Home  »  Curiosities in Proverbs  »  Bible Proverbs—New Testament

D.E. Marvin, comp. Curiosities in Proverbs. 1916.

Bible Proverbs—New Testament

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. (Gal. v:9).
See Josh. vii:1–26; II Ki. xxi:2–17; Eccles. ix:18; Matt. xiii:33; and I Cor. v:6.
“One spoonful of vinegar will soon tart a great deal of sweet milk; but a great deal of milk will not so soon sweeten one spoonful of vinegar.”—John Trapp.
See also Bible Proverbs—Old Testament: “Dead flies cause the oil of the perfumer to send forth an evil odour; so doth a little folly outweigh wisdom and honour.”

A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country and among his own kin and in his own house. (Mark, vi:4).
See Matt. xiii:57; Mark vi:4; Luke iv:24; John iv:44.
See Contradictory Proverbs: “Every dog is a lion at home.”
“It is pathetic that, though after the Resurrection they [the brothers of Jesus] came over to His cause, during His ministry the Lord’s brothers not merely rejected His claims but sneered at them; and once they went so far as to pronounce Him mad and attempt to lay hands on Him and hale Him home to Nazareth, illustrating the proverb, so often on His lips, that ‘A prophet hath no honour among his own people.’”—David Smith, D.D.
“Joseph when he began to be a prophet was hated by his brethren; David was disdained by his brother; Jeremiah was maligned by the men of Anathoth, Paul by his countrymen the Jews, and Christ by his near kinsmen who spake most slightly of Him. Men’s pride and envy make them scorn to be instructed by those who once were their schoolfellows and playmates. Desire of novelty and of that which is far fetched and dear bought, and seems to drop out of the sky to them, makes them despise those persons and things which they have been long used to, and know the rise of.”—Matthew Henry.
“Men will hardly set those among the guides of their souls, whose fathers they were ready to set with the dogs of their flock.”—Matthew Henry.
“This is the common koreya of the village and people style it ‘Indarjao’” (Behar). (John Christian informs us that this koreya is a common produce grown in every village in Behar but when used as a medicine abroad it is called “Indarjao”—i.e., barley fit for Indar, King of the fairies.) “Lame in the village, an antelope in the jungle.” “The tree in the backyard won’t do for medicine.” (Telugu). “A candle gives no radiance at its lower end.” (Osmanli). “Fame abroad and famine at home.” “Fame throughout the country, at home starvation.” (Tamil). “A Jogee is called Jogra in his own village, but one from another village is called Sidh.” “One’s own fowls are of no greater value than split peas,”—i.e., things produced at home are despised. (Hindustani). “The pearl has no value in its own shell.” “Leave your country if you want glory and honour.” (Urdu). “A cow in his own house, a lion outside.” (Marathi).

As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. (Luke vi:31).
See Matt. vii:12.
This precept was not, as some have thought, a proverb quoted from the sayings of Hillel or the speech of Isocrates. It was one of those matchless utterances of Jesus that gripped the hearts of His hearers and has never lost its charm and power. While it was not a proverb in the days of Jesus it has become one in the speech of men and is therefore given in this list. Hillel’s words were negative. Addressing a possible proselyte he said: “What is hateful to thee, do not to another. This is the whole law, or else is only its explanation,” but the “Golden Rule” is positive. It is possible that the thought was suggested to Hillel by the advice of Tobat to his son Tobias, which was as follows: “Do that to no man which thou hatest: drink not wine to make the drunkard; neither let drunkenness go with thee in thy journey.”
Gibbon declared that he found the maxim in a moral treatise of Isocrates written four hundred years before the publication of the Gospel, but the saying to which he referred was not the “Golden Rule.” Like the utterance of Hillel it was negative and was a maxim of justice rather than of charity.
“Feel for others as you feel for yourself.” (Tamil). “Whatever he does to others he gets the same at home.” (Assamese).

Everyone that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke xiii:14).
See I Sam. ii:8; Matt. xxiii:12; Luke i:52; xiv:11.
See also Bible Proverbs—Old Testament: “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
“He that exalteth himself shall be humbled.” (Hindustani and Persian). “He who humbleth himself, God lifteth him up.” (Arabian).
“He who is proud shall be humbled.”—Rabbi Abira.
“If I condescend I am exalted, but if I am haughty I am degraded.”—Rabbi Hillel.
“The Lord hath cast down the thrones of proud princes and set up the meek in their stead. The Lord hath plucked up the roots of the proud nations and planted the lowly in their place. (Eccles. x:14, 15).
“If you are a man of distinction and entitled to a prominent seat at an assembly, seat yourself, nevertheless, two or three seats lower, for it is better to be told ‘go up’ than to be asked to ‘go down.’”—Levit Rabba I.
“O God, Thou knowest me better than I know myself, and I know myself better than they know me. Make me, I pray thee, better than they suppose; forgive me what they know not and lay not to my account what they say.”—Prayer of Abu Bekr, First Kahlif of Mecca, when receiving praise from others.

