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's Confucius. There are books other than Bibles.
And the way of God can be found inside and outside of books. As above, so below.
I wonder what it is about articles like these that bring out the embittered and truly uneducated? It's amazing to me how some of them will go to great lengths to put down and ridicule what they don't understand. If God doesn't exist and He is a myth or a fairy tale humans invented, why do you anti-theists feel so threatened? No one is say you must believe, but why do you go out of your way to try to make the world accommodate your narrow minded hateful unbelief? Face the facts: religion, spirituality and mythology are important to MOST of the world's 7 Billion inhabitants, and you're not going to eradicate it any time soon. If anything, people will turn back to God because each of us were made with a need to believe in something or Someone greater than ourselves. There's no point in disputing this because you know I'm right. Every philosopher in the world will attest to this.
Sometimes it's fun to rant. Feel better? If you need a forum where nobody opposes your views, go somewhere else.
As long as both sides are learning from the experience its worthwhile, but try not to forcefeed the hemlock though, when all you have is lemon juice. It may be bitter, but it will only be rejected, no matter which side it comes from.
I, for one, do not have the need to believe in anything or anyone greater. So you are not absolutely right. There are other ways of believing than Christianity, and all other religions. So how is not believing being "narrow-minded", and your statement "If anything, people will turn back to God because each of us were made with a need to believe in something or Someone greater than ourselves. There's no point in disputing this because you know I'm right" NOT being narrow-minded?
I like this. It is honest. Yes why are atheists so adamant and why do they try to force their opinions on others. Accept that the French love France and the Germans love Germany and that is HOW we are ... and Christians love God. Atheists go and rant for a while on people whose bumper sticker says "I (heart) my dog" (well otherwise why have one?) .. even worse "my kid was student of the month at John Adams School" (millions of those) .. Obama/Biden bumper stickers (voters .. they are no longer running .. (I never saw anyone wit a "Pelosi" bumper sticker). Well said Sabrina .. you reduced it to words that are loud and clear (to a logical mind )
It's amusing that you like Sabrina's post, Clyde. It's full of all the things she attributes to the atheists. Maybe seeing yourself as a victim makes you feel special, but nobody is forcing you to read these posts.
Honestly, I do not carry hate for Christianity. I carry some hate for christian fundamentalists that make it their priority to taint politics. Look at the evangelical vote. It hinders democracy and creates nationalists that in turn think that their specific concept of religion should be forced onto everyone. The sad part is that they are part of a forced ideology! I am a former believer and I have read the book from cover to cover. It upsets me that people refer to themselves as Christians and don't even know what they believe. They are given other peoples interpretation of the text from a pulpit every Sunday morning. More so, this demonstrates a lack of critical thinking. Why can't you read the book that you say is infallible. Taking a scholarly approach to the bible clearly reveals that the sacred text is far from perfect and it has major errors. I believe that articles like these bring out the educated not uneducated. Many of us atheists came out of your churches. Although I do not deny that their are many positive themes in the bible, they are not without embedded error. Sabrina you shouldn't be talking about "force their opinions on others" when the evangelical vote has stripped marriage rights for the gay and lesbian community in the united states. Forced their opinion on others when they voted for a racist political officials in Arizona that decided it was a good idea to start racial profiling. I am a latino and have witnessed how the evangelical vote has been utilized to promote a right wing agenda. An agenda that basically sides with Israeli war crimes, and other injustices. In case you don't know Israeli blood is not superior to Palestinian blood. Just remember that Micah called for social justice! Not get the government out of education,health care, and my poor people. The same political policies advocated by the christian right are the same policies that caused the 10 tribes of Israel to disappear and also caused the Babylonian Exile. If you don't know what i am talking about go read the book!!! Its your fault i am atheist!!!!
Very good points Sabrina, I agree. Read my replies to "Mike C." above yours. The author has gone out of his way to try to discredit the Holy Bible. At least two of the passages he mentions ARE in the Bible and in my posts I discuss them. But, very nicely said on your part. God bless.
thank you 'RONKYTOWN' for that..the bible was read to me by parent and even at a young age i could understand that there was something not quite cohesive from what was actually written in the Book, to what was really practiced..i really couldn't believe that the 'teacher's teaching from the book, didn't understand\comprehend what they were reading..i could see that even thought they 'read' the words, it seemed as if by rote; lbecause after the pages closed and then 'religion'\church took over, there seemed to be a huge and opposing disconnect between the two points..GOD tells you to love..HIS first commandment and i saw it diluted by the 'interpretations' made to fit what fit or made them least comfortable..
one thing in the Book was to question everything, get cousel and allow your heart to guide you [not typed in actual context]
but it's in there and you will see it IF the time is taken to OPEN the book..and do not be frightened by what you will find out because you will be enlightened or at least less jedgmental..you trust you remember that little proverb..?
try it Sabrina, it seemed the reply you sent was as if powered by robot..
The Bible does not say "God helps those who help themselve" but it does teach that we must reach out to God and His son Jesus Christ, if they wish to improve our lives: Examples:
In Mathew 14:35-36 it says: "And when the men of that place ahad knowledge of him [Christ], they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; And besought him that they might only touch the ahem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole."
