The novel is filled with Biblical references and allusions. The most evident are the names Paton gives to the characters. Absalom, the son of Stephen Kumalo, is named for the son of King David, who rose up against his father in rebellion. Also, in the New Testament Book of Acts, Saint Stephen was a martyr who died rather than give up his beliefs. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts are written to Theophilus, which is Greek for "friend of God".
In the novel, Absalom requests that his son be named Peter—the name of one of Jesus's disciples. Among Peter's better-known traits is a certain impulsiveness; also, after Christ's arrest, he denied knowing Jesus three times, and later wept in grief over this. After the resurrection, Peter renewed his commitment to Christ and to spreading the Gospel. All of this suggests Absalom's final repentance, and his commitment to the faith of his father.
In another allusion, Arthur Jarvis is described as having a large collection of books on Abraham Lincoln, and the writings of Lincoln are featured several times in the novel.
Paton describes Arthur's son as having characteristics similar to his when he was a child. This may allude to the resurrection of Christ.