1. Jonias
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    Jonias Member

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    Bible Verses as Titles?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Jonias, Jan 28, 2011.

    As Christianity is not as prominent as it used to be in the West do you think it would be a good idea to give my story a title from the Bible? I have a few titles from "scripture" but after the decline of Christianity (and, more importantly and sadly, biblical literacy) I am worrying no one will understand the reference.

    I am not religious myself, but it fits with the theme of the story (one of its characters is an angel in disguise, albeit in the service of a female Goddess) and just think it might be an interesting idea.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Most people will get it. Even non-Christians will get it in most cases, because they are educated. The number of people in the U.S. who identify as Christians is still around 80%.

    As a general rule, I don't think altering your work because you're worried that the general populace isn't clever enough to get it is a good idea. Readers are often quite clever. The ones who get it will appreciate it. The ones who don't won't care (or if they do they'll look it up).
     
  3. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    It may put nonreligious people off, thinking it is going to be of religious content.
    It may disappoint religious people -having been attracted by the title- because it is not of religious content.

    What I mean is the title could attract the attention of the wrong audience - whereas the reader you wish to attract may be put off by the title imo.

    The film The Ten Commandment - was about The Ten Commandments. See what I mean.
     
  4. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    It probably depends on the verse. Lots of stuff from Ecclesiastes, for example, would make fantastic titles for a wide range of books. Leviticus, you might have a more narrow audience with that one.
     
  5. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Gethsemane" would make a good title for a chapter with betrayal in it.
     
  6. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Though Christianity as a religion is on the decline in the West, it is still there, and strongly, as a culture.

    Consider this. It's been a couple thousand years since the masses have believed in Zeus et al, yet their fables are still told, and allusions to Greek/Roman mythology.

    -Frank
     
  7. Jonias
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    Jonias Member

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    That was what I was most worried about. Especially when it isn't necessary it gives me pause, even if I really like the idea.

    Personally, I love listening to old hymns...the pure fervor and passion religion inspired in people (especially in those days when there was such certainty behind it) can make for extremely moving music. But some people are put off by the religious references and can't stand to listen to it, no matter how beautiful it is.

    As to the 80% of Americans being Christian, I think that must mean nominally...a lot of paper Christians don't really know anything about the Bible. And that's just the States. I'm from Canada. It's more religious than Europe is but much less so than the US; probably most people I know are atheist.

    It's not that most readers aren't clever, but, well...just from polls they've done the amount of ignorance at the content of the Bible is staggering. Which I honestly think is a little sad. As a non-Christian, I don't care for the same reason many people might, but I just find it kind of unfortunate that we are throwing the baby out with the bath water and losing a huge part of our cultural heritage. Much of the Bible is not of "great quality" in a literary sense, but the influence it has had on Western literature is still staggering. If you're not familiar with it, you'll find it very difficult to appreciate basically all Western cultural output at least up to the 1960's, and the indirect influence is still omnipresent.

    *sigh* I guess that tirade was a bit off topic, but you see what I'm saying. (Needless to say, I'm part of the "teach the Bible as literature crowd").
     
  8. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    I join you Jonias, in your regretfulness. But, I largely feel the way I do because the King James version is absolutely, and inarguably, a literary work of the very highest merit.
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it matters, as long as the quote works in context. I mean, how many people who saw Stephen Fry's "Moab is my washpot" knew it was from the Psalms? They probably guessed it was some sort of Biblical allusion, but no more. And if you call something "All Tears from Their Eyes" does it matter that it's from Revelation?
     
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  10. Slammoth
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    Slammoth Member

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    This depends entirely on which titles you choose. Consider when it is important that people get the reference, and when it is not - "All Tears from Their Eyes" above is a good example of when it likely doesn't. The title is evocative enough in its own right to make it seem appropriate even to the naive reader (assuming the content of the chapter matches the flavor of the title, eg. a sad chapter for "All Tears from Their Eyes"), and easy to tie into the events in your work.

    However, if the title is only relevant to the chapter if the reader understands the reference, then you'll have to think of whether it is worth the trade-off of some people maybe not understanding it (eg. A happy chapter under "All Tears from Their Eyes", somehow made understandable if you get the reference).
     
