The Bible and Western Culture
In his national bestseller, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, Jacques Barzun describes the impact of the reformers' efforts in translating the Bible into the common tongues:
The results for Protestants were remarkable. To start with, it gave whole populations a common background of knowledge, a common culture in the high sense of the term...
The Bible was a whole literature, a library. It was an anthology of poetry and short stories. It taught history, biography, philosophy, political science, psychology, hygiene, and sociology (statistical at that), in addition to cosmogony, ethics, and theology. What gives the Bible so strong a hold on the minds that once grow familiar with its contents is its dramatic reporting of human affairs. For all its piety, it presents a worldly panorama, and with particulars so varied that it is hard to think of a domestic or social situation without a biblical example to match and turn to moral ends.
With the Bible most often the only book in the house, kept in a place of honor, and with its first blank page containing the family records--names, dates of birth, marriage, and death--came the practice of family prayers three or four times a day, besides grace at meals. It was natural that if father or grandfather read a story from scripture to the assembled clan, servants included, the feelings aroused should be summed up in the Lord's Prayer or some other appropriate to the moment. When secularism came to prevail, Bible reading disappeared among the majority, and with it the background of ideas and allusion common to all. In this role, the only ecumenical replacement one can think of is the daily newspaper's comic strip. (From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, pp.27-28)