King James Bible: How it changed the way we speak

This is an amazing story from the BBC about the King James Bible (KJV) and its wonderful influence upon our English language. Yet with all the Bible’s documented power and authority, we see modern day “scholars” writing their newer versions and interpretations of what they think the Bible should say. Such is a tragedy. Many great authors have used (plagiarized) phrases from the Bible, some of whom may not understand or believe it.

These are some phrases we still use in everyday language, yet most users have no idea that the Holy Bible (KJV) is the source:

  • Turned the world upside down Acts 17:6
  • God forbid Romans 3:4
  • Take root 2 Kings 19:30
  • The powers that be Romans 13:1
  • Filthy lucre 1 Timothy 3:3
  • No peace for the wicked Isaiah 57: 21
  • A fly in the ointment Ecclesiastes 10:1
  • Wheels within wheels Ezekiel 10:10
  • The blind leading the blind Matthew 15:13
  • Feet of clay Daniel 2:33

The impact of the King James Bible, which was published 400 years ago, is still being felt in the way we speak and write, says Stephen Tomkins.

No other book, or indeed any piece of culture, seems to have influenced the English language as much as the King James Bible. Its turns of phrase have permeated the everyday language of English speakers, whether or not they’ve ever opened a copy.

The Sun says Aston Villa “refused to give up the ghost”. Wendy Richard calls her EastEnders character Pauline Fowler “the salt of the earth”. The England cricket coach tells reporters, “You can’t put words in my mouth.” Daily Mirror fashion pages call Tilda Swinton “a law unto herself”.

Though each of those phrases was begotten of the loins of the English Bible, it’s safe to say that none of those speakers was deliberately quoting the Bible to people they expected to be familiar with its contents.”


Please read the entire article — you will be blessed.

BBC News – King James Bible: How it changed the way we speak.

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4 responses to “King James Bible: How it changed the way we speak

  1. Hi again Rob,

    This is kind of an old post. Maybe what you say is a part of the phenomenon, but the point that I get from the article is the fascinating fact that the KJV still continues to influence modern culture, whether knowingly or unknowingly on the part of the modern users of the old expressions.

  2. Rob Ramcharan

    Did the KJV influence the way we speak today, or did it’s standing as the official Bible of the English-speaking world have the effect of freezing the speech patterns and vocabulary as they existed in 1611 into place for 400 years?
    One seems just about as likely as the other.

  3. Thanks AOW,

    Great comments and good to hear from you. I must admit Shakespeare was not one of my favorites in HS — and unfortunately, neither did I know the Bible.
    So true — that there is an eloquence in the KJV that is absent other interpretations (or abominations as some are).

    We pray Mr. AOW is feeling much better…

    In Jesus Christ eternally,Jack

  4. I grew up on the KJV and still have both my mother’s and father’s KJV copies.

    Honestly, reading Scripture in KJV means more to me and allows me greater communion with our Lord.

    When I taught in a Christian school (1978-1997), the director required that we use the KJV. One of the benefits: children could read and understand Shakespeare at an earlier age.

    The English of King James is so eloquent and so erudite! How fitting it is for the Word of God!