By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – NFL legend Mike Ditka was giving a news conference one day after being fired as the coach of the Chicago Bears when he decided to quote the Bible.
“Scripture tells you that all things shall pass,” a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to only five wins during the previous season. “This, too, shall pass.”
Ditka fumbled his biblical citation, though. The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Ditka was quoting a phantom scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it’s not there.
Ditka’s biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers. The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it’s also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches - all types of people - quote passages that actually have no place in the Bible, religious scholars say.
These phantom passages include:
“God helps those who help themselves.”
“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
And there is this often-cited paraphrase: Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden.
None of those passages appear in the Bible, and one is actually anti-biblical, scholars say.
But people rarely challenge them because biblical ignorance is so pervasive that it even reaches groups of people who should know better, says Steve Bouma-Prediger, a religion professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
“In my college religion classes, I sometimes quote 2 Hesitations 4:3 (‘There are no internal combustion engines in heaven’),” Bouma-Prediger says. “I wait to see if anyone realizes that there is no such book in the Bible and therefore no such verse.
“Only a few catch on.”
Few catch on because they don’t want to - people prefer knowing biblical passages that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, a Bible professor says.
“Most people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the book,” says Rabbi Rami Shapiro, who once had to persuade a student in his Bible class at Middle Tennessee State University that the saying “this dog won’t hunt” doesn’t appear in the Book of Proverbs.
“They have memorized parts of texts that they can string together to prove the biblical basis for whatever it is they believe in,” he says, “but they ignore the vast majority of the text."
Phantom biblical passages work in mysterious ways
Ignorance isn’t the only cause for phantom Bible verses. Confusion is another.
Some of the most popular faux verses are pithy paraphrases of biblical concepts or bits of folk wisdom.
Consider these two:
“God works in mysterious ways.”
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
Both sound as if they are taken from the Bible, but they’re not. The first is a paraphrase of a 19th century hymn by the English poet William Cowper (“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform).
The “cleanliness” passage was coined by John Wesley, the 18th century evangelist who founded Methodism, says Thomas Kidd, a history professor at Baylor University in Texas.
“No matter if John Wesley or someone else came up with a wise saying - if it sounds proverbish, people figure it must come from the Bible,” Kidd says.
Our fondness for the short and tweet-worthy may also explain our fondness for phantom biblical phrases. The pseudo-verses function like theological tweets: They’re pithy summarizations of biblical concepts.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child” falls into that category. It’s a popular verse - and painful for many kids. Could some enterprising kid avoid the rod by pointing out to his mother that it's not in the Bible?
It’s doubtful. Her possible retort: The popular saying is a distillation of Proverbs 13:24: “The one who withholds [or spares] the rod is one who hates his son.”
Another saying that sounds Bible-worthy: “Pride goes before a fall.” But its approximation, Proverbs 16:18, is actually written: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
There are some phantom biblical verses for which no excuse can be offered. The speaker goofed.
That’s what Bruce Wells, a theology professor, thinks happened to Ditka, the former NFL coach, when he strayed from the gridiron to biblical commentary during his 1993 press conference in Chicago.
Wells watched Ditka’s biblical blunder on local television when he lived in Chicago. After Ditka cited the mysterious passage, reporters scrambled unsuccessfully the next day to find the biblical source.
They should have consulted Wells, who is now director of the ancient studies program at Saint Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania. Wells says Ditka’s error probably came from a peculiar feature of the King James Bible.
“My hunch on the Ditka quote is that it comes from a quirk of the King James translation,” Wells says. “Ancient Hebrew had a particular way of saying things like, ‘and the next thing that happened was…’ The King James translators of the Old Testament consistently rendered this as ‘and it came to pass.’ ’’
When phantom Bible passages turn dangerous
People may get verses wrong, but they also mangle plenty of well-known biblical stories as well.
Two examples: The scripture never says a whale swallowed Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, nor did any New Testament passages say that three wise men visited baby Jesus, scholars say.
Those details may seem minor, but scholars say one popular phantom Bible story stands above the rest: The Genesis story about the fall of humanity.
Most people know the popular version - Satan in the guise of a serpent tempts Eve to pick the forbidden apple from the Tree of Life. It’s been downhill ever since.
But the story in the book of Genesis never places Satan in the Garden of Eden.
“Genesis mentions nothing but a serpent,” says Kevin Dunn, chair of the department of religion at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
“Not only does the text not mention Satan, the very idea of Satan as a devilish tempter postdates the composition of the Garden of Eden story by at least 500 years,” Dunn says.
