Bible Translation and Its Influence on English

Craig Blomberg has compiled a list of frequently used expressions in the English-language that originated in the King James Version (KJV) translation of the Bible. All of these expressions will be recognizable to you. Many of them are also recognizable to those who are not Christians and do not read the KJV, much less any other Bible.

  • “my cross to bear”
  • “labor of love”
  • “a sign of the times”
  • “a thorn in the flesh”
  • “wolves in sheep’s clothing”
  • “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth “
  • “as old as the hills”
  • “baptism of fire”
  • “casting your pearls before swine”
  • “falling from grace”
  • “faith moving mountains”
  • “turning the other cheek”
  • “going the extra mile”
  • “fighting the good fight”
  • “being led like a lamb to the slaughter”
  • “holier than thou”
  • “happening in the twinkling of an eye”
  • “to everything there is a season”
  • “the way of all flesh”
  • “the straight and narrow”
  • “the skin of your teeth”
  • “the root of the matter”
  • “the powers that be”
  • “the fly in the ointment”
  • “the blind leading the blind”
  • “sour grapes”
  • putting your “house in order”
  • “a house divided against itself”
  • “scapegoat”
  • “the fat of the land,”
  • “a law unto themselves”
  • “heart’s desire”

It is noted that "The King James Version of the Bible has been enormously influential in the development of the English language. It ranks with the complete works of Shakespeare and the Oxford English Dictionary as one of the cornerstones of the recorded language. After Shakespeare, the King James, or Authorized, Version of the Bible is the most common source of phrases in English." (cf. The Phrase Finder: Phrases and Expressions that Originated in the Bible.)

As a personal validation of this, one raised reading and hearing from the KJV claimed she and her sister understood and grasped Shakespeare better than those who had not been exposed to the KJV. Familiarity with the Bible aided significantly in reading and understanding Shakespeare, which is also true for other great classic literature (cf. Leland Ryken).

As summarized by Blomberg, “the Bible has had a profound impact on English!” (NAE Insight, “The Bible’s Impact on English” [Fall 2014], 3)

Email Updates

Subscribe to receive EFCA blog updates.

* indicates required