Evil companionships corrupt good manners. (I Cor. xv:33).
See Bible Proverbs—Old Testament: “Dead flies cause the oil of the perfumer to send forth an evil odour; so doth a little folly overweigh wisdom and honour.” See also Curious Objects in Proverbs: “Even a holy cow, if found in company with a stolen one, may be impounded.”
This proverb was probably common in Paul’s day and may have come from the sayings of Meander, the Greek comic poet who died B.C. 293, where it is found. The thought expressed is frequent in the proverbs of many nations.
“He that lies down with dogs rises with fleas.” (English). “Who keeps company with wolves must learn to howl.” (English, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Dutch, German, French). “Who lives with cripples learns to limp.” (English, Dutch, Portuguese). “One rotten apple in the basket infects the rest.” (Dutch). “The rotten apple spoils its companion.” (Spanish). “If you sit with one who squints, before evening you will become cat-eyed.” “If you sit down with a lame man, you will learn to halt.” (Modern Greek). “Near putrid fish you’ll stink, near the epidendrum you’ll be fragrant.” (Chinese).

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest happily they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you. (Matt. vii:6).
See Prov. ix:7, 8; xxiii:9; Luke vii:32. See also Bible Proverbs—Old Testament: “A living dog is better than a dead lion.”
“A cocoanut in the hands of a monkey,” “A vineyard for crows,” “What, boiled rice for asses.” (Hindustani). “Like reading a portion of the Veda to a cow about to gore you,” “Though religious instruction be whispered into the ear of an ass nothing will come of it but the accustomed braying,” “Can an ass appreciate fragrant powder?” “Does the ass enjoy the flavour of the sugar cane that is placed before it?” (Tamil). “A garland of flowers in a monkey’s paw.” “What can a pig do with a rose-bottle?” (Telugu). “He who brings up the young of a snake will only get stung.” (Arabian). “It is folly to give comforts to a cow.” (Persian). “Beneficences shown to the mean is writing on the sand.” (Sanscrit). “The pig prefers mud to clean water.” (Latin). “Gold coins to cats.” (Japanese). “Give an ass oats and he runs after thistles.” (Dutch).
“A gold ring in a sow’s snout.” (Welsh).
“Had the dogs of Christ’s day been, at least as a rule, domesticated, we may be sure a creature so faithful would have been mentioned more frequently in the gospels, for they notice it only three times: in the proverb, not to cast that which is holy or ‘clean’ to it; in the other proverb, that dogs eat the crumbs of the family meal; and in the parable of Dives and Lazarus where it is unpleasantly introduced as licking the beggar’s sores.”—Cunningham Geikie, D.D.
“The more you touch these toads (men filled with sinful practices), the more they swell; the more you meddle with these serpents, the more they gather poison to spit at you. Go about to cool them, you will but add to their heat, as the smith’s forge flies when cold water is cast upon it, and as hot water is stirred casteth up the more fume.”—John Trapp.
St. Bernard used to quote this proverb when he wished to incite the Christian Knights of the Crusade.

If the blind guide the blind both shall fall into a pit. (Matt. xv:14).
See Luke vi:39.
“Among wonderful things is a sore-eyed person who is an oculist.” (Arabian). “The blind as leader of the blind.” (Marathi). “One blind man leads another into a ditch.” (French). “A blind torch-bearer.” (Bengalese). “Can the blind lead the blind with a staff?” (Tamil). “If the blind lead the blind all will fall into the fire.” (Japanese).

  • “Where the blind leadeth the blind, both fall into the dike;
  • And blind be we both, if we think us his like.”
  • John Heywood.
  • It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God. (Matt. xix:24).
    See Mark x:25; Luke xviii:25.
    “Perhaps the huge needles used to sew the bags which the camels bear may have given rise to the saying, for they are threaded with rope like cords.”—Cunningham Geikie, D.D.
    “To let a camel go through the hole of a needle.” (Hebrew). “A camel’s head does not pass through the eye of a needle.” (Osmanli). “Can a camel pass through the eye of a needle?” (Tamil). “Narrower than the ear of a needle.” (Arabian from the Koran). The proverb is common under various forms throughout the East. “They make an elephant pass through the eye of a needle.” (Hebrew).
    “Verily they who shall charge our signs with falsehood and shall proudly reject them, the gates of heaven shall not be opened unto them, neither shall they enter into paradise, until a camel pass through the eye of a needle; and thus will we reward the wicked doers.”—From the Koran. (Probably suggested by Matt. xix:24.)