Getting biblical scriptures and stories wrong may not seem significant, but it can become dangerous, one scholar says.
Most people have heard this one: “God helps those that help themselves.” It’s another phantom scripture that appears nowhere in the Bible, but many people think it does. It's actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the nation's founding fathers.
The passage is popular in part because it is a reflection of cherished American values: individual liberty and self-reliance, says Sidnie White Crawford, a religious studies scholar at the University of Nebraska.
Yet that passage contradicts the biblical definition of goodness: defining one’s worth by what one does for others, like the poor and the outcast, Crawford says.
Crawford cites a scripture from Leviticus that tells people that when they harvest the land, they should leave some “for the poor and the alien” (Leviticus 19:9-10), and another passage from Deuteronomy that declares that people should not be “tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor.”
“We often infect the Bible with our own values and morals, not asking what the Bible’s values and morals really are,” Crawford says.
Where do these phantom passages come from?
It’s easy to blame the spread of phantom biblical passages on pervasive biblical illiteracy. But the causes are varied and go back centuries.
Some of the guilty parties are anonymous, lost to history. They are artists and storytellers who over the years embellished biblical stories and passages with their own twists.
If, say, you were an anonymous artist painting the Garden of Eden during the Renaissance, why not portray the serpent as the devil to give some punch to your creation? And if you’re a preacher telling a story about Jonah, doesn’t it just sound better to say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, not a “great fish”?
Others blame the spread of phantom Bible passages on King James, or more specifically the declining popularity of the King James translation of the Bible.
That translation, which marks 400 years of existence this year, had a near monopoly on the Bible market as recently as 50 years ago, says Douglas Jacobsen, a professor of church history and theology at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.
“If you quoted the Bible and got it wrong then, people were more likely to notice because there was only one text,” he says. “Today, so many different translations are used that almost no one can tell for sure if something supposedly from the Bible is being quoted accurately or not.”
Others blame the spread of phantom biblical verses on Martin Luther, the German monk who ignited the Protestant Reformation, the massive “protest” against the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church that led to the formation of Protestant church denominations.
“It is a great Protestant tradition for anyone - milkmaid, cobbler, or innkeeper - to be able to pick up the Bible and read for herself. No need for a highly trained scholar or cleric to walk a lay person through the text,” says Craig Hazen, director of the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University in Southern California.
But often the milkmaid, the cobbler - and the NFL coach - start creating biblical passages without the guidance of biblical experts, he says.
“You can see this manifest today in living room Bible studies across North America where lovely Christian people, with no training whatsoever, drink decaf, eat brownies and ask each other, ‘What does this text mean to you?’’’ Hazen says.
“Not only do they get the interpretation wrong, but very often end up quoting verses that really aren’t there.”
It is also interesting/ironic that the image used for this article has Adam and Eve with "belly buttons."
I may be "misinterpreting" the Bible, but I don't think there was a need to be connected to a woman's womb.
That sounds evolutionary.
The "Trinity" – also does not appear in the Bible.
That is a man-made doctrine emanating from the Fourth Century wherein debates between the Arians and those professing to be the "orthodox" in their beliefs argued over the "deity" of Jesus. Constantine convened Bishops at Nicea in 325 C.E., presided over the meetings (himself a life long pagan follower of Sol Invictus) resulting in Arius being branded a "heretic" and the "mystery" of the Trinity the belief established and espoused by most churches today.
Biblical verses are "massaged" into seeming to back the Doctrine of the Trinity as well as outright mistranslations of specific texts. For example, John 1:1 is most often rendered "And the Word was God" – when because of the anarthrous construction in Greek it SHOULD be rendered "And the Word was divine".
The difference? The son of a king is a prince but not the king. So too the Son of YHWH is divine but not "Ho Theos" (The God). The "anarthrous constructioni" in Greek (without an article) describes a "QUALITY" about the subject, not identifying the subject.
All other such manipulations of verse to support the Trinity (such as quoting Thomas' words to the resurrected Jesus, erroneously forcing them into support for the doctrine) should be governed by Jesus' own words to his disciples just before being taken into heaven about who HE considered to be "God":
'I ascend to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.' (John 20: 17).
Jesus did not consider the God of his disciples to be himself. That is a pagan doctrine dressed up in "Christian" clothes.
and nowhere does it say "an apple" but it does say satan was the original serpent, (see rev 12: 9-12), so as this educated person seems to indicate there is some truth out there so just seek if you want to know what the bible really teaches.
Really? The trinity is man made? The Bible was made by lizards I suppose.
In short : who cares if it is or not in the bible, it's a lie and fell for it.
