Bible In Western Culture

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Bible in Western Culture

Bible in Western Culture


Anyone who explores art, literature, history or music in any depth swiftly recognizes the Bible as a vital key to understanding and interpreting much of Western culture and history. For hundreds of years, human creativity was inspired and shaped by a Christian world view and a system of reference and allusion which has not only molded our past but continues to affect our present. Phrases such as 'being a Good Samaritan 'turning the other cheek and 'going the extra mile' still pervade the English language; the physical landscape and material culture of many countries still bear the Imprint of Christian belief and practice; the impact of biblical teaching can be seen in systems of law and ethics. Yet for many today, the stories of the Bible are not so familiar and the network of allusions and references appear frustratingly elusive (Lesslie, 2003).


This essay therefore offers a way into the Bible for those who would like to explore its Influence on Western culture. It is not intended as a guide to the Bible in all its aspects or to the huge area of Biblical Studies, but as an introduction to key stories which have inspired and influenced artists, writers and musicians in the past and which continue to do so today (Gary, 2006).

From the very beginning, the Bible has been part of the Western Culture. Biblical thought can be found in the writings and speeches of the leaders and heroes who formed the Republic and guided its development. It is used in public debate and political campaign even today. It is important to note, however, that the Bible was not the only or principle source of aspiration of the founders. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other found inspiration in the philosophies of the day, such as the Enlightenment. They acknowledged God as the creator, but they often looked to writers like John Locke and David Hume to form their beliefs in “unalienable rights” and other principles of democracy (Northrop, 2007).

Nevertheless, the Bible was very much a part of early American life. Various Christian denomination and some Jews arrived on American shores in the early days of the history. Most of them looked to the Bible as a source of revelation and authority. But what they sought in the new land was the freedom to practice their faith based on their own interpretation of the Bible. In founding periods of many countries, the words and sentiments of the Bible were often on the lips and flowed from the pens of the founders.

Biblical literacy-a working knowledge of the Bible as literature- is a key to a good liberal arts education. That means, quite simply, that the language, narratives, and teachings in the Bible are literature in themselves and therefore worthy of study. It also means that the literature of the Bible has also influenced the development of much other literature, art, music, sculpture, and even filmmaking. In addition, much of the English language comes from ...
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