  11. Sean2112bd
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    Sean2112bd Member

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    You should do it. It's easy to find information today, so those who don't know the reference can search it. Another example of a scripture title is "The Quick and the Dead" which was a western movie by Sam Raimi (I didn't much care for it). If you are using the title as an allusion to the story itself, then go for it. If not, then I'd advise a different title.
     
  12. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    My worry would be which translation to use? The Catholic church uses a different translation than they used to, but the KJ is what many people think of as the classic text. Yet the "classic" is full of translation problems and political issues inserted at the time. Would a correct and accurate translation even be recognized as the verse?

    It could be very interesting to quote verses that inspire cult members or whatever to actions that are crutial to the plot, or just to explain why they are so crazy.

    Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you. —Judges 19:24

    And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.—Judges 19:29

    Here's one that can be applied to someone who's having a bad day:

    Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out.—Deuteronomy 28:19
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suspect it depends on the verse - most people might not get an obscure reference but:

    Through a Glass Darkly or All Flesh is Grass or Father Forgive Them or Two together shall have Heat. All give off an image suitable for certain types of stories.
     
  14. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Write what you feel. If the titles fit the imagery of what you're writing, use them.

    Don't think too much about what people will 'get' or won't get.
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    More how you use them, but I think that's what you meant from what you went on to say.
    Well, a poignant resolution to a sad situation. Or am I already assuming knowledge that the context is "He will wipe all tears from their eyes"?
     
  16. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think people will expect the book to have religious content just because the title references a Bible verse - it all depends on what verse you choose.

    If you pitch some verses here, we could tell you if we think it makes the book sound religious.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    many bestsellers that had nothing [or little] to do with relgion have had biblical titles... people either get the connection, or they don't, but the titles worked well either way...
     
  18. Jonias
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    Jonias Member

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    I was thinking of "Joy Cometh in the Morning", but I did a search recently and there are so many books (mostly Christian) called "Joy Comes in the Morning" I am beginning to rethink that.

    My other idea was "After the Wind". Doesn't sound too religious and fits the theme pretty well, but some might find it plain and perhaps a bit too ambiguous.
     
  19. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like After the Wind.
    Joy Cometh in The Morning for me would be a definite No-No!
    But it is up to you.
     
  20. Pen
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    Titles and subtitles are probably the most meaningful individual words in a book, and they set the tone. A story with a title that is a Biblical allusion immediately conjures images of epic stories, classical heroes and villains and a strong idea of external morality- well, either that or a subversion of the same!

    The title should come from the meaning of the work- presumably if you're looking in the Bible for your titles you got some of your story ideas in the same place- which verses in the Bible encapsulate the story idea?
     
  21. twopounder
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    I point out many titles that have become movies:

    Book of Eli, Kingdom of Heaven, Armageddon, etc etc.

    And even those that haven't: Anvil of God, So long and Thanks for All the Fish, Damocles Crusade, etc etc.

    People are drawn by titles. Most people don't really know what is religious. Gideon, for example, is HIGHLY religious, but you will find his name in numerous texts that don't involve the Jewish religion. The truth is, people gravitate towards the interesting and unusual. I doubt using a religious title will harm your book in the slightest.

    There are dozens of books with Religious titles that are not religious in any way, shape, or form. Hell, ever read/watched a story about a human becoming an angel? Yeah BS, the bible specifically states that humans and angels are unrelated.

    So, people correlate where they will and draw lines where they wont.
     
  22. Pen
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    True, titles with religious themes don't say the content will be religious, but I'd expect there to be some sort of Biblical allusion. If a book was titled "Gideon", I'd expect themes of triumphant faith or loyalty and victory over oppression, whether or not that loyalty was to a god or an earthly being.

    The Bible might say angels are not humans with wings (seraphim indeed are meant to be Lovecraftian horrors), but pop-religion tends to understand that they are at least capable of appearing as kindly youngish people with a sort of innate aura.
     
  23. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    "After the Wind" makes me think somebody has eaten to many Brussels sprouts and baked beans -- is that what you meant by "ambiguous"?
     
  24. Pen
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    I'd say that a possible comic interpretation needs something to stand on- while wind does mean farting, unless you had constant imagery of heavenly trumpets and "the wind at my back", people wouldn't give the interpretation much credit.
     
  25. Vintage
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    So if I name my main character and possibly my entire book "Samael", what would that bring to mind?
     

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