Let's face it: Reading the Bible is hard! Depending on the translation, the language can be difficult, and the historical and cultural details are often so different from our own world that the context of the stories can be hard to understand. Devout Christians may well read the Bible every day, but often they are reading and re-reading the parts that are familiar from books of children's Bible stories. Or they're studying the passages that are repeatedly read in church and chosen as the texts for sermons. These include the four gospels, the books of Genesis and Exodus, the Psalms and Proverbs and the letters of the apostle Paul.
Venture beyond those, and a lot of the Bible is terra incognita to most people, even the faithful. Don't believe it? OK, what happens in the book of Micah? How about Obadiah? How is 1 Peter different from 2 Peter? Which book of the Bible does not mention God at all? Don't just ask these questions of yourself -- ask a faithful, churchgoing friend, and you're likely to get a look of incomprehension.
How better to deal with this epidemic of Biblical illiteracy than a quiz? (OK, there are probably lots of better ways, but we're going the quiz route anyway, because it's fun). We've mixed up real Bible quotes with great quotes from poetry and inspirational writing. All the quotes will have citations (book, chapter and verse), but the ones on the non-Bible quotes will be fictitious themselves -- and with some of them, our tongue is farther into our cheek than others, so look closely!
Can you separate the sheep from the wolves? Good luck!
1 Corinthians chapter 13 is better known for its famous verses on love, ending with " ... the greatest of these is love." But here, the apostle Paul writes about the life to come with God, as compared to life on earth. He describes it as a kind of completion of one's relationship to God, like adulthood is to childhood.
This is the famous first line of Max Ehrmann's "Desiderata." Technically a poem, it is also a laundry list of advice, and is a favorite for reading at graduation ceremonies.
This line is from Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." It's part of a rhyming couplet: "All that glitters is not gold/Often you have heard it told." Portia's unfortunate suitor has opened up a gold casket in hopes of finding her likeness inside -- an implicit promise to marry him -- but instead finds a poem telling him he's out of luck.
This one might sound like a sentiment from popular poetry, or maybe a greeting card. However, it's from the book of Proverbs, and has that book's traditional sentence structure of two complete clauses separated by a semicolon.
This one sounds like it might have come from the stirring poetry of the 19th century, possibly "The Charge of the Light Brigade." However, it comes from the gospel of John. In decades past ,you probably heard it with traditional, gender-specific language: "man" and "his."
In this chapter, Paul famously compares adopting Christian virtues, like faith, with putting on a suit of armor. The metaphor begins in verse 13, in which he says, "Therefore take up the whole armor of God."
This is a line from "Leaves of Grass," written by Walt Whitman. Our fake citation, above, is "Job" because this line reminds us of the dark, poetic tone of the book of Job.
Philippians is one of the letters of the apostle Paul. Here, he speaks of worldly success and good as useless compared to the benefits of being Christ's servant.
This line is from Sun Tzu's "The Art of War." The Old Testament is certainly not short on descriptions of battles and war -- see, for example, David's killing of Goliath -- but rarely do you read outright advice.
If you ask someone for their favorite quote from the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, one of two phrases is likely to come up. Probably the most popular is "Not all those who wander are lost." The second is the one above.
This is a line from William Shakespeare's "Macbeth." It describes the murder of King Duncan, whose blood is "golden" because he is of a royal line. Why is his skin "silver"? Possibly because of moonlight through a window; Duncan's body was discovered in the very early morning.
This is a line from the work of poet Mary Oliver, a beloved American cultural icon. Oliver died in early 2019, of lung cancer.
Unlike the letters of Peter and John in the New Testament, there is only one book of James. Five chapters long, it holds a lot of practical, straight-talking advice for Christians.
This is a line from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar". The tip-off is the first person voice; only a few parts of the Bible are written in first-person (though a number of the Psalms are).
The pronoun "his" in the passage refers to Saul, who is about to be baptized and become Paul. He was struck blind on the road to Damascus, and when Ananias laid hands on him, Saul's sight was restored -- evidently with a scale-like substance falling away from them. To this day, people say metaphorically, "The scales fell from my eyes."
This is a line from Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise." Angelou was one of America's best-known contemporary poets; she wrote and read a poem, "On the Pulse of Morning," for President Bill Clinton's inauguration.
