Study Guide

The Poisonwood Bible What's Up With the Title?

By Barbara Kingsolver

What's Up With the Title?

The Word of Dog

Near the end of the book, Adah tells us about all the mistranslated Bibles she collects: "The Lions Bible had sons coming forth from lions instead of loins, and in the Murderers' Bible of 1801, the complainers in Jude 16 did not murmur, they murdered" (6.3.21).

Big differences from the word of God... maybe. The Poisonwood Bible encourages us to think about how different words can mean different things—but that both meanings can be correct at the same time. Think about Nathan Price's favorite phrase, "Tata Jesus is bangala!" (3.14.1).

Now, that phrase means two things: Father Jesus is precious and dear, and, Jesus is poisonwood. We're pretty sure that Nathan doesn't want to be saying "Jesus is poisonwood." But to the Congolese—whose culture is practically destroyed by Westerners coming in to convert them and oh-by-the-way steal their lands' natural treasure and oppress them for kicks—Jesus probably does seem a lot like poisonwood.