Jesus taught: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (Mat 7:7 and Luke 11:9)
The Apostle John, quoted Jesus Christ: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev 3:20)
The principle that we have "agency" (right to chose between good and evil – as illustrated by the story of Adam and Eve and many susequent biblical figures) is coupled with the imperative that we must also actively seek God's help if we wish to be healed or saved.
Re: the scripture about sparing the rod. That verse in Proverbs is actually much strongly worded, than 'spare the rod spoil the child.' It says "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."
So, what really is the point of this entire story/article? To indirectly discredit the Bible? To educate others that quoting the Bible with good intent is Wrong? To perhaps convince people that there is no God? Really... what is the point?
I read it twice and still could conclude no redeeming value in the story, unlike the Bible, where the entire book represents the basic tenets of life and intrinsically core values to live one's life by... Perhaps the reason for the story was to encourage people of faith like me to comment and lend something meaningful to contemplate? (as others have likewise contributed).
The author makes no attempt to discredit the Bible at any point in this article. The author also says nothing about people quoting the Bible (with good or ill intent). The article is fairly clearly about people who MISquote the Bible, attempting to add Biblical weight to viewpoints that are not, in fact, supported by the Bible. Try reading a third time and maybe you'll be able to figure it out.
The point is to get people to actually read the Bible instead of just believing every Proverb that comes out of someones mouth must be Biblical because it sounds Biblical. The fact of the matter is, many of these phrases are contorted to some politician's or preacher's political agenda.
Mike Ditka quoted the Bible as saying, "All things shall pass." His "this, too, shall pass" phrase was not being quoted from the bible; he was saying that about having only five wins in a season.
More speculation I see. Bring some proof to the table. I see your "theories", and raise them the following:
1) Cornelius Tacitus
2) Pliny the Younger
3) Flavius Josephus
4) The Dead Sea Scrolls
The overwhelming majority of records used to confirm the life and activities of Nero are recorded by Tacitus and Pliny the Younger. Accepting Nero implicitly accepts the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
jJeff M: I'm not sure your facts support your conclusion. Is it not possible that the historians you cite got one thing right and another wrong? Could they have been closer to the facts regarding Nero than they were to those regarding Jesus? Must accepting *one* thing they wrote inevitably lead to accepting *everything* they wrote? That doesn't seem logical to me.
You are correct that they could easily be flawed in what was recorded...but what are the odds that all the supporting evidence between the historians recording the same events would both have them wrong? Likewise, because I accept Jesus of Nazareth, do I have to accept Socrates? If we take this path, then we cannot safely assume that the majority of historical events actually occurred.
The article keeps referring to the fruit as an apple. That's also not Biblical. John Milton made it an apple in "Paradise Lost". Whatever fruit it was, we have no access to anymore because God cut us off from it (Gen 3). We still have apples. As one of my college professors pointed out – oranges come from orange trees, pears come from pear trees, a Knowledge of Good and Evil tree would produce Knowledge of Good and Evil fruit. Someone else already addressed the serpent/Satan issue so I won't repeat. I think the article is good in that it highlights this – if you are going to cite anything, you'd better have read it yourself and know that you're getting the quote right.
I forgot one other thing. The article says "...pick the forbidden apple from the Tree of Life." Nobody got anything off of the Tree of Life. See Gen 3:22.
You're right about the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil not being the same. Genesis 2:9 says they are different trees.
Who gives a rats butt about accuratly quoting the bible, inaccurate and contradictive as it already is. It's just a bunch of folk lore tales rewritten and pieced together to create the backbone for a lie-based organization bent on control of it's members through peer pressure, fear of the unknown and impossible mysterious magic no one has ever witnessed. Any story that has a hint of the absurd should be doubted by a rational mind. Here's an idea; the universe was created by a demon alien and our souls are food, there is no "good" god and we are kidding ourselves to think anything good can come from existance. I can make up crap too, see. Whatever makes you feel better, just keep it away from the kids. Facts are facts and fantasy is fantasy, get it straight and stop making our species look like a bunch of delusional childish gullible idiots.
It's at least as important to quote the Bible accurately as it is to quote Shakespeare accurately, if you're going to quote it at all. Even if you think the Bible is "just a bunch of folklore," it's nevertheless an important book in Western literature. Without a solid knowledge of the Bible at least as literature, you will miss a huge amount of symbolism and meaning when you read the great works of English and American literature, such as the works of Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Hemingway, Donne, Mark Twain, and many, many more–books that have contributed greatly to western and American culture. All of these authors make reference to sections of the Bible as well as incorporate symbols and archetypes from it. To just dismiss the Bible as unimportant is to dismiss one of the greatest works of Western literature, and further debase the quality of education in the U.S. and make us more ignorant of our own rich history and culture.
The Idea that the Serpent was Satan comes from Revelation 12:9
"9And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world, he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."
There's a passage in the bible somewhere that describes what to do in case of mildew
Spray and pray. But don't paraphrase the instructions on the can of Lysol.
"...Why not portray the serpent as the devil to give some punch to your creation?"
