The Bible has a long and wide-reaching history of influencing and shaping music from hymns of the past to pop songs of the present. The inclusion of direct Bible quotes in hymns, worship songs and commercial Christian music is something that we'd naturally expect but the incorporation of biblical references in music isn't unique to Christian culture. There is also a growing list of songs that feature direct quotes from the Bible passages. Modern musicians from all faith backgrounds and across all genres have been inspired by the Bible and fashioned lyrics around particular verses or re-purposed them. Below are seven songs from hip-hop to rock that feature biblical references.
Lauryn Hill – Forgive Them Father
It's clear from the title that Lauryn Hill drew inspiration from Luke 23:34 and the biblical references in this song don't stop there. The first line is, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us" (Matthew 6:12) and she goes on to sing, "I know enough cats that don't turn the other cheek" (Luke 6:29) and "wolves in sheep's clothing" (Matthew 7:15).
Johnny Cash – 1 Corinthians 15:55
The title of this Johnny Cash song doesn't beat around the bush and when it comes to the lyrics he jumps straight in with a modification on the title verse, "O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?".
Coolio – Gangster's Paradise
Going by the title alone, you might not think this hip hop anthem, the main song from the Dangerous Minds' soundtrack, would contain anything biblical but the opening line is, "As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death".
Kanye West - Jesus Walks
Like Coolio and many others before him, Kanye West, a rapper known for referencing Christianity and his personal relationship with God in his lyrics, also looked to Psalm 23 when composing this single from his debut album. In the first verse of his 2004 hit, he reinterprets the verse and raps: "I walk through the valley of the Chi where death is".
Mumford and Sons – Awake My Soul
This UK folk band's back catalogue is full of references to faith, Christianity and specific Bible passages. The lyrics in this particular song from their debut album would evoke many people to think about Christianity but the title, which also forms the majority of the chorus, is actually from Psalm 57:8, "Awake, my soul!".
U2 – 40
At first glance 40 could be a reference to any number of things but a quick listen to the lyrics from this 1983 release will reveal that it's the bands own take on Psalm 40. The first verse is, "I waited patiently for the Lord, he inclined and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit, out of the miry clay."
The Beastie Boys – Shadrach
This 80s hip-hop trio end each verse of "Shadrach" with, "Shadrach, Mesach, Abednego" taking inspiration from Daniel 1:7, "The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Mesach; and to Azariah, Abednego."