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Literature / The Bible

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"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..."
— Genesis 1:1

Before we get to the tropes used in the Bible, it should be noted that there are several different traditions as to what the Bible contains; while most material is shared, historically members of religious groups have decided to include or exclude different writings. The Book of Tobit, The Book of Judith, the Maccabees books, and many others are included in some traditions' orthodoxy and wholly ignored by others' (as is the entire New Testament, for that matter). Debates about what's Canon and what isn't continue to this day. That's not taking into account the multitude of different translations out there, not only between languages but within each language—leaving plenty of room for cases of Lost in Translation.

On a related note, there are several major opinions on what the Bible is. According to the Christian viewpoint, the Bible is an anthology of books by divinely inspired followers of God and Christ over a period of 600 to 1600 years, including: biographies, histories, manuals of rules and laws, songs and ritual prayers, advice for living like in Paul's letters, and divine revelations. (For the traditional Jewish perspective, strike out the words "and Christ" and "like in Paul's letters," and reduce the number of years by two to six hundred years.) There is debate among Christians over just what "divinely inspired" entails; some say this means everything in the Bible should be taken completely at face value, while others hold that some parts (like the book of Genesis, for example) are meant to be taken as allegorical or symbolic writings, not to be interpreted literally. The latter view is held by most mainline Protestant denominations and is the official position of the Catholic Church.

Another set of interpretations was from what is now called, collectively, Gnosticism. The Gnostics did not accept the idea of canon at all, nor any central religious authority. Thus, pretty much every Gnostic collection of scripture contained different sets of documents, some orthodox canon and some written locally. Indeed, the general Gnostic approach to religious literature was one of extreme openness, and a new Evangelion (no, not that one) probably appeared within the various Gnostic communities every day. The Gnostics believed in personal and continuous revelation rather than authority of scripture.

The view of those who don't belong to the Abrahamic religions generally ranges from seeing the events of the Bible as somewhere between "exaggerated history" and "pure fiction".

Comprising the works of many writers from the 11th century BC to about 200 AD, before the advent of mass communication, the Bible is one of humanity's best-known and longest-enduring books, with 1500 ancient surviving Greek manuscripts making it the ancient world's best seller (Homer, with 643 surviving manuscripts of The Iliad, comes in second). The absence of a single authority with a strictly defined canon policy has proven an obstacle, however. Or rather, the existence of dozens or hundreds of conflicting authorities. Historically, it resulted in some of the most devastating Flame Wars ever, and in actual wars as well.

It's worth noting that dating the Bible (no, not that) is one of the most contentious issues surrounding it. The consensus secular view, which mainline Protestants and Catholics more or less accept, is that the first five books (the Pentateuch or Torah), along with some of the histories were compiled around 450 BC, from four source texts, the oldest of which dates back to about 800 BC. The prophetic and wisdom literature (the rest of the Old Testament) was compiled and redacted over the next century or two, though some of the Psalms may go back to 1000 BC. The traditional view - accepted by fundamentalist and most evangelical Protestants, as well as Orthodox Jews, is that the whole Pentateuch was dictated to Moses around 1500 BC, while the prophetic books were written by the authors they're traditionally ascribed to from about 900 to 500 BC.

Due to the Bible's sheer size and literary value, in addition to the fact that it is in the public domain (as it predated the invention of copyright; the British Crown holds perpetual copyright over the King James Version in the UK and some newer translations are copyrighted), it is often used as a goldmine of stock plots and characters for modern writers. Sometimes, however, said modern writers cannot avoid the temptation to introduce gratuitous references for the sake of it, and when they take caution to avoid controversial subjects like a specific religion, it can degenerate into such phenomena as Jesus Taboo, Crystal Dragon Jesus and No Celebrities Were Harmed. On the other hand, writers unfamiliar with the religious symbolism can end up with "controversial" character portrayals like King of All Cosmos, or, in The Theme Park Version, Fluffy Cloud Heaven.

Often cited by Moral Guardians. Not to be confused with Universe Bible.

One of the Trope Makers; tropes that appear in it are by definition Older Than Feudalism. While some parts of the Old Testament may be somewhat older than 800 BCE, it would be very confusing to try to sort tropes into multiple indexes based on which book and verse they came from.

    Books of the Bible that have their own pages 

Provides examples of:

  • Abridged for Children: The Bible gets this treatment, which is quite understandable when you actually read it for yourself and realize just how horrific some of the worst bits are (the Crucifixion itself falls a long way behind being the worst it gets). Examples include a woman literally being raped to death, a process that continues through the night and ends with her lifeless body being found on the doorstep the next morning (and it just gets worse from there).
  • Adaptation Amalgamation:
    • The Bible itself is a collection of books. Some of these books retell the same story under a different interpretation, or are from a different era of the religious development.
    • The trope also applies to books' origins. The Old Testament is composed of the Yahwist source, the Elohist source, the Deuteronomist source, and the Priestly source. These four sources were generally the same, but also have differences based on the objectives they were trying to accomplish: The Yahwist describing an anthropomorphic god, Elohist source being less anthropomorphic, Deuteronomist being composed of Moses' farewell speeches, and the Priestly source which places focus on worship and tradition. The first noticeable difference appears in Genesis with the second creation account (where the Priestly story is immediately followed by the Yahwist/Elohist story).
  • Aerith and Bob: David and Goliath. Judas and Peter. Michael and Lucifer. However, all or most of these were common names at the time; we've only decided which ones to pass on to our children, and these have become normal.
  • All There in the Manual: The prefaces of many Bible versions tell why the writers used a specific translation, why there are italics, and what the Footnotes mean.
  • Ambiguous Gender: In the original Hebrew (or as close as we have to it), pretty much all of God's names are masculine but many of his traits are described with feminine words. This shows up most notably in Genesis, where Ruach and Merachefet are used in conjunction with Elohiym, though they can be read as plural, which may be hanging a lampshade on God's seemingly contradictory aspects.