Short and sweet, this one is half a verse in the book of Romans. The lead-in is, "What, then, shall we say in response to these things?" But the second half is often quoted solo.
This is another quote from the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. Or possibly from the *life* of J.R.R. Tolkien, as, unlike our earlier quote from "The Fellowship of the Ring," this one is attributed solely to Tolkien. If you know where, exactly, it's from, tell us in the comments!
In this last verse of Jonah, we see a bit of compassion from the often-harsh God of the Old Testament. He spares Nineveh not in spite of, but because of its people's ignorance of Him, and He also cares about the animals who live there. This is a different picture of God, compared to the one who oversaw the destruction of Jericho, right down to its animals.
"Dan" sounds like a modern name, but he was one of Jacob's twelve sons in Genesis. In this verse, Jacob predicts that the tribe of Dan will produce judges, hence the description of him as a snake who brings down horse and rider -- judgment can be strict, and cause such a downfall.
This is perhaps Emily Dickinson's most famous line, a favorite for quoting at funerals and on other difficult occasions. Because Dickinson did not give her poems titles, they are identified by their first line. So this one is from "Hope is the Thing With Feathers."
Psalm 42 is the basis for a Christian hymn. You might recognize it by its title, with more traditional language: "As The Hart Pants," instead of "As the deer longs."
The "Sam" in our citation is the neuroscientist and contrarian Sam Harris. He uses this fake religious quote as part of a larger thought experiment: What if a religious society was blinding every third child at birth, based on a scriptural quote like the one above? Would we say it's wrong to condemn this practice, if it is so deeply rooted in their culture? Food for thought.
This verse and the passage overall is not often chosen as the basis for sermons or Bible study sessions. But it shows us a fascinating cultural detail from the time. Naaman, a foreign king, is healed of leprosy by the prophet Elisha. Because he wants to worship Elisha's god from now on, he asks for loads of Israel's soil to take with him, because the belief at the time was that gods could only be worshiped on their native soil. Interesting, eh?
Belief-versus-good-deeds is a topic of debate to this day in Christian churches. While most Christian theology says that belief alone is enough for salvation, James makes a powerful argument for deeds here.
The poet T.S. Eliot, author of "The Waste Land" and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," gave us this one. Given what we've seen of how people in love behave, we'd have to agree!
Much of the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers consist of detailed laws, laying out how the newly-freed Hebrews should function as a society. Exodus 21:28, above, is a very specific rule about legal liability.
Exodus 20:5 reads, in full, "You shall not bow down to them (false gods) or worship them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous god, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third or fourth generation of those who reject me ..." Sounds harsh, but the next verse continues, "but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments."
Part of what's confusing here is the switch from the well-known name "Jacob" to the little-known "Jeshurun" to "You." Both of the "J" names refer to the nation of Israel (because the angel with whom Jacob wrestled gave him the name Israel). "Jeshurun" is a less-used alternate, and then the condemnation of the Israelites simply switches to the second person. Nonetheless, this is a legit Bible verse.
Can you tell we really like the book of James in the New Testament? We do, and we'll just say that many Christians in present-day America could stand to hear these verses from James once again, if not a whole sermon on the topic.
Long lives are commonly ascribed to the people in the book of Genesis. The longest life that Genesis records is that of Menthuselah, who lived to 969 years old. Peleg is relatively short-lived in comparison.
This is a line from Kahlil Gibran's "On Pain." If you haven't heard of this Lebanese-American poet, get yourself to a copy of his best-known work, "The Prophet." Gibran is, after all, the third best-selling poet in history, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tse.
Revelations is a book rich in description. The woman on the scarlet beast, so expensively adorned, is often thought to be a symbol of Rome, which was, at the time, the center of the world and the enemy of early Christians.
We've arrived at Revelations, the book of the Bible most likely to appeal to sci-fi fans! In this verse near the end, the angel who showed John the end of the world tells him that things should go on just as they have all this time, because God is preparing to sort things out at the end of days.
Just wanted to see if you're paying attention! This is Sherlock Holmes' famous phrase from Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, hence the fake citation of "1 Hol," standing in for "Holmes."