does anyone know the bible anymore?

I was reading a post about easter services and noticed the postcard that is being letterbox dropped over in Kirribilli by a church there. It’s a simple, striking typographic design, but there was one thing in the fine print that jumped out at me. See if you can spot it.

easter postcard

More than half of one side of the card is taken up with a bible quote, in bright red text, and the word “death” in blackletter. For me, this taps into the visuals of the old “turn or burn” kind of cartoon tracts that were (and are) handed out so often by sincere people from a previous generation. But it’s the reference underneath that I found really striking. The attribution for the quote doesn’t just say where the quote comes from, it starts out by saying “The Bible”, as if people wouldn’t recognise it in the first place.

This is fairly confronting for me, as someone who is devoting no small amount of effort to understanding the bible as best I can. What do you think? Has the average Sydney-sider lost the ability to identify a bible quote just by using an unusual word like “Corinthians”?

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  1. It’s a good point to reflect on Dave – how many people in our city are familiar with the Bible? How many have read it recently? I’ve been following a debate online between an atheist and a Christian, and the Christian asked – “how long as it been since you’d read the Gospels?” He responded – “A couple of decades”. I wonder how representative he is of other (older) Sydneysiders, and how much younger Sydneysiders have been exposed to the Bible. My experience – not much. In which case, it’s safer to ensure that they know that the quote has actually come from the Bible 🙂

  2. Hi Dave, I’d also contend that the postcard isn’t referring to ‘turn or burn’ – scaring people into heaven. Instead, it’s tapping into the things that aren’t right in this world, at the top of that list being death, and giving people hope, that Jesus has conquered them. Good news!

  3. I don’t think I expressed that “turn or burn” sentiment very clearly – I meant that the font choice for death reminds me of the tracts, and the tracts tended to have a “turn or burn” message in them.

  4. I don’t think you could assume anything. Certainly people around me wouldn’t necessarily know “corinthians” as a Bible book or know what a “gospel” is.

  5. The biblical allusions that are used by an older generation might as well be in a foreign language eg ‘the sorrows of Job’ or someone being a Magdalene, or a Good Samaritan. Completely lost on most people…

  6. @Steve, I really don’t think I can answer that: I’d need to talk to some more people. I suspect that I have a higher level of biblical literacy than the average Sydneysider, and so that tends to skew my own opinion on that.

    @Barb, You’re probably right: I suspect that my own experience of reading and studying the bible is atypical even amongst Christians, let alone people who have grown up without ever visiting a church!

    @Ken, Another good point – I’ve heard the expression “the trials of Job” being used in some obscure movie or other, but in general, people don’t tend to use those expressions anymore (or at least knowingly).

    Looks like putting “The Bible” underneath a bible quote is not only a good idea, but something of a necessity!

  7. Coming in pretty late to this, but I really like the idea of putting “The Bible” there as well. While many would assume “1 Corinthians 15:54-57” as clearly verses from the Bible, how many (especially of the unsaved) would care exactly where the passage came from?

    By telling them first and foremost it came from “The Bible” – THE ultimate, infallible authority on our faith – and leaving the nitty gritty details like chapter and verse in parentheses if they want to enquire deeper, the whole thing now seems more… accessible?

    Oh, and I’m finding the ‘Death’ font a little cheesy too, but that’s probably more a matter of taste =P

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