Indeed, I encourage you to read John 1:1, which clearly shows that '....the Word was God...'
If you read Isiah 9:6, 'For unto us a child is born.....and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God....' note that Jesus was called God in both the old and new testaments.
Lastly, take a look at Revelations 1:17 – 18, you'll see that Jesus says 'I am the first and the last...' – only God has this name. We know it's Jesus who says this because the passage continues, [Rev1:18] ...I am he that liveth, and was dead; and , behold, I am alive for evermore!' Now, I ask you, when did Jehova die?
The word 'trinity' is simply used to DESCRIBE the 3 personhoods of God, as clearly evident in the Bible.
Jesus is God. The New Testament is also the test for much of the misinterpretation. What would jesus do. He said nothing about hitting a child with a rod. not one mention of violence on kids is mentioned in the new testament which fulfils and corrects wrongs practises that were allowed for a period in old testament. thank god we dotn have to sacrifice aninals and men dont marry ten women anymore.
Seek and ye shall find.. New Test
To "Firewall"...re-read what I said and then do some homework. What was said is correct.
To "Jeremy" – you too need to do some homework. The "Mighty God" is "El Gibbor" __NOT__ "Ho Theos". You will also find that in LXX (the Septuagint) written before many manipulations of text does not have those words.
There is a big difference of Jesus being called Mighty God at Isaiah 9:6 vs being called Almighty at Gen 17:1. If Jesus were the Almighty, God would not have sent an angel to strengthen Jesus at Luke 22:43 because if you already possess all the power what could a mere angel do to strengthen the Almighty?
As may be seen from the responses – there are many manipulations of verse in forced support of the Doctrine of the Trinity – but the fact remains, Jesus absolutely and clearly stated that the God of the disciples and of he himself was the Father (Jn 20:17 as already quoted).
All the rest being quoted in attempted rebuttals can be disqualified by considering in that absolute context. Too bad there isn't the opportunity to have extended discourse with all of you but given the pace of the board turnover and obligations today, can't stay engaged. Do some (better) homework and get away from strictly doctrinal interpretations and explanations which are doing nothing more than carrying on centuries of incorrect doctrinal development.
Timmy–God had a rule for all things that come into his "great experiment" to exist and participate on earth one must have their spirit condensed down and be "born of a woman and be made flesh" and to leave–all but a few must DIE. Once Jesus as in a human body like everyone else he was subject to ordinary temptations. Though he was God–while on earth he was the "Son of God" meaning he came forth from God–in a human body he was subject to all the temptations, doubts and temperments of other humans–he had to be strengthened because while in an earthly body he still could be full of pain, doubt and other emotions–how hard it must have been to hold on to what he knew himself to be –I wonder if sometimes, instead of knowing who he was–he wondered if he was crazy and made it all up–the Devil would have exploited any doubt–and just like any mortal, Jesus did not want to die or suffer pain especially since with his assumption of sin, the burden would be the most horrendous and horror driven–we cannot fathom it–it would bow his back while still a human and rend his mind–to bear it–while in human form he needed strengthening–but Jesus did become God again when he left his earthly body–
People keep posting that Christianity leads to oppression, wars, violence. Show me red text where Jesus instructed his followers in any of these areas?
Still waiting on that quote. Seemed to be a lot of people on the "Christians are violent warmongers" bandwagon but noone has any scripture to back it up.
If you're concerned about it that much then please join us in denouncing Christian violence.
Jesus didn't. The popes did. Read Constantines Sword
there's no text in the bible that says "be arrogant and bigoted and don't think for yourselves." (Although the old testament has some pretty shady stuff,) it's the actions of the followers that non-christians have trouble with. We resent being proselytized to as if you know better than us. Fine, it's a part of your faith. But that doesn't mean it's not arrogant.
It is the Holy Spirit – God's Spirit – that reveals the deep things of God, and hence teaches us the truth from His word. Although God may speak through pastors to help others understand his word, the Holy spirit is available to every believer – not only the clergy. That's why everyone can read from the Bible, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, can understand what is written.
'But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God' [KJV – 1Chor2:10]
Most of this article is just nit-picky semantics. Generally, the approximations are close enough. And this is coming from someone who feels traumatized by her conservative Christian upbringing. There is no need to fiddle over interpretations and exact translation, yadda.It's just trying to make a controversy and offend Bible-believers (and I'm not one) over nothing. The only thing I agree on? It's true that the Bible does not say anything like "God helps those who help themselves." That's just American "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" propaganda, straight outta LIttle House on The Prairie probably.