Please. It would make no sense for some random serpent to tempt Eve to eat the fruit, but it makes perfect sense for Satan – who has already been cast out of God's presence and who wants to make Adam and Eve miserable too – to do so. So-called "scholarly" analyses of the Bible are, more often than not, ridiculous – if you really insist on making the serpent a completely standalone character in the Bible, not only does the story lose almost all of its meaning; and if, like most who read the Bible, you believe that temptations to do wrong come from the devil, then why would the serpent spread such temptations unless it was influenced by the devil? Oh yes, and you also have to explain why this sentient, malicious serpent capable of human speech (but completely uninfluenced by the devil) is in the garden to begin with, since it doesn't make much sense for God to create such a being.
"Please. It would make no sense for some random serpent to tempt Eve to eat the fruit" Your absolutely correct. It makes just as much sense as the rest of the bible.
MG. good questions. The thing is, the serpent is given its own characteristics, e.g., 'the most cunning of all the beasts'. If this was satan, why give any description of the serpent's character...I mean, why would it matter? As far as mankind, most all of the old testament gives man credit all by himself for commiting sins, for constantly taking the wrong path. Satan is popular in the new testament but for Job, hardly mentioned in the old. Unfortunetly we make really bad decisions without satan's help. As far as speaking, automatically we write this off as impossible but it isnt' alone in the bible. Balam's ass wasn't given speech but was given BACK its speech. I know. Subtle but made me think. The other thing that makes me consider things were different was that until after the flood, man was not allowed to eat animals. It gives no reason but I draw the conclusion that something changed. What? I really don't know. It would make it easier to collect animals for the ark if they were able to communicate with speech. Anyway, I love the Bible and read it for what it says....sometimes leave a lot of things unanswered until I pass away.
"it doesn't make much sense for God to create such a being." Didn't God create all beings? Does it makes sense that a snake was capable of human speech? How was its mouth physically able to form syllables and coherent enunciation? You say the theory that the serpent wasn't Satan doesn't make sense, but how much sense does the entire story really make?
The author is incorrect in his analysis of Ben Franklin's "God helps those who help themselves" line. It was not intended to be a commentary on how we should treat the oppressed in society. It comes from an Aesop fable about a commoner who cries out to Hercules when a wheel comes off his wagon, and a voice from heaven booms, "put your shoulder to the cart and put the wheel on yourself." The point being that we should look to ourselves before we look to others for help .
nobody ever claimed these were verses in the bible. OBVIUOSLY most of these are popular sayings and interpretations/summations based on certain scriptures. my goodness, non-believers are always trying to find a way to discredit the bible and anything else related to Christianity. always the 1st ones to blame God for something that went wrong in their lives but never blame Him when something God happens. "where was God when so and so died?" where were your prayers of thankfulness when he blessed you with a new job? if He wasn't a factor in your life from the get go, don't blame Him when things go take a turn for the worse. you are all definitely in my prayers whether you want to be or not. have a blessed day.
Many of these phrase are said by pastors and preachers and politicians as justification for their ends. They do commonly cite it s coming from the Bible or that God/Jesus said it.
i have learned something in life that god has shown over & over again, that there is a place were R. I. P. is and always will be. with that in mind then there must a place were R. I. H. also waits for us. all things that god has ask of us we failed him, every time he changed things to make it better for us we failed him ( it was to hard for us ) can god ever win with us???????????????
Are all of those question marks really neccesary? <- See, one will do.
Interesting questions.... :) John 6:22 says... "For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up."
We can do nothing good without His help....the Lord says, "Without Me you can do nothing." (Jn. 15:5).
We all know that that the Bible is oft' misquoted or quoted as authority in error. Some of the misquotes sited in this article are merely contractions of quotes and no less appropiate.
What I find disturbing is the statement about bible studies in livingrooms all over this nation by people who have no "Expert" to guide them. How like some religious elists, to think that the common man can not possibly interpet the scriptures for his or her self! Are we to go back to the dark ages when the clergy where to ONLY repository of religious knowledge and the people where expected to follow their teaching like so many ignorant sheep?
People! Read your Bibles for yourselves! Learn from it. You have to work out your own salvation not let someone else tell you what it takes.
The majority is usually wrong! Where in scripture is authority given for a change in the day of worship? Find it, if you can! Where did Jesus give the command? In point of fact, He didn't! Please read your Bibles and question what you believe and come to conclusions based on what is actually there, not on what someone tells you is there.
Who wrote this article? Anyone with a lick of sense or had actually read the Bible knows they are not in there. They are folk wisdom not bible verses.
How did you miss "do unto others as you would have them do unto you?"
The Golden Rule is from Aesop's fables, but it is also found in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31, so the author was right not to include that one
Guess you haven't looked at the bible either
Uhhhhhhh.........yeah.......READ: He who spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24) and "Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell." (Proverbs 23:13-14)
So......you are INCORRECT, Sir! Know the FACTS before writing an article.
You realize that everyone is referencing various translations from a difference language, don't you? So who's the fool?
I still can't find "Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child", so uh, you are completely off base, DM. You're probably one of those people that likes to paraphrase the Word of God, and don't like it when someone points out that the paraphrasing can be misleading.
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.