It’s a well known fact that many very famous quotes from the worlds greatest movie stars were never actually uttered by those stars. Sylvester Stallone never said, “Don’t push me!” in First Blood. He actually asked, quite calmly, “Why are you pushing me?” More recently he may have asked Australian authorities, “Why are you going through my bags? That’s prescription medicine, honest. Of course I built these muscles at 60 years old perfectly naturally.”
Cagney never said, “You dirty rat.” He actually said, in 1932’s Taxi, “Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow-bellied rat, or I’ll give it to you through the door!” Humphrey Bogart never said, “Play it again, Sam” in Casablanca. The closest he came to that line was, “Play it, Sam.”
However, there’s one particular quote that has kept reappearing over the last decade and a bit more and it seems to go from strength to strength. It appeared again today in the Sydney Magazine in an article about the infamous Sydney surf gang, the Bra Boys.
One of the Bra Boys bears a tattoo on his chest which reads MY BROTHERS KEEPER. In her Sydney Magazine article, Kate McClymont refers to the phrase as being part of a longer passage from the Bible. Ezekiel 25:17 to be exact. Apparently this passage was discovered in jail by one of the Bra Boys and adopted by them. In her article, Kate reproduces the whole passage:
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
It’s likely that Kate got this full version from the Bra Boys, who in turn apparently got it from someone in jail. The trouble is, it probably originated from Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 movie brilliance, Pulp Fiction. Who can forget Samuel L Jackson as the heavily coiffed Jules, delivering exactly that passage before poppin’ a cap in someone’s ass? After all, it does sound damned cool.
Sam Jackson delivering his cold-blooded lines
But Tarantino didn’t get it from the Bible. He got it from a Sonny Chiba movie. Tarantino is an unashamed fan of Sonny Chiba and references the man and his work in several of his movies (Pulp Fiction, True Romance and he even got Chiba to star in his latest epic, Kill Bill). An old Sonny Chiba movie called Karate Kiba (which was called The Bodyguard in English) had this passage as its opening scroll, with the words “I am the Lord” substituted with “I am Chiba the Bodyguard”.
Sonny Chiba (yeah, he’s way cooler than Sam Jackson)
I’m afraid that Kate McClymont, in her magazine article, is perpetuating a myth, probably unawares. It’s possible that the Bra Boys were also led along in the first place, erroneously explaining the verse to Kate. Tarantino himself was influenced by Chiba. And what about Chiba? Who knows. I’m afraid that’s where my research ends.
The quote has some truth to it. Ezekiel 25:17 in the King James Bible reads “And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I [am] the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.” But it says nothing about brothers and inequities and the paths of righteous men.
It seems that many people have been led astray by Sonny Chiba and Quentin Tarantino and it continues to this day. Still, it is a cool quote.