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It comes from the bible

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on December 04, 2005

In Reply to: It comes from the bible posted by R. Berg on December 03, 2005

: : far be it from me to query a phrase BUT "etc. etc. it comes from the bible?"

: : surely not since english was not the original language of the bible, it was translated ages ago. Surely it's simply the best literal translation of the phrase as used by the monks/priests who translated it. Not to be pedantic or anything :)

: David, there are many translations of the Bible into English and other languages. (Translators aren't necessarily monks or priests.) Some were made "ages ago"; some are recent. Not all translations contain exactly the same books: Catholic Bibles include a few that Protestant Bibles leave out. The Jewish Bible is the Old Testament only. So you are correct in that an English phrase "from the Bible" isn't the original Greek or Hebrew text.

: However, I don't see what difference that makes. We could say the same thing about English phrases drawn from Continental European literature. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating" comes from Don Quixote, and you can bet Cervantes didn't write that in English.
But I don't think Cervantes invented "the proof of the pudding". Camden wrote "All the proofe of a pudding, is in the eating" in 1623; the first part of Don Quixote was published in Spanish in 1604 but I doubt whether Camden had read it in Spanish (I think the first translation into English was by Smollett in 1755). In any case, a proverb expressing this general idea had existed since the 13th century - e.g. "It is y-write that euery thing himself sheweth in the tastyng" ("King Alisaunder" anon, c 1300). So it looks as though it is a generic European proverb, and very old. Incidentally, JB, what exactly is Cervantes' original Spanish? It's possible that when translating this passage from Don Quixote, the translator simply chose an existing English proverb equivalent to Cervantes's text in meaning.

But DC has a point; perhaps we should be more punctilious in saying "from the King James Bible", which is most often the one we mean when we say "from the Bible".