  • Amicable Ants: The Book of Proverbs contains the quote "Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways, and be wise"— effectively imploring one to emulate ants in their industriousness.
  • Anachronic Order: The books of prophecy tend to skip around; Jeremiah's revelations while in prison precede the account of his imprisonment, for instance. The book of Daniel also tends to skip around; in some stories he's an old man, in others he's a youth of between fifteen and twenty. There is a well known Hebrew phrase that means (loosely translated): "There is no early or late in the Torah." ("ein mukdam u'meuchar ba'Torah")
  • Animal Stereotypes:
    • Played with in various ways. Though the Bible never outright calls any animal evil, it uses them as symbols for both good and bad things. Snakes, for example, are used to represent everything from Satan to alcohol, deceit, and even wisdom.
    • Leviathan and Behemoth. May or may not be based on real animals, but it's a verifiable fact that they are badass.
  • Arc Number: Several of them repeatedly used in various contexts—
    • Seven—Originally: six days of creating the World + one day of resting.
    • Twelve—Originally the number of Jacob's sons from which the Israelite tribes descend.
    • Forty—Originally the number of years that the Israelites roamed through the desert and number of days and nights it rained during the deluge. Commonly used in the Bible and other ancient Near Eastern literature as shorthand for "a long time".
  • Author Avatar: The naked guy mentioned in Mark 14:51-52 was probably Mark himself.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: "There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses." (Ezekiel 23:20 NIV)
  • Biological Weapons Solve Everything: God has occasionally unleashed plagues to defeat enemies of His faithful, or simply to make a point.
  • Blasphemous Praise: One of the Herods is struck dead for accepting such praise.
  • Bond One-Liner: Judges 15:16 Then Samson said, "With a donkey's jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey's jawbone I have killed a thousand men." Even more awesome when you substitute "ass" for "donkey."
  • Bowdlerise: Most adaptions for children take out some more adult parts. For example, Esther was chosen by King Xerxes because of how good she was in bed. In the judgment of Solomon, both women claiming to be the infant's mother were prostitutes—and the song of Solomon is a full-blown celebration of sex. Lot's daughters get him drunk and rape him right after his wife is killed.
  • Brother–Sister Incest:
    • According to the Talmud, Cain and Abel each had a twin sister. Cain married Abel's, and Seth married Cain's.
    • The case of Amnon and Tamar in Samuel II, where Amnon pretends to be sick so that, when his sister, Tamar, came into his room to feed him, he could rape her. Now THAT is squick-worthy. And it did not end well for him.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Job and Jesus. The former gets a "prize" from God, the latter saves all the people that would be baking in Hell if He didn't, including you.
    • Moses abandons his family to follow God, and he is not even allowed to be buried in the Promised Land.
  • Catchphrase: "What is this deed you have done?" is commonly used to mean "What the Hell, Hero?" or "You Monster!".
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Ishmael, Isaac's half-brother in Genesis, fades into the background shortly after he's introduced and sent off to Arabia. Turns out one of his descendants was a guy named Muhammad. Interestingly enough, this loose thread doesn't get picked up until after the Bible ends.
  • The Chosen One: Saul and David were both the chosen one. Saul sees David as a rival to be eliminated, while David respects Saul's position enough to refuse to kill him - and in fact orders Saul's killer executed.
  • Color-Coded Speech: Many versions of The Bible, known as "Red Letter Editions", have Jesus's words coloured red, usually those spoken during his corporeal life on Earth, a process known as Rubrication. This is derived from the practice of medieval script-making in which headings, leading sections of text and important words were marked in red ink, usually for emphasis.
  • Confound Them with Kindness: Proverbs 25:21, 22 says "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you." A common interpretation of this passage is that kindness is the best revenge, because it makes your enemy uncomfortable without you having to do anything immoral.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Paul of Tarsus, usually in his epistles. In one instance, mediating an argument amongst the Galatians about circumcision, he helpfully recommends to the conservative Jewish converts agitating against the pagan converts that they "go the whole way and cut the entire thing off!"
    • The Old Testament was way ahead on the snark front. One memorable moment from the book of Jonah:
      God (to whiny Jonah): You cared about a tree which grew overnight and died overnight, and which you did not work to grow. And should I not care about Nineveh, which has thousands of people who do not yet know their right from their left, and also much cattle!
    • The prophets are especially full of this sort of thing; such as God mocking how idol-worshipers would cut down a tree, make an idol to worship out of part of it...and cook breakfast over the rest of it.
    • Here's one from the Book of Judges: In it, the Israelites constantly abandon Yahweh and turn other gods, causing God to remove his protection and allowing foreign powers to invade them. This causes the Israelites to turn back to Him, and He helps them drive out their oppressors. However, only a generation or so later, the pattern repeats itself. After this happens for the third time, and the Israelites beseech God for help, Yahweh, in an epic snark moment, pretty much tells them: "You know, I'm growing tired of having to save you all the time, since you will only turn your back on me again as soon as everything is back to normal. Turn instead to the new gods that you have chosen; may they save you when you're in trouble!"
  • Death of a Child:
    • The Bible features, among other acts of evil, the killings of firstborn children ordered by Pharaoh and King Herod in order to try to prevent both Moses and Jesus from growing up to cause trouble, and God himself killing all of the Egyptians' firstborn children, and the firstborn calves as well.
    • When the words Molech/Baal-Hammon, Astarte/Astarthe/Astaroth/Ashtoreth, the Valley of Ben-Hinnom/Gehenna, the Ammonites/Amorites, the Canaanites, etc. are mentioned, these are specifically referencing the sacrifices of children, born and unborn, to the gods of some of the cultures of the time. Sometimes the Jewish people (such as Kings Solomon, Achaz, and Manasses) messed up and took on this practice as well, despite God calling such a practice an abomination, and demanding the death of those who did such things. Those people ended up in a lot of trouble. It's the whole reason that Gehenna came to be the Jewish word for Tartarus/Hell (which is different from Sheol/Hades/Purgatory).