  • “The better sort,
  • As thoughts of things divine are intermixed
  • With scruples, and do set the world itself
  • Against the word:
  • As thus ‘Come, little ones,’ and then again,
  • ‘It is hard to come, as for a camel
  • To thread the postern of a small needle’s eye.’”
  • Shakespeare: King Richard II.
  • It is hard for thee to kick against the goad. (The Acts xxvi:14).
    “Kicking against thorns will cause pain.” (Tamil).
    This proverb deserves particular attention because it was of heathen origin and used by Jesus after His resurrection. It is found in the Odes of Pindar (B.C. 522–448) and the Tragedies of Æschylus (B.C. 525–456) and Euripides (B.C. 480–406), and was used by the Greeks when referring to the madness of men who fought against the gods.
    The phrase was current among the Romans as well as among the Greeks, and it may be concluded that it was common also among the Jews as Paul heard it spoken in the Hebrew tongue.
    Whether the original proverb was intended to refer to the ox kicking against a goad, or a horse kicking when pricked with the rowels of a spur, is uncertain.

    Love covereth a multitude of sins. (I Pet. iv:8).
    See Prov. x:12 which may have suggested the proverb current in Peter’s day and quoted by him. See also Prov. xvii:9; I Cor. xiii:4–7; James v:20.

    No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to one and despise the other. (Matt. vi:24). See Luke xvi:13.
    See also Proverbs Suggested by the Bible: “He who is not satisfied with the government of Moses will be satisfied with the government of Pharaoh.”
    “He who tries to serve two masters serves neither.” (Latin). “Who stands hesitating between two mosques returns without prayer.” (Turkish). “Riding two horses at the same time.” “It is hard to chase and catch two hares.” (Arabian). “He hunting two hares does not catch even one.” (Russian, Italian). “He who serves two masters must lie to one of them.” (Italian). “He who serves many masters must neglect some of them.” (Spanish). “Thou canst not serve God unless thy mammon serve thee.” (English). “A loyal soldier cannot serve two lords.” (Japanese).
    When quoting this proverb Jesus added, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon”—mammon being the Syrian word for wealth.

    One soweth and another reapeth. (John iv:37).

    Physician heal thyself. (Luke iv:23).
    See Matt. vii:4.
    See also Proverbs Suggested by the Bible: “The Panre would teach others, but himself stumbles,” and Impossibilities and Absurdities in Proverbs: “He who killed a thousand people is half a doctor.”
    The proverb was sometimes quoted: “Physician, heal thy lameness.”
    “Physicians were so unpopular that Jesus the son of Sirach exhorted the Jews to honour them.” (See Ecclus. xxxviii:1–15.)
    “Aggrieved at His neglect of Nazareth and His preference for Capernaum, they (His townspeople) had quoted the proverb: ‘Physician, heal thyself,’ and, capping proverb with proverb, He answered, ‘Verily I tell you, No prophet is acceptable in his native place.’ Had they not by their attitude toward Him since His coming amongst them proved the truth of the proverb and justified His action?”—David Smith.
    This proverb is found in almost all parts of the world with slight changes in form. An interesting illustration of its teaching is found in Æsop’s Fable of The Quack Frog.

    Strain out a gnat and swallow a camel. (Matt. xxiii:24).
    There is an ironical expression often used in European Turkey that conveys a similar thought. It is that “A fortress cannot pass through its gate; the hazel-nut cannot be contained in its shell.”
    The people of Southern India have the following two maxims closely allied to this Bible Proverb: “What, do you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel?” and “Those who strain out gnats are naturally suspected.”

    Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matt. vi:34).
    “Sufficith to the dai, his owne malice.”—John Wickliffe (1380).
    “The daye present hath ever ynough of his awne trouble.”—William Tyndale (1534).
    “Sufficient unto the daye, is the travayle thereof.”—Thomas Cranmer (1539).
    “The day present hath euer inough to do with its owne grief.”—The Genevan New Testament (1557).
    “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”—The Renish New Testament (1582).
    “Sufficient for the day is its own evil.”—Syriac Peshitto Version.

    The dog turning to his own vomit again. (II Pet. ii:22).
    See Prov. xxvi:11; Matt. vii:6.
    “The world is a carcass and they who seek it are dogs.” (Arabian). “The dogs had enough and then made presents to each other of their leavings.” (Arabian). “Cheap meat, the dogs eat it.” (Modern Greek). “They seated the dog in the palankin; on seeing filth it jumped down and ran after it.” (Telugu). “Scornful dogs eat dirty pudding.” (Scotch).

