Biblical Archaeology Review 42:6, November/December 2016

Strata: The Bible in the News: So It Sayeth

By Leonard J. Greenspoon

Recently I was working through a thorny Biblical passage. What struck me as I surveyed the versions is how some expressions that entered English through translation have essentially shed their Biblical origin, as, for example, “eat, drink and be merry” (from Ecclesiastes 8:15) or “see eye to eye” (from Isaiah 52:8).

But there are others—for example, “eye for an eye” (Matthew 5:38, alluding to Exodus 21:24) and “writing on the wall” (see Daniel 5)—that retain their scriptural setting among large swaths of readers. This is also true for single words that appeared in 15th- and 16th-century literature, like “beget,” “covet” and “sayeth” (or “saieth”), with or without the preceding adverb “thus.” It is to this last term that we now turn: What does the popular press say about “sayeth” and the Bible?

The connection is clearest when it is explicit. We have this story from the Times of London: “So it sayeth in the Bible ... ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to’ etc. But for camel’s milk? The rich are all over that. … Yup. Going for up to £19 for 500 ml of raw camel milk imported into the UK from a grass-fed Dutch herd.”

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.