    • In 2 Maccabees, when the Jewish people rebelled against the corrupt high priest Jason, who had been appointed by King Antiochus IV, and ran him out of town, the king left Egypt for Jerusalem. Once in Jerusalem, he massacred many, young and old, women and children, virgins and infants. In 1 and 2 Maccabees (2 Maccabees is not a "sequel', it's another viewpoint of what happened in the first book), King Antiochus IV then decreed that everyone take up the customs of everyone else, except the Jewish customs. He outlawed all Jewish customs, including circumcision. The children who were circumcised were killed, as were their mothers and whoever performed the circumcision.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Judith with the head of Holofernes. Possibly also Salome with the head of John the Baptist.
  • Deliberately Painful Clothing: A lot of Old Testament prophets would wear hair shirts. John the Baptist wore one, made of camel hair. Often people would wear them while doing penance for sins. It's also translated as "sackcloth". i.e. burlap-like material.
  • Dishonored Dead: This happens to a few kings of Judah in The Book of Chronicles. Most kings were buried in rock tombs near their ancestors. Jehoram is not buried with the other kings due to being rather nasty, and Azariah/Uzziah is buried in a field due to being a leper.
  • Downer Ending:
    • God ensures that Moses dies without setting foot on The Promised Land.
    • In some terms, this applies to the Old Testament. The "ending" (remember that chronologically, Ezra and Nehemiah are among the last books of the OT) is that Judah was restored with Persian protection, and the Messiah is coming soon. However, one of the last prophets of the OT predicted the destruction of Jerusalem.
  • Dub Induced Plothole: The King James translation is said to contain a few mistranslations that alter the plot/meaning. In the New Testament, some references to the Old Testament are missed due to it being translated by two teams — one for the Hebrew and one for the Greek. Some instances of this were perpetuated by earlier translations of the Bible, as well; Horned Moses, anyone?
  • Dying Moment of Awesome:
    • Jesus. He could have called thousands of angels to smite His killers, but He chose to bear all the pain and suffering to save all who would believe.
    • Samson's final moments are spent bringing down the Philistine government, while also killing more men than he ever had in his life.
    • The emperor Nero ordered Peter to be crucified, thus putting himself above Peter in a power dynamic. Peter asked to be crucified upside down, thus outdoing Nero. (Doubles as Tear Jerker since Peter also did it because he believed himself unworthy of dying like Jesus)
    • Paul was about to be crucified, but then he told his would-be executers: 'Hey, I'm a Roman. Kill me if you want, but I've my right to tell you how I will die.' That takes quite the balls.
  • Everyone Calls Him Bar Keep:
    • Thanks to translations and tradition, YHWH is hardly ever known by His actual Name, and is referred to as, "God" (El / Theos) or "the Lord" (Adonai / Kurios) for most of the Book. When the English text reads "LORD" in ALL CAPS, it's a circumlocution for YHWH—the taboo against speaking his name wasn't in effect until the Hebrew Bible had already been written.
    • The only person said to have ever spoken His true name was, according to apocrypha, Lilith.
    • Opinions vary on the Name. Several people are credited with knowing (and using) the big secret one, including Moses (to kill an Egyptain slave driver), Solomon (to enslave the demon king Ashmodai/Asmodeus), and various rabbinic sages (to create golems and other miracles).
    • Enosh, grandson of Adam, is said to have evoked the name Yahweh.
    • Also, Pharaoh from Exodus, whose name is never given and who is simply referred to as "Pharaoh". Various archaeologists, anthropologists, and Biblical scholars have offered any number of theories as to what historical pharaoh Exodus might be referring to, with Ramses II and Shoshenq I being fan favorites.
    • Which leads to a number of people who mistakenly believe that the Pharaoh who got the plagues = The Pharaoh that gave the genocide order...
  • Fanservice: The Song of Solomon. There are books as long as the entire New Testament trying to explain the symbolism of Song.
  • Final Solution: The Bible has many cases of this. Some carried out by various heroic kings, some carried out by God himself. In all cases, it's treated as a good thing. The three most famous cases are:
    • Noah and the flood — Mankind misbehaves? Let's exterminate all life on the planet! (Except for one family and their pets.)
    • Sodom — Mankind misbehaves? Let's exterminate all life in this small nation! (Except for one family — and maybe their pets, if they had any.)
    • Book of Revelation — Mankind misbehaves? Let's exterminate all life on the planet! Again! (And as in the two previous versions, some good people get spared. And this time, good dead people are resurrected, too.)
  • Find the Cure: Tobit is blinded, so his son Tobias and his companion ( aka the archangel Raphael in disguise) go search for the cure.
  • Flipping the Table: Jesus does this with the moneychangers in the Temple.
  • Footnote Fever: Many versions include footnotes to aid in explanation of words, provide alternate translations, or indicate a Call-Back to a previous verse. These are particularly prevalent in the New International Version (NIV). For instance:
    • The word "selah", occurring in several of the Psalms (starting with Psalms 3), is often accompanied by a footnote indicating that the meaning of the word is unknown, and that it was probably a musical term.
    • Matthew 4:3 quotes Isaiah 40:3 ("A voice of one calling in the desert, 'prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'"). For those who maybe aren't as familiar with that book, a footnote indicates as such.
    • Verses that were believed to have been added by later transcibers are often indicated in this fashion, such as John 5:4.
  • Get Thee to a Nunnery: A few noteworthy ones:
    • "To know" is what they called having sex back then.
    • "Feet" is often used in the Old Testament to refer to something a bit higher.
    • Chapter seven of Song of Solomon describes the wife's navel as "a rounded cup, never lacking in sweet wine." Some scholars argue that "navel" may in fact refer to the vagina.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Angels, actually. God himself could classify, since looking at him in his full glory is supposed to be fatal to anyone with sin.
  • The Golden Rule:
    • Used in the stories about Jesus. Invoked by the main character as a moral principle, and also used as An Aesop in several of the parables (short stories within the main story). The most famous is the story of the Good Samaritan.
