The Hebrew and Christian bibles are quoted thousands of times a day across America. Not just by men and women who preach from pulpits, or by politicians courting the evangelical vote. People from all walks of life, including some who haven't been to a worship service in years, reference the Bible without knowing it.
And Timothy Beal, a professor of religion at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, thinks they could use a handy reference to the stories behind well-worn expressions like the blind leading the blind. So he has written a book called Biblical Literacy.
People sometimes talk about a sum of money, for instance, as just a drop in the bucket. Few of them know that this phrase comes straight from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, chapter 40:
Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as dust on the scales.
We often say that a good fellow is a man after my own heart. Timothy Beal found that phrase in First Samuel, Chapter 13, where Samuel, a leader of early Israel, says to King Saul:
The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart;
and the Lord has appointed him to be ruler over his people.
Beal writes that he does not expect readers to take up the faith or to become biblical scholars. But his book could come in mighty handy, even for atheists, who might want to deftly weave Bible sayings into a script or conversation and actually know what they're talking about.
Oh, if you're curious about that blind leading the blind quotation, it comes from the New Testament book of Matthew, Chapter 15:
Let them go alone; they are blind guides of the blind.
And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.
Biblical Literacy: The Essential Bible Stories Everyone Needs to Know, by Timothy Beal, is published by HarperOne.
Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.