The surprising story behind the new James Bond song title

Added about 5 years ago by Sacristy Press

Today it was announced that Sam Smith’s song for the new James Bond film, SPECTRE, will be called “Writing’s On The Wall”. But did you know that the title of the song originates in the King James Bible?

Not only that, but it comes from part of the Bible that lends its name to 007 actor Daniel Craig!

The book of Daniel is full of wild stories and prophetic visions, including the tale of Belshazzar’s feast. In this story, King Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, holds a feast and orders the sacred vessels of gold and silver, plundered from the Hebrew Temple, to be brought as drinking cups for the guests and their concubines.

Flushed with wine, they worship their heathen gods, whereupon the fingers of a disembodied hand begin to write on the wall of the palace the words “mene mene tekel upharsin”. But what does it mean?

Discover the surprising end to this story, as well as the origins of more than sixty other popular phrases from songs, films and everyday life, in The Writing on the Wall.

The idiom “the writing on the wall” comes straight from Daniel 5:5 and is often used in prose, lyrics, journalism, films, and videos, especially as headlines and titles. People who “cannot read the writing on the wall” are like those who “bury their heads in the sand”. In An Autobiography or the Story of My Experiments with Truth (1927), Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) warns that man will be reduced to the state of the beast if no one heeds the writing on the wall.

The phrase also appears in an unpublished poem by Jonathan Swift (1667–1745), entitled “The Run Upon The Bankers”. Seen as somewhat prophetic, the poem was printed in 1734 following a Dublin banking crisis and contains the following lines:

A baited banker thus desponds,
From his own hand foresees his fall,
They have his soul, who have his bonds;
‘Tis like the writing on the wall.

The Writing on the Wall is also the name of Richard Noble’s new book, examining the origin of dozens of common phrases and idioms that were first introduced into the English language by the King James Bible (KJV).

Another book examining the language of the KJV, aimed at bible study groups, is A Sign of the Times, edited by Lynn Machin.

Lynn and Richard, along with Professor Alec Ryrie of Durham University, are talking about the linguistic heritage of the King James Bible at the Durham Book Festival in October 2015 – who knows, they might even talk about James Bond!

(Photo credit: iStock/Avid Creative)


Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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