    • Notably averted (or subverted, depending on your interpretation) in The Book Of Job, where God becomes a Jerkass to Job because God's on a bet with Satan.
  • Guile Hero:
    • Joseph. He ascends from slave to chancellor in a foreign nation that doesn't look too favourably on Hebrews, saves the entire nation from a devastating famine, and reunites his divided clan through a clever Xanatos Gambit.
    • Queen Esther is a guile heroine who saves the Jews in the Persian Empire by winning King Xerxes's heart and then out-gambitting Smug Snake Haman.
  • Half-Human Hybrids: Nephilim, and depending on which ecumenical councils you accept, also Jesus is both 100% human (in body) and 100% divine (in spirit).)
  • The Hand Is God: God is He Who Must Not Be Seen lest the viewer die or go mad. As such, God appears in A Form You Are Comfortable With, with perhaps the most famous being the burning bush that appeared before Moses. In the book of Daniel, chapter 5, He fills this trope, appearing as a disembodied hand (or just fingers, depending on the translation) in the palace of King Belshazzar, where He writes a prophecy of doom on the wall, foretelling the judgment of Belshazzar's kingdom.
  • Here We Go Again!: Chronologically, the very last story in most versions of the Old Testament is of Nechemiah returning to Jerusalem twelve years after the second temple's completion. He finds that many Israelites are ignoring God's commandments, the same thing that angered God into making the Babylonians conquer Judea and destroy the original temple. After some angry arguments Nechemiah manages to convince Israelites to follow God's law, at least temporarily, and then begs God to remember how hard he tried to keep Judea from disobeying him...
  • He Who Must Not Be Named: The third commandment instructs the faithful not to take the name of the Lord in vain. This has spawned many practices, stretching from simply avoiding the use of oaths like "For the love of God!", to avoiding using the G-word in any context - typing "G-d" in text, for example, or, among Orthodox Jews, using the word "Adonai", "Hashem" (literally means "the name" in Hebrew), or the Tetragrammaton, as a euphemism. Most English translations use the word lord (in all caps) where the name of God appears in the Hebrew; this conveniently fits both the first Hebrew euphemism (Adonai means lord) and the third.
  • Healing Hands: Jesus and the Apostles healed people by laying their hands on them.
  • Heaven Above: In Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and English editions of the Bible, the word for skynote  is also used as the word for the Kingdom of God.
    • Even though God preceded and created the sky in the Book of Genesis, Nimrod and the rest of humanity still believe they can reach God just by building a really, really, really big tower. For their arrogance, God creates the original Curse of Babel to keep humanity from organizing and attempting the impossible task of invading Heaven. This example makes the trope Older Than Feudalism, if not Older Than Dirt.
    • God is frequently described in the Old Testament as emerging from storms, whirlwinds, or other heavenly disasters to demonstrate his power, most famously at the end of the Book of Job. There, God's appearance as a massive storm uses the violence of the sky to demonstrate his power and expansive nature.
    • When Jesus returns to the spiritual realm of the Father, how do The Four Gospels describe it? Oh yeah, he was taken up and he ascended. So, unless he's actually supposed to be flying around in the clouds waiting to come down and burn the sinners, the reader is supposed to associate going up with entering the realm of God.
    • The Book of Revelation describes the evil angels who follow Satan as "fallen stars" that were "thrown down to Earth." This story of angels being thrown down to become demons is where the term Fallen Angel comes from.
  • Heroic Ambidexterity: In a list of famous warriors who served King David, Chronicles 1,12 names 23 Benjaminites who "were armed with bows and were able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right-handed or left-handed".
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Jesus while on the cross asks God why he has forsaken him.
    • The whole prayer at Gethsemane scene can be seen as an Heroic BSoD as well.
    • David also has a full-blown one after Saul and Jonathan's deaths.
  • Holy Is Not Safe: In St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, he warns that Communion is not safe for those lacking reverence and holiness. While it gives life to those who have been prepared to approach the Table of the Lord, for those who are not prepared, it brings curses, illness, and can even kill you.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Humanity's thoughts were bad enough to drive an omnibenevolent being to attempt omnicide. He drowned around 30 million people before he forgave humanity while sparing a family that was still faithful to him and thus, not as corrupt.
  • Humans Are Special: With free will, they actually have the potential to become greater than angels. Furthermore, despite humans being bastards, God still cared enough about us to not wipe us out totally and eventually provided a Savior.
  • I Know Your True Name: Mostly in the Old Testament, some power is associated with the names of God, the act of Adam naming the animals, etc. In fact, Moses kills an Egyptian at one point solely by saying God's True Name.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Quite a few examples that falls under two categories: God's punishment (usually forcing people to eat their own children or other family members) or depicted for the sake of it.
  • Indentured Servitude: Indentured servitude was common in Israel. To prevent it from becoming too permanent, the year of Jubilee was established in the Book of Leviticus. Every fifty years all debts were forgiven and slaves set free.
  • Irrevocable Order: The Medes and Persians had a law that if the king's ring was used to seal a proclamation then it could not be undone, not even if the king changed his mind.
    • Daniel and the Lion's Den is probably the most famous. King Darius made a decree that anyone who prayed to a God other than him for a period of a week would be fed to the lions—and sealed it with his ring. Daniel continued to pray, and despite Daniel being the King's favorite, and the King not wanting to go through with it, Daniel was still thrown to the lions.
    • Esther is another example. The Persian king gave Haman his ring, which Haman used to seal an order authorizing on a certain date the murder of all the Jews and the seizure of their property by the killers. When the king discovered Haman's plot, he had Haman executed, but could not undo the order. So he wrote out a new order allowing the Jews to kill anyone who attacked on that date. The Jews then slaughtered their enemies who attacked them.
  • Journey to the Sky: There is a unified, single-language civilization attempt to build a tower in Shinar, the Tower of Babel, in order to reach Heaven and meet God. God Himself does not approve of this, so He makes it so the builders end up speaking different languages to make communication impossible, thus rendering them unable to proceed with the tower's construction.