    The sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire. (II Pet. ii:22).
    See Matt. vii:6.
    The Arabians and Bengalese have the proverb: “The thief and the hog have one path.” While one delights in evil practices, the other seeks physical uncleanness.
    “The inhabitants of this warm country well know the benefit arising from the constant washing of those sheep which they are fattening for winter food; and certainly the flesh of swine would be equally improved by frequent ablutions. At present we do not witness this, for the people do not raise hogs. We may be quite sure, however, that swine washed in the purest of fountains would turn again to their wallowing in the first mud hole they could find with all the eagerness of their swinish instincts.”—W. M. Thomson in The Land and the Book.

    The tree is known by its fruit. (Matt. xii:33).
    See Matt. vii:15–20; Luke vi:44; James iii:12.
    See also proverb: “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap,” and Proverbs Suggested by the Bible: “Good fruit never comes from a bad tree.”
    “The kind of fruit and its form depend on the tree.” (Latin). “As a tree is known by its fruit, so a knave by his deeds.” (Latin). “Thorn trees produce gum.” (Arabian). “From the jack do you get the mango juice?” (Bengalese). “He that plants thorns shall not gather roses.” (Persian). “One knows the horse by his ears; the generous by his gifts; a man by laughing; and a jewel by its brilliancy.” (Bengalese). “As the tree so its fruit.” (Marathi). “A tree is judged by its fruit.” (Marathi).

  • “Though the water of life from the clouds fell in billows,
  • And the ground was strewn over with paradise loam;
  • Yet in vain would you seek, from a garden of willows,
  • To collect any fruit as beneath them you roam.”
  • —The Persian Poet, Shaikh Muslihu-’d-Din.
  • They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. (Matt. ix:12).
    See Mark ii:17; Luke v:31.
    There is some question as to whether this was a common proverb in Jesus’ day, but, as it has a usual proverbial form and was possibly a well-known saying quoted by Christ, it is given here. It has certainly found a place among the proverbs of the people since Jesus used it in justification of Himself when he sat at meat with publicans and sinners.

    Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. (I Cor. ix:9).
    See Deut. xxv:4; Luke x:7; I Tim. v:18.
    “The ox that ploughs is not to be muzzled,” is an Arabian saying current in Cairo. The muzzle is made of rope that is tied to the mouth of oxen to prevent them from grazing on the land of strangers as they pass along the road.
    “The command not to put a muzzle upon the ox when threshing is no doubt proverbial in its nature and even in the context before us is not intended to apply merely literally to an ox employed in threshing, but to be understood in the general sense in which the Apostle Paul used it in I Cor. ix:9 and I Tim. v:18—that a labourer was not to be deprived of his wages.”—Keil and Delitzsch: (Commentary Deut. xxv:4).

    Vengeance belongeth unto me: I will recompense, saith the Lord. (Rom. xii:19).
    See Deut. xxxii:35; Ps. xciv:1; Isa. xxxv:4; Nah. i:2; Heb. x:30.
    “The only hypothesis which we can form without arbitrariness is, that the form of the saying as it is found in Paul and in Heb. x:30, had at that time acquired currency in the manner of a formula of warning which had become proverbial and had influenced the rendering in the paraphrase of Onkelos.”—H. A. W. Meyer: (Commentary Rom. xii:19).

    Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. (Gal. vi:7).
    See Job iv:8; Prov. xxii:8; xxvi:27; Hos. viii:7; II Cor. ix:6; Gal. vi:8.
    See also proverb, “The tree is known by its fruit,” and Proverbs Suggested by the Bible: “Good fruit never comes from a bad tree.”
    “He who sows thorns will not gather grapes from them.” (Arabian). “As you do your sowing, so shall you reap.” (Latin). “As you make your bed, so you must lie on it,” “He that sows thistles shall reap prickles,” “Sow good work and thou shalt reap gladness.” (English). “He who sows hatred shall gather rue,” “He who sows iniquity shall reap shame.” (Danish). “If you sow thorns you will reap pricks.” (Turkish). “If you sow thorns you cannot cut out jasmine,” “Everyone will at last reap what he has sown.” (Persian). “Suffering is the necessary consequence of sin, just as when you eat a sour fruit a stomach complaint ensues.” “Put your hand in the fire, whether willingly or no, you will get burnt.” (Bengalese). “Doing with this hand and receiving the reward with that.” (Telugu). “When anyone has learned to steal, he must also learn hanging.” (Malabar). “As you give, so you will get; as you sow, so you will reap.” (Hindustani). “He who sows in this world, in the other would reap.” (Osmanli). “As we sow, so it comes up.” (Marathi).

    Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. (Matt. xxiv:28).
    See Job xxxix:27–30; Ezek. xxxix:17; Hab. i:8; Luke xvii:37.
    By “the eagle” is meant “carrion vultures,” which were included among eagles by the ancients.
    “Where the corpse is, there will the vulture be.” (Bengalese). “The carrion which the eagle has left feeds the crow.” (Latin).
    “Only decaying food has the power to charm their [vultures’] palates, though it is said that under stress of hunger these birds attack and kill defenceless small birds and animals by piercing their eyes. Putrid matter, the choicest item in the vulture’s menu, is earnestly sought and eagerly devoured by them. This is generally supposed to be due to lack of strength in claws incapable of tearing flesh that has not been weakened by decay.”—Margaret Coulson Walker.

    Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. (Matt. xiii:12).
    See Matt. xxv:29; Mark iv:25; Luke viii:18; xix:26.
    “Who hath the head hath the shoes.” (Hindi).

    Why beholdest thou the mote in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye. (Matt. vii:3).
    See Luke vi:41, 42.
    See also Quotation Proverbs: “The kettle reproached the kitchen spoon, ‘Thou blackee,’ he said, ‘Thou babbler’” and “He who has done eating will say, ‘He who eats at night is a sorcerer.’”
    The habit of fault-finding is so common that hundreds of proverbs closely allied to this old saying are used under various forms in all parts of the world. A few are here given:
    “A pig came up to a horse and said, ‘Your feet are crooked and your hair is worth nothing.’” (Russian). “The sieve says to the needle, ‘You have a hole in your tail.’” (Bengalese). “Let everyone sweep the snow from his own door, and not busy himself with the frost on his neighbour’s tiles.” “The crow mocks the pig for his blackness.” (Chinese). “The ass said to the cock, ‘Big-headed.’” (Modern Greek). “They know not their own defects who search for the defects of others.” (Sanskrit). “Chase flies away from your own head.” “With a mote in the eye one cannot see the Himalayas.” (Japanese). “Though he sees the splinter in people’s eyes he does not see the beam that is in his own eyes.” (Osmanli). “The pan says to the pot, ‘Keep off or you’ll smutch me.’” (Italian). “The raven bawls hoarsely to the crow, ‘Get out, blackmoor.’” (Spanish). “Death said to the man with his throat cut, ‘How ugly you look.’” (Catalan). “One ass nicknamed another ‘Long ears.’” (German). “He sees the speck in another’s eyes but not the film on his own,” or “The blind of one eye perceives not the film on her own eye, but sees the speck on another’s,” or “The one-eyed woman does not see the speck on her own eye, but can distinguish the cataract on another’s.” (Hindustani). “Take the pestle—made of wood and very heavy—from your own eye, then take the mote—a tiny blade of spear grass—from another’s.” (Marathi). “The pot calls the kettle black.” “The frying-pan says to the kettle, ‘Avaunt, Blackbrows.’” (English). “The mortar complaining to the drum.” (Telugu). “The sieve with a thousand holes finds fault with the sup,”—a basket used in sifting grain. (Behar). “The mud laughs at the puddle.” (Mauritius Creole). “‘Crookid carlin,’ quoth the cripple to his wife.” (Scotch).
    “That our Lord used familiar proverbs so often, is a hint to preachers that they should always keep in mind; for such simplicity and naturalness were the very soul of His addresses—His words about ‘pulling the mote out of the eye’ and ‘the blind leading the blind,’ in St. Luke’s version of the sermon, were both in the same way proverbs of His day. ‘It is written that in the days when men judged their judges, if a judge said to another, ‘Cast the mote out of thine eye,’ he would answer, ‘Cast you out the beam from your own eye.’—So says the Talmud.’”—Cunningham Geikie, D.D.
    “All laws of optics notwithstanding, they see through the massive beam in their own eye, and in spite of it, if not indeed by means of it, detect, discern, demonstrate, and denounce the tiny splinter that lurks in the eye of a brother. The beam acts as a magnifying glass, and the splinter is magnified accordingly. They see through that glass darkly; but the darkness is not to them a darkness that may be felt.”—Francis Jacox.

  • “In other men we faults can spy,
  • And blame the mote that dims their eye;
  • Each little speck and error find;
  • To our own stronger error, blind.”
  • John Gay.
  • With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you. (Matt. vii:2).
    See Mark iv:24; Luke vi:38.