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Do you know your biblical references?

The good books

From Shakespeare to Steinbeck, literary greats have borrowed heavily from the Bible. Now, Poet Laureate Andrew Motion has raised concerns that students of English literature are struggling because they don't understand Biblical references. Is he right to worry? Test your knowledge with this quiz from the Bible Society.

The King James Bible

1.) Question one

In the very last line of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, which book of the New Testament are the words "Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus" taken from?

Jane Eyre
  1. 1 Corinthians
  2. Colossians
  3. Revelation

2.) Question two

The Bible recounts how the prophet Jonah was rescued from the clutches of a great fish. Which nautical novel quotes this story at length?

The Prophet Jonah in the Sistine Chapel
  1. Moby Dick
  2. Treasure Island
  3. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

3.) Question three

In The Run Upon The Bankers by Jonathan Swift, approaching doom is called "the writing on the wall". Where is this phrase from?

Moses and his sister
  1. Isaiah
  2. Daniel
  3. Jude

4.) Question four

In Act Two of Hamlet, Shakespeare refers to Polonius as which Biblical character who sacrificed his daughter?

Derek Jacobi as Hamlet
  1. Jonadab
  2. Jehoshaphat
  3. Jephthah

5.) Question five

TS Eliot penned a poem about a New Testament character called A Song of Simeon. Who was Simeon?

TS Eliot
  1. A tax-collector whom Jesus met in Jerusalem
  2. A disciple of Jesus from Jericho
  3. An old man who met the baby Jesus

6.) Question six

In Paradise Lost, John Milton refers to the Devil by the name Lucifer. From where in the Bible was this name taken?

Illustration from Paradise Lost
  1. Isaiah
  2. Job
  3. Revelation

7.) Question seven

In Oscar Wilde's play Salome, who was the dancing girl that performed for King Herod and demanded the execution of John the Baptist?

Celia Franca as Salome
  1. Herod's sister
  2. Herod's stepdaughter
  3. Herod's cousin

8.) Question eight

Shakespeare's Measure for Measure takes its title from the bible, but who was the source of the saying?

Alex Hassell playing Claudio in Measure for Measure
  1. Moses
  2. Jesus
  3. Paul

9.) Question nine

William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies is named after which biblical name for the Devil?

Kevin Eldon as the Devil
  1. Belial
  2. Beelzebul
  3. Abaddon

10.) Question ten

John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden is a reworking of the story of which two biblical characters?

Biblical painting by William Blake
  1. Adam and Eve
  2. Abraham and Sarah
  3. Cain and Abel


  1. Revelation. One of the characters, St. John Eyre Rivers, quotes this passage from Revelation 22.20 as part of his prayer.
  2. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. The crew of the whaling ship Pequod are told this story as part of a sermon about sin.
  3. Daniel. King Belshazzar saw a disembodied hand write on the wall of his palace. He was murdered that night (Daniel 5.5-35).
  4. Jephthah. Despite the law against child sacrifice, Jephthah offered up his daughter as a result of a rash vow (Judges 11.29-40).
  5. The gospel of Luke says that Simeon held baby Jesus in his arms in the Temple of Jerusalem.
  6. Isaiah refers to the fallen King of Babylon by the name Day Star - Lucifer in Latin (Isaiah 14.12). It was only later applied to the Devil.
  7. Herod's stepdaughter. Salome was also Herod's niece. We only know of her name from the Jewish historian Josephus.
  8. Jesus said: "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matthew 7.2).
  9. Beelzebul. The term comes from the Hebrew word ba'al zebub, which some scholars translate as Lord of the Flies.
  10. Cain and Abel. After murdering his brother Abel, Cain settled in a land "east of Eden".

How did you do?

0 - 3 : How are the mighty fallen

4 - 7 : By the skin of your teeth

8 - 10 : The truth shall make you free

The Bible, but not as you know it
Thursday, 27 November 2008, 10:43 GMT |  Magazine


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