  • King of Beasts: The tribe of Judah, progenitor of King David and his descendants, are represented by the image of a lion on their flag. Earlier on in Genesis, Jacob refers to Judah as a young lion.
  • Knight Templar: As was once said for the image caption of that trope, "this is the original Serious Business."
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: It may seem pretty badass of Satan to try and overthrow God, until the prophecies are fulfilled and he loses. When it comes to fighting the one responsible for the very existence of yourself and everything, it's really wiser to fold 'em.
  • La Résistance: Israel, repeatedly. See 1 and 2 Maccabees, which are part of the Catholic (but not Protestant) Bible, and the book of Judges, which is pretty much considered canon.
  • Lewd Lust, Chaste Sex: In an Older Than Feudalism example, the Song of Songs describes the anticipation and meetings between two lovers in rather racy detail, but the part about the actual intimacy is absent.
  • Listing the Forms of Degenerates: Frequently used, but an especially well-known example is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
    Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Loophole Abuse: Many perhaps odd-sounding laws in the Old Testament—those regarding sex, for example — were likely designed to prevent this.
  • Lost in Translation: The Bible both averts and suffers from this. Most scholars agree that the Bible is "remarkably well-preserved" from translation to translation (we are talking about something that's incredibly Serious Business for its copyists, after all). However, there's still cases where a word in the original Hebrew text isn't given a proper contextual translation; for example, the lost contexts involving Thou Shalt Not Kill and God mind-controlling the Pharaoh. This leads to some serious misconceptions. Then there are groups like the King James Version Movement, who believe that a Modern English reading of the Early Modern English King James Version is the Word of God.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex:
    • In the Book of Genesis, where Tamar disguises herself as a shrine prostitute to sleep with her former father-in-law and becomes pregnant by him. At first, Judah sentences her to be burned to death for engaging in illicit sex... but she sends a messenger with the cord and seal that she had taken as "collateral," saying that the man who owns them is the father. Judah recognizes the MacGuffins as his, and spares Tamar's life. He even says that she is more righteous than he is, because she had done her duty (perpetuating the lineage of her deceased husband) and Judah had not (he married his youngest son Shelah off to someone else, even though Shelah was supposed to marry Tamar to provide for her and father children on his dead brother's behalf.) From then on, Tamar lives in Judah's household, raises the twins born from their sexual act and he provides for her and the kids as he would an actual wife (although they didn't have sex again.)
    • Averted with Rahab, a prostitutenote  from the Book of Joshua. She is shown to be a kind person, and even hides the Israelite spies. Not only does she end up later having a family of her own, but she becomes part of the lineage of the Messiah.
    • Played straight in the Book of Proverbs, where the students are warned about "strange" women, and where these women are contrasted against a personification of Wisdom, and against the Wife of Noble Character.
    • There's nowhere in any of The Four Gospels who says "Mary Magdalene was a prostitute", neither is she positively identified with the Woman With The Alabaster Jar (who seems to be a shamed slut, whether professional or not), but in any case, it's common practice to make her a Composite Character with the Woman With The Alabaster Jar to counterbalance, you know, The Madonna. Even then, this composite Mary Magdalene plays with the dynamic by being a Whore who becomes a Madonna.
    • Subverted in The Four Gospels on at least two occasions. The first time, Jesus chats with an unnamed Samaritan woman at her town's well, and does not treat her with contempt for having been married and divorced five times and living with a boyfriend as a "kept woman," even though everyone else does, to the point where she comes to the well at high noon instead of at dawn or dusk when the other townswomen do. The second time, a woman who was caught in the act of adultery is being brought out to be executed by stoningnote . The townsmen ask Jesus what should be done with her, and He calls on the sinless among them to throw the first stone... leading them to spare her life. He then tells her that he doesn't condemn her, and to go and live her life and not cheat again.
    • Played straight in the Book of Revelation. The Whore of Babylon (a personification of a culture of corruption, idolatry, and immorality) is contrasted to the pure Bride of Christ (the church).
  • Mass Resurrection: According to the Bible, God will do this on the Last Day to everyone who had ever lived, raising them from the dead just before the Judgement.
  • Mercy Killing:
    • God gives Jeroboam's son a peaceful death and allows for a proper burial because he is the last good thing to come out of the family. The rest of them get no burial and have to die being eaten alive, their choice of dogs or birds.
    • Elijah asks for a mercy killing from God when Jezebel vows to kill him.
    • Implied in this verse:
      The righteous pass away: the godly often die before their time. And no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evils to come. For the Godly who die will rest in peace.
      — Isaiah 57:1-2
  • Miracle Food:
    • God sent manna to feed the Israelites in their exile.
    • Elijah once encountered a widow and her son during a famine who were down to their last meal, but after they prepared a cake for him from what little they had, he promised them that their flour and oil would not run out until the drought and famine were over, and God fulfilled that promise so that even though they didn't get any more flour and oil, what little they had never ran out.
    • Jesus fed 5000 men plus women and children using five loaves and two fishes. On another occasion, He fed 4000 using a few loaves of bread.
  • Missing Episode:invoked There are references to lost Jewish texts, such as the Book of Jasher and Chronicles of the Kings of Israel, as well as books in the New Testament era also being lost or destroyed. These references were written in a way that expected the book to remain available as a historical document, rather than becoming lost due to time.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters:
    • When not described as Eldritch Abominations or imitating human form the Angels are described as such (in Book of Daniel for instance).
    • Revelation 13 has two examples: a beast coming out of the sea who "resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion", and another beast coming out of the Earth who "had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon".
  • Most Writers Are Male: Chauvinist bias is massively averted in many books. One of the Old Testament Judges (rulers of Israel) was a female, Lady Deborah. The church is described as a woman to be the bride of Christ.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Although several groups receive an Always Chaotic Evil characterization, it's pretty common for there to be a member of the group who is virtuous—like Ruth as a good Moabite, the Good Samaritan of the New Testament, and some rabbis mentioned in the Talmud who were supposedly descended from evil people like Haman.
