Way back in 1970, when I was writing my Ph.D. thesis, I had bought a book entitled “The Penguin Dictionary of Quotations”. The paperback edition was subsidised by the English Language Book Society and the price was 3 Rupees and 15 Paise. In those days, even that was not a small sum. The dictionary had over 16,000 quotations out of which about 1,000 quotations were surprisingly from the Holy Bible alone.
Over time, countless words have been spoken by wise people, and millions of words have been written. But it is strange that they are mostly forgotten and only a few are remembered. A quotation is a sentence that is worth recalling, that makes sense by itself even when taken out of context, and is not bound by the limits of space and time. By this definition, the Bible is an extremely quotable book.
Jesus Christ, whose statements recorded in the Bible are widely quoted, himself used quotations from the Old Testament while speaking. When the people asked if he were really the Messiah, he said, “the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead are raised… What more evidence did they need?” (Luke 7:19-22) He was only quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah. (Isaiah 29:18, 35:5)
When Jesus was being tempted by the Devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), he did not resist him but just quoted God’s commandment from the scriptures: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” (Deuteronomy 6:13) The Devil had to flee.
And while suffering the agony of death on the cross, Jesus quoted a prayer from the Psalms: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1)
Whether we have to confront someone with an argument, or have to battle against temptation, or are so distressed that we cannot compose our own prayer, we always have the Bible to quote from. Whenever my own mind is crowded with confusing and unwelcome thoughts, I quote this to myself: “In the multitude of my thoughts within me, your comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19)
When we quote from the Bible, we think and speak in God’s language. We do not have to explain. We are better understood. Our words become authoritative and powerful.