Study Guide

James, 1-2 Peter, Jude Allusions

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Literary and Philosophical References

The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
Peter describes Jesus descending into Hell after death to save the souls of the dead in 1 Peter 3:19 and 1 Peter 4:6. Dante also wonders whether Virgil came back for the BCE faithful. Virgil tells him: "I beheld a puissant one arrive amongst us, with victorious trophy crown'd" (IV, 49-50). All in a day's work.

"All Flesh is Grass" by Christina Rossetti
The title of this 19th-century poem comes from 1 Peter 1:24: "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever." Deep stuff.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Aunt Lydia tells the narrator of this novel, "all flesh is weak." She thinks she's quoting 1 Peter 1:24, but the narrator knows that's she mistaken. The correct wording is "all flesh is grass." Whoops. Or is it?

Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address
The president alluded to James 1:27—"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress"—when he ended this 1865 speech with an appeal to care for the widows and orphans of fallen Civil War soldiers. Awww.

Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon

The title of this novel is a quote from 2 Peter 3:7: "the heavens and the earth [… are] reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." Things are not looking good for these characters.

Clouds Without Water by Aleister Crowley
This collection of poems by the famous British occult magician and founder of the Thelema religion gets its title from Jude 1:12. Jude is talking about the false teachers when he says of these guys: "Clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots." Shmoop thinks the author is having a bit of fun with scripture here.

Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas
The English title of this French crime novel about a village filled with werewolves comes from 1 Peter 5:8: "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Those lions better watch out for werewolves.

Pop Culture References

"Gloria" by U2
This 1981 song alludes to James 5:9 when it says, "The door is open/ You're standing there." The quote from James is a little more ominous though: "See, the Judge is standing at the doors!" Watch out, Bono!

The Passion of the Christ
The end of Mel Gibson's movie about the death of Jesus features a super brief scene where Satan screams in agony as Jesus (apparently) strolls into Hell to shake things up per 1 Peter 3:19 and 1 Peter 4:6. Yup, Satan. That plan really backfired on you.

Alcoholics Anonymous
The founders of AA, Bill Wilson and Robert Smith, were so inspired by The Epistle of James that they jokingly said that their little group should be called "The James Club" (source).

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