  • Nephilim: Mentioned twice with no real information given other than that they were large and scary. Extra-canonical texts are really Ye Trope Makers in terms of actually fleshing them out properly.
  • Now I Know What to Name Him:
    • In the gospels, angels speak to both Mary and Joseph, inform them that they will have God's son, and that he will be named Jesus. Since a Hebrew name was also a blessing given at birth, it was standard procedure for the father (in this case God Himself) to come up with the name.
    • An angel visited Zechariah and Elizabeth to tell them to call their son John. This was also contrary to custom, since the firstborn son would normally be named after the father.
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • There are three Herods during Jesus' lifetime.
    • As well as guessed it...Herodias (who married two different Herods, both her uncle, in her lifetime).
    • As well as two Judases and two Lazari.
    • There are even other Jesuses, Jesus himself being a form of the name Joshua. In fact Jesus was a popular name during his time.
    • Inverted with all those names (Emmannuel, Joshua, Jesus) that are all meant to be for the same dude.
    • Just among the 12 Disciples we have 2 James, 2 Judas, and 2 Simons (though one also went by Peter)
    • Not to mention the 4 or so different Marys we have in the Gospels.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Very different. There are a number of "classes of angels; taking the example of the Cherubim, they seem to have faces varying from that of a lion, ox, man, and eagle, eyes all over their bodies, and more than one pair of wings.
  • Pals with Jesus: Trope Namer? Also, several characters are on speaking terms with God, but Enoch’s the only one described as walking faithfully with God for years before God (literally) takes him away.
  • Punished for Sympathy: The Old Testament has many examples of God punishing His people for showing sympathy to those He commanded them to destroy.
    • Leviticus 10:1-6: Aaron's two sons, Nadab and Abihu, were burned to death by God for offering strange fire which they were commanded not to bring. He then invokes this trope by warning Aaron that he will, too, kill him and the rest of the Israelites should he mourn for their losses.
    • Numbers 16:41-50: The Israelites complained to Moses about God burning 250 of the other Israelites to death for burning incense. God's response? He gets angry and starts killing 14,700 more of the Israelites.
  • Punny Name: Most things. There are plenty of places with names that are similar to normal and appropriate Hebrew words, e.g. balal, confusion, to "Babel".
  • Pride Before a Fall: Satan, by some accounts. Then there's the Tower of Babel, which was intended to reach the heavens.
  • Prodigal Hero: It appears to have originated this trope.
    • The Trope Namer of sorts is Jesus' fable of the Prodigal Son, in which a boy leaves home, loses all of his money gambling, becomes a wreck, and finally returns home, only to be greeted with love and open arms. However, because the son has no real dire reason to leave, and because there is no conflict upon his return, this isn't exactly a straight version of the trope at work.
    • A more direct version of the trope, however, comes from the tale of Moses fleeing Egypt, living happily in the desert, and then returning to Egypt to free the Jews from the tyrannical Pharaoh.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality:
    • Things didn't always go badly for those nations normally pitted against the Israelites.
      "Do you Israelites think you are more important to me than the Ethiopians?" asks the Lord. "I brought you out of Egypt, but have I not done as much for other nations, too? I brought the Philistines from Crete and led the Arameans out of Kir."
      — Amos 9:7
    • Otherwise good Judean King Josiah interrupted Pharaoh Neco while Pharaoh was on a mission from God and was defeated in battle by Neco in 2 Kings 29.
  • Purgatory and Limbo: The descent of Christ into Limbo and subsequent Harrowing of Hell were explored in greater depth in the apocrypha and became a common subject of medieval artwork. Following his crucifixion but before his resurrection, the soul of Christ descended into the realm of the dead and brought salvation to the "Limbo of the Patriarchs" — the outer part of Hell inhabited by those righteous folk who lived and died in the days before they could be baptized and redeemed. Christ "trampling the gates of Limbo underfoot" seems to have been an especially popular (and vivid) image.
  • Rash Promise:
    • Genesis:
      • When Esau returns from a hunt and is famished, he foolishly oaths away his birthright as the eldest son in exchange for his younger brother Jacob cooking him soup.
      • After Jacob's wife Rachel steals her father Laban's household idols, Laban catches up to them and demands them back. Not knowing who stole them, Jacob vows that whoever is the thief is will be put to death. Fortunately for he and Rachel, Laban doesn't find them.
    • In the Book of Judges, the Israelite general Jephthah vows, if he defeats the Ammonites, to sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his house when he gets home. It turns out to be his daughter. (Note that Jewish scholars disagree about whether the story implies that he literally kills her.)
    • The Book of Proverbs says, "It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows." (Proverbs 20:25)
    • Per the Gospels, King Herod was so enticed by the dancing girl Salome he told her to ask him for anything she wanted. The queen told Salome to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter, which the king was particularly reluctant to give as he appreciated John's teachings. Nevertheless, he gave the order for the execution.
  • Rejected Apology:
    • Samuel rebukes King Saul for disobeying God's commands in destroying every single Amalekite and only spared the king and their sheep and cattle. Saul repents to the LORD, but Samuel tells him that God won't accept it and He has rejected him as king of Israel. (Depending on the interpreter, the reason for the lack of forgiveness varies.)
    • The Bible also repeatedly warns that one day, there will be a final judgement and by then it'll be too late to repent.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves:
    • King David was fighting a civil war against King Saul's successor, Ish-Bosheth, and two opportunistic officers assassinated the enemy king and presented his head to David in anticipation of a reward. He executed the traitors, cut off their hands and feet, and hung their corpses up by the pool at Hebron as a warning to others. As for Ish-Bosheth, David ordered him buried with full honors. This is also in keeping with how he treated an Amalekite who came bringing his predecessor Saul's crown and armband, claiming to have done a mercy-killing on Saul himself. Although David presumably found out later (after executing him) that the man was lying, he cited his decision concerning this other man to Ish-Bosheth's murderers, pointing out that what they'd done was far worse.
