Misues of Biblical Allusions


It’s true that children can learn to read without ever touching the classics or the ultimate classic, the Bible.  However, much of our modern (here I refer to anything written from the Renaissance forward) literature uses allusions, or references, to previous literary works.  Allusions to the Bible are prevalent until mid-20th Century writing.  A smattering of Biblical knowledge is not enough.  Let’s look at a few examples to see why.

The phrase “out of the mouths of babes” is used in both Psalms (8:2) and Matthew (21:16).  Most modern references change the original meaning to convey the idea of just total naivety or ignorance.  But the thorough reading of the Biblical text shows that the phrase refers to the praise of children being the most honest and deserved because children see purely.  It is really saying that children have a kind of untainted wisdom worthy of attention.

Without careful attention to Scripture reading, how would one know that Henry David Thoreau, the premier naturalist of the 19th Century, completely missed the point in Walden when he quoted 1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”  Thoreau related this text to mean that anyone who studies nature (early morning light in spring specifically) realizes that death is not to be feared but accepted as the law of life, the natural course of events, the ever-continuing cycle of life.  He claims this to be the proof of immortality.  Had he read verse 56, he would have known that the sting of death is not fear, but rather a result of sin, and he obviously never grasped the concept that victory over the grave is the knowledge of the believer in eternal salvation.  Thoreau’s victory is that he has conquered the fear of death by accepting it, by categorizing it into his cycle of nature philosophy.  He never knew the real victory of death, that it is a stepping stone to life eternal.  Only the Biblically educated reader catches this kind of mistake.

Note:  For a real shock, see how many Biblical allusions you can find in any children’s literature written in the last fifty years.  You won’t need paper and pen to keep track.