Brits clueless that common phrases come from the Bible

Many people are unaware that a number of everyday phrases come from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, instead attributing them to pop stars, politicians or Shakespeare.

In a poll for the Bible Society less than a fifth of people correctly said the phrase “The writing on the wall” comes from the KJV. A similar amount thought it orignated with The Beatles.

Over 10 per cent thought “a drop in the bucket” came from Tony Blair, and 14 per cent attributed it to Shakespeare. In fact Isaiah 40:15 of the KJV is where it originates.


Despite their lack of knowledge nearly half of the 2,379 respondents said the Bible was an important book and had valuable messages.

Luke Walton, from the Bible Society, said: “It’s clear that people’s knowledge of the Bible is limited and they just don’t realise how significant and wide-ranging its influence has been.”

Mr Walton added: “Making a connection with the text helps us both to appreciate its role in our own culture, history and politics, and it can enrich our lives personally.

“The Bible remains the world’s best seller and we can’t afford to exclude it from public life.”


Work on the translation began in 1604, at the request of James I of England and VI of Scotland, and carried on until 1611, making this year its 400th anniversary.

A team of 47 of the best Bible scholars of the day worked on translating the text into English, and the King James translation became the version read by many English speaking nations.

Over Lent and Easter the Globe Theatre in London hosted a reading of the translation in its entirety.

And the Royal Mail is set to produce commemorative stamps to mark the anniversary, after numerous requests from the public.

In November it was revealed that more than half of under 35-year-olds have never heard of the KJV.

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