So, what you're saying is, you SHOULD be able to misquote Ben Franklin and call it scripture to justify your politics?
Phenomenal article. I do not see how this article is in the slightest self-indulgent or meant to mock believers of Christianity. In fact, what is more self-indulgent is asserting that you have all the answers to life and pretending to have mental or "heightened" powers through faith. However, I do not see how this could make Christians mad. Most of them are truth seekers, I would state something from the Bible but I might misquote it. Nevertheless, I would think that Christians would be happy with a person who is telling you what you are saying is not even a Biblical quote.
Dan, some people are looking for any excuse to be offended. They like to pretend they're being persecuted.
So the atuhor's conclusion is "leave the reading and quoting Bible to the experts"? As if the theologians don't miss the boat sometimes?
Actually, I think the author's conclusion might be, either; "Don't quote what you haven't read, because the tendency is to be creative" or "develop a filter between your brain and mouth."
It's dangerous! Maybe this also happen to the Christian group that becomes a cult or better yet Muslim turn to "an eye for an eye"
Is this in the Quran ?
"actually there is nothing "in the Bible" it is all a fairy tale." Then please explain your reason why the world is the way it is today. Why all the wars, terrorism, crime, economic problems, etc. Are these fairly tales too?
please let me know how to I contact the moderators because for some reason I cannot post under my account user name. I believe I was a target of a user that disagreed with my opinions and rather than just voice their own views they decided to work to get me banned. I was never given notice or a chance to dispute this action.
People keep saying Christianity leads to oppression, wars, violence. Show me red text where Jesus instructed his followers in any of these areas?
What do you mean "today"? There has always been war, terrorism, crime, and economic concern. ALWAYS. These things are not new. How could they even be new to you? Unless you're insufferably stupid and live under a rock.
I don't think that being in the Bible makes a saying more valid as something that isn't. Wisdom gives us the ability to grant validity to a statement – not for were it is published but because of reasoning out its merits. Venerating the bible actually promotes ignorance because it seeks to add validity to sayings absent of merits which leads to holding ludicrous notions as meritorious without evidence through reasoning.
Trewth, and yet Christians have historically found excuses to do these things in the name of god. Why do you think that is?
"Then please explain your reason why the world is the way it is today. Why all the wars, terrorism, crime, economic problems, etc. Are these fairly tales too?"
Those are very real problems. They're also good evidence that the idea of benevolent being overseeing us is nonsense.
What about Deut: 18:18, which preducts the appearance of a prophet from the brethren of israelis ie is the Ishmaelites of whom they were to obey. But they have blatantly refused to obey the holy prophet muhammad on whom be peace.
Muhamad was anything but peaceful my friend. How many war campaigns did he lead? Jesus hurt noone, only healed. True story bro
"Most misquoted" is about the kindest description you can give to the Bible. More important than that is the NONE of the Bible was supposedly written by god, if there is one. It was written by people, who put their spin on the actual events. Then, throughout the years, it has been reinterpreted by more people, who put their spin on it so that now, it is very unlikely that any existing version bears any resemblance to the original. People, being what they are, interpret things to match their own beliefs and what is currently called the "Bible" is just a collection of what long-dead people wanted. It has nothing to do with the "word" of some mythical being.
it does claim to be inspired by God, it claims that God put the information in the minds of the bible writers, if someone disputes that, consider all the languages of mankind, God put all the languages of mankind into their minds when the human race defiantly built the tower of Babel, it was done by God to disperse the people, unless people believe in evolution and that man babled the creation of all the thousands of languages in the short time they have existed, archeologists claim around 5,000 years close the Bible's 4,000 since the time of Noah
Actually, we have original copies of the New Testament Gospels in the original Greek – it was written in Greek and scholars have proven that what we have today is 99% accurate and complete. Luke wrote what St. Paul preached; Mark wrote what St. Peter preached; St. Matthew and St. John wrote their own Gospels (John may have been assisted by a disciple of his). Also, the Old Testament has been very well preserved as was and still is the tradition of generations of Jews who have very loyally and PRECISELY maintained those books for many generations. The problem has come with poor translations. This problem has occurred most often by elements outside of the Catholic Church. It is the Catholic Church which has maintained the original works. Translations after that can be questional in cases.
Scripture is inspired; The Holy Spirit works through His creation. While Islam considers their Koran to be "divine", Christians consider the Bible to be "inspired" and TRUE. God has always worked through humanity; never forget that – remember Moses, the Prophets, the Son of God (Jesus) who is Human AND Divine, his blessed Mother Mary (who is essentially the "Mother of God" because she gave birth to Jesus – True God and True Man). So, understand that God is all-powerful and can work through humanity as He Wills.
