Bible English

Language and how we use it.
June 3 1998 3:30 AM

Bible English

Like it or not, the good book lies behind everything you say.

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In a recent op-ed article in the New York Times, the theologian Michael Novak argued that a new appreciation for, and sensitivity to, religious matters was "stirring everywhere." This certainly would hold true in Chajul, Guatemala. Exempted from Novak's observation might be executives at Reebok, who last year professed to have been unaware of connotations associated with the name they gave to a new women's running shoe: "Incubus." (An incubus is an evil spirit that has sex with sleeping women; the term is a product of medieval theological lore, not of the Bible.) Whatever the fortunes of religion itself, a dwindling cultural acquaintance with the Bible's English is surely inevitable. To paraphrase Pink Floyd (or was it Catullus?), the writing is on the wall.

Cullen Murphy is managing editor of the Atlantic Monthly, where his essays appear frequently. He also writes the comic strip Prince Valiant.

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