    • There are also two aversions:
      • Balaam showed his loyalty to Yahweh even though his life was at risk and blessed the Israelites rather than cursing them as God told him to. He was killed for trying to have it both ways. He wouldn't betray God by pronouncing a curse where a blessing was required, but he still wanted the reward that the Midianites were offering to him. So he taught them how they could turn the Israelites away from the commandments of God and bring His curse upon themselves, making him a pretty straight example of this trope.
      • The prostitute Rahab gave aid and comfort to two Israelite spies, allowing them to bring back information that allowed them to annihilate Jericho. Joshua spared her, and she became one of the ancestors of Christ! note 
  • Rivers of Blood:
    • It describes this in the apocalyptic battle in Revelation 14:20.
    And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
    • In the Book of Exodus, one of the ten plagues brought upon the Egyptians was that all water turned to blood– even the river Nile.
  • Sacred Flames: There are many metaphors for fire being a sacred force:
    • God appears to Moses as a burning bush whose flames do not burn.
    • The sacred flame used at the sacrificial altar for offerings was originally lit by God Himself. He further tasked the Israelite priests with keeping it lit while making clear that no fires from any other sources were to be used for sacrifice
  • Scam Religion: Every religion other than the one of the Hebrews (and later on, the Christians), from the Bible's perspective. At best, non-Judeo-Christian religions are seen as superstitious and waiting for something better.
  • Scenery Gorn: Lamentations (destruction of Jerusalem) and Joel (destruction of a field by locusts).
  • Secret Test of Character: God's command to Abraham to kill his son; Job's Deus Angst Machina suffering; the original Judgment of Solomon.
  • Serpent of Immortality:
    • In Numbers 21, the children of Israel were dying from being bitten by fiery serpents. Moses made a brass serpent and put it on a pole, and whoever looked at it didn't die from snakebite.
    • John 3:13: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." So the serpent symbolizes Christ, crucified and resurrected.
  • Shared Dream: In Matthew 2:1-12, the Magi (or "wise men") are three distinguished men who have travelled from afar to visit the infant Jesus. Before they reach Bethlehem, they visit King Herod, who asks them to tell him the baby's whereabouts. However, after paying tribute to the infant Jesus, all three Magi are warned in a dream that Herod intends to find and kill the baby, so they return to their homes via a different route, telling Herod nothing.
  • Shared Universe: Both the Bible and Torah are actually collections of books.
  • Shout-Out: Sumerian mythology, according to secular historians. Semitic mythology too, which is not even arguable. Not relevant among believers. The Law of Moses was both a civil and religious code. Many of the civil laws can also be found in other period law codes.
  • Single-Target Law:
    • King Herod supposedly ordered the mass execution of male Hebrew infants due to a prophecy about the birth of the King of the Jews, fearing he might be dethroned. Naturally, it backfired.
    • Haman, the main antagonist of the Book of Esther, continuously manipulates king Xerxes into oppressing the Jewish people solely to get back at Mordecai, who had refused to bow down to him on religious grounds. It's turned against him when Xerxes asks Haman how to reward a man who'd performed a great service to the king. Thinking he's the one, Haman suggests a massive parade, only for Xerxes to agree and state that Mordecai will be thus rewarded for foiling a regicide plot.
    • In the book of Daniel, the courtiers are envious of the prophet Daniel's prosperity, and know that he prays to the Lord every day. They have the king decree that prayers can only be said to himself, on pain of death, knowing that the only person who won't obey it is Daniel. Once it ends up only affecting Daniel (who was the king's chief advisor and best friend), the king becomes distraught, but can't find a way to repeal the law, or even pardon him. He sentences Daniel to be devoured by lions, who escapes unscathed by Divine Intervention. The King then makes Judaism the state religion, and has his courtiers fed to the lions instead.
  • Sixth Ranger:
    • Paul, who starts out an enemy of the early church but later joins up with them, and ends up being one of the best-known and most frequently quoted Christians of the first century.
    • Matthias, who was added to the Twelve after Judas betrayed Jesus.
  • Spell My Name with an S
    • Both "Jesus" and "Joshua" are written in the same way in Greek, as their names in Hebrew are almost exactly the same. This sometimes caused translation errors; the King James Version, for example, has "Jesus" in a few cases where "Joshua" should be.
    • In Greek, the name that usually gets translated as "James" would be better translated as "Jacob."
  • Spin-Off: New Testament from the Tanakh.
  • Spirit Advisor:
    • Jesus to his disciples following his death and resurrection, before returning to Heaven until the Second Coming on Ascension Thursday.
    • Furthermore, Jesus promises to leave the Holy Spirit with believers in order to serve as an aide / "moral compass" for them until he returns from Heaven
    • Arguably, God Himself to any of the prophets. Joshua used Him as a Spirit Military Advisor.
  • Start My Own: In popular legend, when Simon Magus couldn't bribe his way into the new Church—thus inventing the term "simony"—he went around heckling Peter and trying to raise his own church by magic. They then had a showdown in Rome, where Simon wound up dying with varying degrees of impressiveness, Depending on the Writer. In the actual verse where he's mentioned, though, it says he became a lay worshiper.
  • The story of Lot and his daughters was a Take That! against the inhabitants of Moab, a nation that bordered ancient Israel, insulting them by saying that they were descended from incest, at least according to some commentary.
  • The 10 plagues of Egypt were designed to mock Egypt's gods.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Trope Namer, though technically, it really translates to "You will not murder." The nation given this command killed often with God's approval—both through capital punishment and God-approved wars ... and it clearly doesn't cover animals.
  • Time Skip: the Old Testament and New Testament are separated by about five hundred years of time. There's another 400-year gap between the account of the Israelites going into Egypt and coming out. The Apocrypha assayed to fill in the missing time.
