• Login

The Bible has been the most influential text in all of Western culture. It's difficult to understand medieval or early modern or much of modern literature without knowing it...

Prof. Barbara Newman, Northwestern University
from 2006 Bible Literary project


It's not that it's impossible to read some writers without a Biblical background, but that you would miss a whole dimension to their work.

Prof. Steven Goldsmith, University of California at Berkeley
from 2006 Bible Literary Project


I can only say that if a student doesn't know any Bible literature, he or she will simply not understand whole elements of Shakespeare, Sidney, Spenser, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth

Prof. Robert Kiely, Harvard University
from 2006 Bible Literary Project


...there is truth in the remark. "without Tyndale[Bible translator], no Shakespeare"...

Prof. David Daniell, University College London
from The Bible in English


You can't really study Western literature intelligently or coherently without starting with the Bible.

Prof. Gerald L. Bruns, University of Notre Dame
from 2006 Bible Literary Project


...a familiar understanding of Christian doctrine in historical perspective thus contributes to a fuller appreciation of Shakespeare's art, but Shakespeare's art

Prof. Roland M. Frye
from Shakespeare and the Christian Doctrine


In English tradition and also for an American tradition begun by Puritan writers, a knowledge of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament is even more crucial than classical references.

Prof. Ulrich Knoefplmacher, Princeton University
from 2006 Bible Literary Project


There is no book more important for our culture than the Bible, and it is fundametal to the study of English literature and language.

Prof. David Jasper and Prof. Stephen Prickett
from the Bible and literature

How can Bible-reading help improve your English?

You may ask, amongst so many different books and teaching materials available in the market, why do we choose the Bible?

The Bible is a rich source of rhetorical devices. The Old Testament of the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, a language rich with the use of parallelisms, metaphors, alliterations etc. When it was translated into present day English, these rhetorical devices were preserved. Some of the best known examples are:

Pride goes before destruction,
A haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18)

A cheerful heart is good medicine,
But a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22)

Stolen water is sweet;
Food eaten in secret is delicious! (Proverbs 9:17)

Lazy hands make a man poor,
But diligent hands bring wealth. (Proverbs 10:4)

The Bible contains a wealth of idioms. Do you know that everyday phrases such as “go the extra mile” and “pride comes before a fall” all come from the Bible? And behind each of these idioms is a story or a parable. You can memorize the idioms better after reading the Bible. This is because you learn not just the literal meaning of the phrase, but the stories behind these everyday idioms. Simply said, the Bible is a useful phrasebook that you can carry along.

The Bible is a rich source of inspiration for famous writers. Are you aware that William Shakespeare based his plays on the stories of the Bible? He wrote the plays at the time when the English Bible populated the country. If you are not convinced, look at the similarities between these verses taken from Shakespearean plays and the Bible:

Blessed are the peacemakers on earth.
Henry VI, Part 2(2.1) and Matthew 5:9 (KJV)

My name be blotted from the book of life.
Richard II (1.3) and Psalm 69:28 (KJV)

Well-known authors that had been inspired by the Bible are far too numerous to count. Some of the examples are John Bunyun, T S Eliot, W B Yeats, Ernest Hemmingway etc…

Reading the Bible makes you a better movie critic. If classics such as Shakespearean plays are not your cup of tea, what about Matrix? Narnia? A lot of biblical images are used in popular Hollywood films. If you haven’t read the Bible, you probably can’t read the biblical meaning from characters such as Morpheus. Even the name of the leading actress, Trinity, is derived from the Bible. What’s more, a lot of film titles are directly taken from terms originated in the Bible too. Examples are : Apocalypse (in the Book of Revelation), Babel (in the Book of Genesis) etc…

Perhaps best of all, the Bible is free! With online Bibles freely available on the Internet, you can find a number of versions in English – KJV, NIV, NRSV, BBE, GNB etc…

If you want more classroom interaction instead of studying the English Bible by yourself, why not join English Bible classes in church that are usually free of charge?

For the sake of language-learning, we use New International Version (NIV) throughout the website- for the beauty of its language and for its adoption of modern day English. Where the idioms do not appear in NIV, other versions such as King James Version will be quoted.

Search idiom or name

A lot of phrases, such as "two-edged sword" and " an eye for an eye", are taken from the English Bible. Learning the stories behind these idioms is fun, and can help boost your vocabulary. Click here to find out now!

What's in a name?

Common names such as Joseph and Rachel have their origins in the Bible. Want to know their stories before picking the right name for yourself? Click here to find out.