287: Our Most Popular Tuesday Quiz Returns: “The Bard or the Bible?”

THE MOST POPULAR QUIZ we’ve ever published:

Here at ReadTheSpirit, our aim is to connect you with great spiritual voices who’ll enrich your experience of the world. And, “Coined By God” is an excellent example of a book that takes us into familiar territory—the Bible—and lights up jewels within the Bible itself that most of us probably didn’t know were lying among its pages.

Stanley Malless and Jeffrey McQuain love language. They also love history. And they’ve devoted years of research to those centuries when the English language was blossoming in its present form. Hundreds of the popular words and phrases that we use today either arose from the work of William Shakespeare—or were summoned from the creative minds of early English-language translators of the Bible. These researchers want to inspire us to celebrate the explosion of creativity and communication in those eras. And they want us to think in fresh ways about the language we have inherited.

So, this quiz is quite simple to explain—although it may prove more challenging to complete correctly.

Below, you’ll find 10 words or phrases. Half of them were introduced into the English language through the creativity of early Bible translators. The other half are from the Bard—and, to keep things within a manageable scale, we’ll limit the Shakespearean phrases to a single play: Hamlet. Your quest is to identify which 5 are from the Bible—and which 5 are from the text of Hamlet.

Try to answer all 10—then, scroll down for the answers.


    1.) Apple of his eye.

    2.) Blind lead the blind.

    3.) City set on a hill.

    4.) Pluck out the heart.

    5.) Confess yourself to heaven.

    6.) Eat, drink and be merry.

    7.) Get thee behind me, Satan.

    8.) Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

    9.) Passing through nature to eternity.

    10.) The rest is silence.



1.) Bible. It’s first usage was in Deuteronomy 32:10: He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.

2.) Bible. From Matthew 15:14: Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

3.) Bible. Matthew again was the birthplace of the phrase, slightly revised over time, that’s now common political coin. In 5:14: Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

4.) Shakespeare verbally sent us down this horrific path, perhaps softened by those who, later, preferred only to pluck the heartstrings.

5.) It’s a timeless religious idea, but the phrase was from Shakespeare — not early Bibles.

6.) Bible. Yes, this one surely sounds Shakespearean — he reveled in this stuff — but it’s from Luke 12:19: And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

7.) Bible. Matthew once more! This time 16:23: But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art
an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God,
but those that be of men. (If you guessed it was Shakespeare, you may have been thinking of his line, “Get thee to a nunnery!”)

8.) You might want to reach for Benjamin Franklin as an answer for No. 8 — but he’s not an option in this quiz! There are countless “wisdom” passages in the Bible — but this one also arose from Shakespeare’s pen.

9.) And so we are, often inspired by Shakespeare’s reflections. The phrase came from his pen, not the Bible.

10.) Thus ends our quiz! The 4-word sentence is truly Biblical in its poetic theme — but it was also from the pen of the Bard.   

How’d you do?

(Published in the ReadTheSpirit online magazine.)

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