"The prodigal has returned" is the phrase that greets many young travellers on their return from overseas. Do they know what their parents mean? What other biblical words and phrases look set to disappear from the English language with the dearth of Bible reading?
I think that a lack of reading in general is limiting the population's understanding of the English language. Years ago people would read books and play music in the hours before bedtime, play games with their family and friends and talk. Now more and more people are sitting in front of their TV and tuning out. It sets the stage for a decline not only in literacy but other communication skills as well.
I'd say it would be more difficult to be a teacher now than it was even thirty years ago, with phones in the classroom and computers and so many more distractions from actually learning how to read, write and add.
Yep, a lack of knowledge of the Bible definitely means people don't understand various phrases and references in literature, movies and tv shows. It's not just the Bible though. They also miss references to Greek and Norse myths, Aesop's Fables and other stories which used to be staples and as Sarah mentioned there is a lack of reading in general.
When I was studying a foreign language at uni we had a lesson where we were supposed to look at idioms in that language and match them up with phrases in English that meant the same thing, demonstrating the difference between a literal translation and translating the actual meaning. The lesson didn't go well because for this class full of twenty-somethings in a university most of the English idioms were totally unfamiliar and most of those they had heard before they didn't understand. We're talking stuff like "oil on troubled waters" and "sour grapes."
It's a pity to see these ways of speaking and writing disappear, but I suppose new things will take their place. For my part I will try and expose my kids to a wide range of literature to pick up as much vocabulary and general knowledge as they can.
I am glad you are doing your bit with your chilren. It's a difficult battle - I'm even finding my own spelling deteriorating as I read more and more that hasn't been spelled properly and rely more heavily on spell check than I ever would have imagined I would need to.
I would say lack of reading in general, not just the bible. I would think most people would get the meaning of prodigal son, as it comes up in other things. I write a series called Stranger in a Strange Land and I didn't know it was from the originally bible, but I knew what it meant, and knew I didn't think of it originally.
Where the lack of comprehension will come in, is in old poetry references. They use imagery and allude to bible references (often as a criticism) and it will all be just words of an odd description nowadays...