be stuck on the side of the Interstate. 
  • Handwriting on the wall: what the future holds; from the OT story of Daniel, who was able to accurately predict some mysterious writing that appeared on a wall (translated, it predicted the imminent death of the king).
  • Ishmael: one who is cast out as being unworthy; the son of Abraham and his handmaiden Hagar, he was cast out into the desert when his wife Sarah had their son Isaac; therefore said to be the ancestor of the nomadic desert tribes of Arabs.
  • Jacob: grandson of Abraham, son of Isaac and Rebekah, brother of Esau, and the traditional ancestor of Israelites. His name was changed to Israel, and his 12 sons became the 12 Tribes of Israel.
  • Jezebel: The promiscuous queen who practiced pagan sexual rituals with multiple servants.
  • Job- who who suffers a great deal but remains faithful; from an OT character whose faith in God was tested by Satan; though he lost his family and belongings, he remained patient and faithful.
  • Job’s comforters: In the book of Job, the title personage was tested with a series of misfortunes. At several points, friends came to “comfort” Job by claiming that his travails were the just consequences of his sins, and that it was therefore unseemly to complain about them. A Job’s comforter has come to mean a person who tries to console another but instead has the opposite effect. The Job’s comforters told him it was just as well he wasn’t invited to the party; he didn’t make nearly enough money to interest any of the women there. 
  • Jonah: Jonah was a prophet who defied God’s command to deliver a warning to the city of Nineveh, instead fleeing on a ship to Tarshish. A storm was sent to punish him, and would not relent—imperiling everyone on the ship—until Jonah was thrown off. A person or thing that brings bad luck is called a Jonah. I’m not going to carpool with that Jonah. Every vehicle she gets into ends up in an accident. 
  • Judas: Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus Christ, identifying him to soldiers by giving him a kiss. Somebody who betrays their friend is called a Judas. I’m not going to leave that Judas alone with my boss while we’re competing for the same promotion. 
  • Killing the fatted calf: See the prodigal son. The prodigal son’s father calls for a fatted calf to be killed for the welcoming feast. Killing the fatted calf is now used as an expression for sparing no expense on a celebration. He killed the fatted calf for the lavish anniversary party. 
  • King Ahab and Jezebel: an evil king of Israel and his treacherous evil wife, synonymous today with evil. Through her marriage to Ahab, Jezebel introduced the worship of Baal, an idol, to Israel,
  • Kiss of death: See Judas. A kiss of death is an act of betrayal, or any action which causes another’s downfall. The endorsement by a prominent neo-Nazi was the kiss of death to her senatorial campaign. 
  • Manna: a sustaining life-giving source or food; from the sweetish bread-like food that fell from heaven for the Israelites as they crossed the Sinai Desert to the Promised Land with Moses.
  • Original Sin/The Fall: the idea that all men are innately sinful as a result of Adam and Eve’s fall from the state of innocence. When they ate of the forbidden fruit, they were cast out of the Biblical Garden of Eden; a post-biblical expression for the doctrine of Adam’s transgression and mankind’s consequential inheritance of a sinful nature because he ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.
  • Patience of Job: Job, in the book named for him, was faced by a series of unbearable misfortunes. While this caused him to lament his fate, he nevertheless never wavered in his faith in God. Somebody with a seemingly infinite store of patience is said to have the patience of Job. Dealing with the crotchety old man every day for five years required the patience of Job. 
  • Pearl of Great Price: something so precious that one would devote everything to or give up everything for it. .In one of Jesus’ parables, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a pearl of great price, or value, found by a merchant.
  • Philistine: a person indifferent or hostile to the arts and refinement; from Sea-going people from Crete who became enemies of the Israelites and fought over their lands.
  • Prodigal son: The book of Luke recounts the parable of the prodigal son, in which a son leaves home to fritter away his money on a hedonistic lifestyle, only to end up destitute. The son crawls home, filled with shame and remorse, upon which his father welcomes him with open arms. Somebody who leaves home to lead a dissolute life and regretfully returns home is called a prodigal son. After abandoning football for a semester of drunken frat parties, Northwestern’s prodigal son Rick Hammond came back to lead the team to victory in the playoffs. 
  • Ruth and Naomi: paragons of love between in-laws; faithful friends. From the OT story of Ruth, who, when her husband died in battle, left her own land to travel with his mother back to her people.
  • Samson and Delilah: Treacherous love story. Samson, an Israelite hero and legendary warrior with extraordinary physical strength, fell in love with Delilah, a Philistine. When Delilah learned that Samson’s hair was the source of his strength, she betrayed him by excepting a Philistine bribe to cut off his hair while he slept. Today the name Delilah is associated with a voluptuous, treacherous woman.
  • Scapegoat: (n) one that is made an object of blame for others; the goat was symbolically burdened with the sins of Jewish people and thrown over a precipice outside of Jerusalem to rid the nation of iniquities.
  • Sodom and Gomorrah: any place associated with wickedness or sin; from the evil cities of the OT that were destroyed by fire.
  • Solomon: an extremely wise person; from the son of King David, the Israelite king who wrote Proverbs, and was known for wisdom.
  • Thirty pieces of silver: Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus. Payment for any treacherous act is now referred to as thirty pieces of silver, or blood money. Jim got a generous package of stock options for helping depose his partner as CEO, but the thirty pieces of silver didn’t keep his conscience from gnawing at him.
  • Twelve Tribes of Israel: according to the Old Testament, the Hebrew people took possession of the Promised Land of Canaan after the death of Moses and named the tribes after the sons and grandson of Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel): Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulum, Gad, Asher, Dan, Naphtali, Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim.
Written by The UnNovelist
The Unnovelist