Re: Satan as serpent. "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years..." Rev. 20:2
"Spare the rod ; spoil the child" DOES appear in the Bbible:
Proverbs 23:13,14; "Withhold no correction (spare not) from the child; for if thou beat him with a ROD, he shall not die(spare not)
For if thou shall beat him with a rod (spare not) and shall deliver his soul from hell" So you see it does appear in the bible.
Or, as paraphrased in the Living Bible: Beat the holy hell out of your kids.
"Spare the rod, spoil the child" = 6 words
What you quoted = more than 6 words.
The quote does not exist in the Bible.
I am a different Mike, but I concur with the above Mike.
Mike, did you ever stop and think that the quote was shortened simply because it was easier to say? Therefore, I say you are incorrect.
WISDOM: Do not go to CNN for explanations of scriptural issues. Hello?
Its just an "opinion" piece, nothing more or less.....
As is what is said by everyone here.
The few who give religion a bad name are those who shove it down the throats of others. The rest of us don't really care what you do or don't believe in as long as you are happy. My son is an atheist. I am Mormon (convert). We don't speak of religion because it's a pointless argument. We agree to disagree.
Personally, I don't like people shoving religion down my throat either and most I know agree. My son the atheist loves to argue his point and how correct he is yet nobody wants to argue wth him. He is only open to his point of view, nothing else, which is fine, but don't shove it down other's throats. I don't do it to you.
My favorite part of the Bible is where Jesus took money from the poor, gave it to the rich...and demanded Caesar's birth certificate.
But you must admit that Caesar was clever in changing the subject by tossing Jesus's salad. I'm going to hell for that, aren't I?
Comparing Jesus to the GOP, very concrete.
Trewth: Why not, they do it all the time...
That is hilarieous!!
Joe, please learn how to spell.
Chris, that's the key (as you've said): it was an opinion piece. You're right the prsofesor had a knee-jerk and quite revealing reaction to the paper.And Ryan, even though the paper was not very good (as you've pointed out and I suppose I should've included that point), the prsofesor judged the paper unfairly. Maybe it even deserved an F. But the comments were unfair and, in some cases, flat out wrong (CS Lewis was never a pastor). It is interesting to me that academics who go through all kinds of training to be as objective as possible can, in unguarded moments, be so biased and sloppy in their thinking.
The writer of this article falls for a fast one as well. Mid-way through the article, it says: “Not only does the text not mention Satan, the very idea of Satan as a devilish tempter postdates the composition of the Garden of Eden story by at least 500 years,” Dunn says. In reality, Satan is mentioned in the Book of Job in chapter 1 as a tempter. Job was written 400-600 years BEFORE the Garden of Eden story. If you're going to write an article about people being gullible and not fact checking, you need to do some fact checking......
The writer states satan is not mention in the book of GENESIS. The book of JOB was written much later. See? More reading what you want and not what the writer actually says.
You are nit picking Stu. It is not WHEN the verse was written, but the period of time the verse depicts. Clearly the Garden of Eden depicts an earlier time than Job. His point was that a serpent was mentioned in the Garden of Eden event – not but not Satan. Who or what that serpent was we can only have conjecture. Clearly the author knows that elsewhere in the Bible that Satan is mentioned.
Blargh asked: "Does anyone even know the definition of the word 'bible'?"
The word comes from the latin "biblia", which means "book".
And your point is...?
Few have Christians have read the bible (and few Muslims the Quran) otherwise they would see what nonsense it is.
For instance, in the Bible it's often quote "do not covet thy neighbor's wife", but it really says, "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" which is COMPLETELY different to what people think it means.
The first abridged one is used as evidence of the Bible's forward thinking on women's wife, whereas the TRUE passage says women are chattels like cattle or slaves and therefore owned by the man. Too funny!
Actually something like 90% of muslims read the Koran, many memorize it. I'm not muslim and even I read it! However, it is WAY shorter! :)
Not exactly a shock that there are so many who get it wrong. After all, an overwhelming majority of these folks still believe that the Earth is only 7,000 years old.
And how many of those people who like to quote the Bible can read it in the original language(s) it was written? Almost no one. They are just quoting somebody else's translation or interpretation.
Do you read your greek history in the greek language or your egyptian history in egyptian? I'm sure you are still an expert.
How to I contact the moderators because for some reason I cannot post under my account user name. I believe I was a target of a user that disagreed with my opinions and rather than just voice their own views they decided to work to get me banned. I was never given notice or a chance to dispute this action.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.