“Beside oneself,” “as old as the hills,” “the kiss of death,” “see eye to eye,” and “raising Cain” are all expressions most English speakers understand and use in conversation. If you asked someone what these phrases have in common, few would be able to say that they all come from the Bible.
Even in a secular, post-Christian age the imprint of the Bible, and especially the King James Version, is pervasive and profound. A distinguished professor of literature has said, “the King James Version of the Bible is the most influential English book ever printed.” Its themes have influenced the arts, constitutions, laws, and everyday language.
In Raising Cain. Dr. Wayne Harvey provides fascinating documen- tation of the echoes of the King James Bible on the tongues of and in the writings of 21st century English speakers.
His entry on “Raising Cain” shows how this treasury of biblical expressions works:
Raise Cain (See also “Cain and Abel” and “Cain, Mark of”)
To create a disturbance. One sense of raise in old English is to conjure up. To raise Cain is to bring up or express the spirit of Cain.
But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him (Genesis 4:5-7).