  • Title Drop: Averted. The word "bible" can't be found anywhere in the Bible. It's "scripture." This is mostly due to the fact that the list of canonical scripture as we know it (pretty much no matter which canon you adhere to) wasn't made until long after the books themselves were written. For the standard Christian canon, there was a gap of about 200 years or so between the writing of the last book and the time when the list of canonical books became more-or-less universally accepted within the Church.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Delilah tries to get Samson to reveal his weakness, and Samson tests her by telling her a false one. This fails. While this is very smart by itself, he then allows her to repeat this three times before finally caving in and admitting it's his hair. Honestly, no matter how much you love her, shouldn't you just get rid of her after the first time she tries to sell you into slavery to your enemies?
    • Pharaoh after seeing that Moses and Aaron have the power of God on their side, is told by Moses that a series of plagues will come to Egypt if he continues to keep the Israelites. Even after this warning, Pharaoh refused and his country suffered for it. Then after letting them go, he changed his mind again (and no, it wasn't God's doing) and sent his cavalry after them, and drowning them in the process when the Red Sea the Israelites crossed through closed up on them.
  • Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil:
    • Judas's betrayal of Jesus, as recounted in The Four Gospels. This betrayal was arguably necessary, as in Christian doctrine Jesus had to die to wash away mankind's sins, but Judas still has a My God, What Have I Done? moment followed by (in one account) a Driven to Suicide moment shortly thereafter.
    • In Mark 13:12 this is considered a sign of the end of the world:
      Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.
  • Unbuilt Trope:
    • The designs of the various kinds of angels are amazing. Take the seraphim: They have six wings; two covering their face, two covering their feet, and two to fly. The cherubim, no connection to the cute baby angels you might know, have "four faces and four wings, with straight feet with a sole like the sole of a calf's foot, and "hands of a man" under their wings. Each had four faces: "The face of a man, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle." If you saw that in a manga, movie, comic book or something else like that, it'd be praised for its innovativeness.
    • The story of Samson can be retroactively seen as a deconstruction of the Messianic Archetype. He knew he was the Chosen One and abused his special status, and he was overconfident with his powers, leading to him getting betrayed by Delilah. In the end he pushed those pillars down and killed the Philistines out of revenge because he had nothing left to live for. For the irony-challenged, however, Samson is purely a badass folk hero who gets a Great Way to Go.
    • Delilah is often thought of as an originator of The Vamp, Honey Trap and Femme Fatale tropes, but her relationship with Samson didn't begin in deceit, as the Philistines approached her when they were already together. In films, though, she is typically depicted as being sent to seduce Samson, as already having some personal fixation on him, or even as offering her services to the Philistines herself instead of the other way around. Also, the Biblical text never says whether or not her love for Samson was genuine.
    • The story of Balaam is a deconstruction of the Stubborn Mule, as well as an example of Truth in Television. Balaam was hired to curse the Israelites, but was held back by his mule, who refused to cooperate. When the mule was granted to speak, she revealed that she was protecting him from the invisible angel in front of them, who would have killed Balaam had the mule cooperated. The fact that the stubbornness exhibited by donkeys and mules is really an act of self-preservation is largely overlooked in future media.
  • The Unfavorite: A number of Israel's neighbor nations, most famously the Philistines. The Israelites were God's chosen people, and charged with warring against several of them. The Israelites however, were not exclusively God's only people, but a representative nation. They lived peaceably with many of their more benign neighbors.
  • Virginity Flag: After Amon rapes her, Tamar tears her garment that was reserved for the king's virgin daughters. Her full brother Absolom immediately realizes what happened when he sees her.
  • Walking the Earth: The punishment to the Israelites (they were made to walk around in circles for 40 years) and to Cain. According to Medieval legend, Cain walked all the way to the moon.
  • Wall of Text: While everyone is aware that the Bible is revered by many as having all the answers, many people are shocked at how much text in it is history, etc and not wisdom.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Several passages in the books of Joshua and Judges portray the Canaanites with iron chariots. The Hebrews had a hard time fighting them, but they were still able to take over the hill country they wanted. Nevertheless, the idea that an army with God's will can't overcome iron chariots is very popular among Fan Haters.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: General Joab, who murdered people because he thought they would hinder David's success. Also, one possible interpretation of Judas, who may have desired the Kingdom of Heaven to be restored by physical force.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: David's Murder the Hypotenuse tactic gets a very angry and critical response from Nathan. Saul has done this kind of thing, too. Many of the otherwise benevolent kings (not counting evil ones) after him also done these one way or another.
  • Wise Serpent:
    • In Genesis 3 the Serpent is described as being craftier than any of the wild animals God created. In the same book, Lucifer takes the form of a snake to trick Eve into eating the forbidden fruit.
    • In Mathew 10:16 Jesus advises his followers to "be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."
  • Womanliness as Pathos:
    • According to the Abrahamic tradition, Adam and Eve are cast out of Eden when Eve eats the fruit of Knowledge and then convinces Adam to eat it too.
    • Samson's downfall is caused by falling in love with the Philistine woman Delilah, to whom he confesses that his hair is the source of his strength. After she cuts off his hair in his sleep, Samson is then blinded and captured by the Philistines.
  • Youngest Child Wins:
    • Abel's sacrifice is accepted, Cain's is not. Isaac is favored by his mother over Ishmael, his older half-brother. Jacob is favored by his mother over Esau, the firstborn twin. Joseph is favored by his father over all his older brothers, as is Benjamin. Moses's degree of prophecy outranks Aaron's. David, the youngest of 7, was anointedking and Solomon, David's youngest son, becomes the next king. Each of these were meant to be subversions of the cultural standard. The story of Jacob and Esau even acknowledges that under normal circumstances Esau's the one who had the birthright coming to him.
    • This theme is one of the overarching motifs of the book of Genesis. It also shows up later, but especially in Genesis. As noted above, it was a (presumably intentional) subversion of how things actually tended to work in real life.
    • The older brothers get along fine afterwards. Cain founded a city, Ishmael served the Lord and founded a great nation (the Arabs) who eventually served the Lord in their own way, Esau made up with Jacob and founded his own nation, and the Tribe of Judah became leader of the Twelve — and, with Benjamin, the only one to survive.

Alternative Title(s): Bible, The Tanakh, The Torah, The Holy Bible, Holy Bible