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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

My brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9)

Picture description: Cain
Picture copyright: V.

bible verse

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)


The biblical question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is used these days when we try to hide the truth or evade responsibility. Someone is a “Brother’s keeper” when he or she is a caregiver or protector of another person.

origin and application

Here is an account of the first instance of murder since the creation of mankind.
Adam and Eve first gave birth to Cain and then Abel. Abel found favour with God by offering his firstborn sheep to God. Cain, on the other hand, brought fruits as offering to God. Out of jealousy, Cain killed Abel in the field. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Trying to evade his responsibility, Cain answered tactfully, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God certainly knew who killed Abel – He heard the crying of Abel from under the ground, and cursed the land where the murder took place.


On World’s AIDS Day 2006, Barack Obama gave the following speech: “…we can embrace another tradition to our politics and our community—a tradition…that based on simple ideas that we got a stake in each other – that I am my brother’s keeper, and I am my sister’s keeper, and that binds us together greater than it drives us apart.”


Abel    brother    Cain    guardian    murder   

Related Information

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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.