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January 2011

East of Eden

All but cursed, the men of dust, From garden’d bliss dejected thrust. Cast down to blood and tangling thorn, Flat-faced in mud, bereft, forlorn. Unmoved as ages droned along, Resigned to sighing pity’s song. To mouth their sadness with each breath, In love with self and sin and death. Then glancing back, a glimmering sight, […]


First Eve receives her life and then her name from Adam.  But in between these two events the whole world falls apart. Between Eve’s creation and her naming, the couple rebel, death and curse are unleashed and the LORD pronounces fearful  judgement.  Yet the most hopeful verse comes next: “Adam called his wife’s name Eve; […]

Sweat of your brow

Ok, the Authorized Version can’t take credit for this one.  It translates Genesis 3:19 as “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” If they were even more literal they might have said “In the sweat of thy nostrils…”! But, unsurprisingly, it’s the more idiomatic translation “By the sweat of your brow” that […]

From the BBC news magazine…

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 […]

Dust to Dust

Today I will stand beside a grave as they lower Fred’s coffin.  I will say these famous words: “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” Each phrase picks up on biblical imagery. Adam was made from adamah meaning earth.  And humanity is “dust and ashes” as Abraham would say (Genesis 18:27).  But “dust […]

Fig leaves

In popular usage the phrase “fig leaf” refers to a hasty and inadequate cover-up for something shameful.  And that’s precisely how fig leaves function in Genesis 3. An hour earlier, Adam and Eve were walking around paradise as king and queen.  They were naked and unashamed. But the minute they eat the forbidden fruit, sin […]

Pride goeth before a fall

There’s something so fitting about an arrogant fool cut down to size. The Bond villain declaring “I am invincible” seconds before his grizzly death. The cocky athlete slowing down for the cameras and then tripping before the finish line. The deluded despot, overstretched and finally overthrown. At these times we love to quote from Proverbs: […]

Forbidden fruit

Just the phrase ‘forbidden fruit’ makes our mouths water.  And that fact tells us everything we need to know about the kind of humanity we have inherited. “Forbidden fruit” is not a phrase directly from the bible but it has become a shorthand to refer to “the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of […]

They were naked and were not ashamed

Genesis chapter 2 is a very common wedding text.  And then at the rehearsal the minister has to coach a blushing bridesmaid through the final verse of the reading.  Gulping, they exclaim, “Is this really in the bible?!” “They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”  (Genesis 2:24) It just […]

One flesh

There are three prominent prepositions used about Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.  For, From, and To.  She is for him.  From him.  Then brought to him. Which means the whole thing is heading towards a fourth preposition.  And I’m afraid I can’t avoid all the connotations of this next word, but let’s hold our […]