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.”
He that spareth the his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Prov. 13:24 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Prov 22:15. Your splitting hairs CNN. And because Satan is the Father of all Lies that is why the serpent is tied to him. Neither does the Bible call the fruit an apple. It is simply the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And Ghost the Anti-Christ is mentioned in the Bible. Second John verse 7: For many decievers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an anti-christ.
"And because Satan is the Father of all Lies that is why the serpent is tied to him."
The creation story really was just about snakes, a "just so" story that explained not only why people did bad things, but why practically everyone hates and fears snakes.
Satan was invented much later. When Judaism moved away from its polytheist roots (in the early verses of Genesis references to God are plural, and ancient Hebrews worshiped both Jehovah and his wife, Asherah), they had a theodicy problem. If God is good and all-powerful, why does anything bad happen? Blaming it on serpents wasn't satisfying; why was the *serpent* bad if God created it? So they had to praise God for anything good, and when a plague or famine hit, they had to assume God was punishing them.
During the Babylonian captivity the Hebrews encountered the idea of an anti-god as a way to explain evil. "God didn't do that, it was his evil twin." Satan was born. With him as the culprit it was inevitable that the serpent of Eden would be linked to him. Note, the old Hebrews never explained his origin; that had to wait until Revelations, which describes a fight in heaven between God and a dragon who is "thrown down".
Another reverse application of Satan is Lucifer. Isaiah wrote (ch.14):
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
This was not about Satan. It was about the King of Babylon.. "Lucifer" isn't even a Hebrew word, it's Latin – "Light Bringer". The passage is a metaphor, comparing the rise and fall of the hated king to the planet Venus, which is sometimes visible in the morning and sometimes in the evening. As it orbits the sun Venus passes behind it and in front of it, where it can't be seen. It begins to appear in the morning, close to the sun and rising just before it ("bringing the light"), and becomes brighter as it moves farther away until it becomes the brightest thing in the night sky save the moon ("exalted above the stars") Then it wanes, moves closer to the sun, and disappears until it returns later as the evening star, just after sunset. It was as if Venus was trying to challenge the sun's place as the brightest object in the sky, only to fail and fall into its fire.
Anyway, with Satan to blame evil on, Jews could believe Jehovah was purely a being of good who would never want to harm us. This made Christianity possible, and Jesus became the literal embodiment of an all-loving god.
Why not mention how the antichrist is never mentioned in the bible?
Um...the "antichrist" is mentioned specifically 3 times in 1st John, and once in 2nd John. Also, for clarification, the Bible doesn't speak of a single "Antichrist"; an antichrist is literally anyone against Christ (such as many people posting here).
The word is used in literary form as synecdoche, where mention in a singular form is intended to be understood as representing the whole...the same as in the expression "the early bird gets the worm". It's not just a single early bird that gets the one worm; every bird that gets out early easily gets a worm (while late birds have trouble finding any worm).
The book of Revelation identifies the serpent from Genesis as Satan. Revelation 20:2
Can any atheist please explain the phenomenon of near death experiences? How is it that these people (including atheists, in many cases) detail similar versions of Jesus and Heaven, and atheists come back to Earth converted?
This can be explained as these athiests were most likely exposed to christianity or a similar religion when they were young, but they grew older and smarter and began asking questions about everything they are told. They begin to understand logically that death is the end of the road for them just like any other animal. Now this same person who beleives they are at the end of thier road wants to make thier passing more bearable. They revert to thier childish ways of fantasy to ease thier passing into death. I do this too- when I am recovering from a long night of binge drinking curled up in the fetal position around a toilet praying to God and asking for forgiveness as though God were the toilet itself. If you really want to understand God and life, put the bible down. Its violent, contraversial, ancient, and primitive. Be comfortable with the unknown and stop believing in santa clause. Study the world around you, learn something new, make educated discisions, and you will be enlightened. Maybe, just maybe, if I have no kids to pass on my genetic legacy, when I get old and grey I will think about reverting to some pseudo afterlife insurance plan.
Problem is Tim is that when someone claims to have an experience, it is just that. Their persnal experience has no way to verify the validity. Just like those a voices coming from burning bushes and Angels.
A well understood psychological phenomena with no serious religious ties? Its essentially one's brain coping with high stress levels experienced in these near-death episodes. The images of God and Jesus in the United States as well as nearly all Christian cultures throughout the world are a) usually more prevelant than any other religious figure and b) universally recognized as the traditional long, light brown haired-, pale-skinned-, mid-thirties, thin, European-looking gentleman that has been mass-produced in art, cinema and culture since the Middle Ages. Given that constant exposure, its only sensible that most people would have a shared experience.
Contrary to the sarcasm of the masses the Bible is available to all who have the desire that God has given to actually study it without bias and learn that because one person deemed the fruit an apple, all that is, is one mans interpretation.
If people have actually placed any measure of trust in what is printed by the media without confirmation and analysis, it is of no surprise to me that they find a book that confirms itself over and over difficult to understand. Smooches :)
"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."
You don't have to be a "biblical expert" to be able to interpret the Bible as it applies to your own personal life. These so-called "experts" weren't present back when the Bible was written than anyone else in this world, so they don't have any more authority over its interpretation. So let's stop these petty arguments. Anyone can argue all day long whether or not something was in the Bible; but it all comes down to what version each is referring to and each person's individual interpretation. It's like poetry. There's not one concrete definition all of the time. Multiple meanings and interpretations CAN be taken from the same passage of scripture. And yes, we can argue that the Bible didn't SPECIFICALLY say the Jonah was swallowed by a whale and that there were 3 wise men. But when you're teaching kids in Sunday School, it's much easier to make them understand when you call the "great fish" a whale and have there be 3 wise men since there were 3 different gifts.
Christian Apologetics at BIOLA U? Never heard of it. Beyond that how in the heck does he have the data to support the alleged low intellectual content of what is shared in such meetings. i've never been to one but a search for truth frequently receives an answer in the same truthful spirit, doesn't it?
Prov 13:24: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (diligently)."
Prov 19:18: "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying."
Prov 22:15: "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."
Prov 23:13: "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die."
Prov 23:14: "Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (Shoel)."
Prov 29:15: "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame."
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him."-Proverbs 22:15
Well My mother did not spare the rod and I did not die. And each mother's day I visit her grave... and pee on it
Sure we are not related ? My Mother enjoyed beating me and bragged about it ..... her mantra was spare the rod and spoil the child which she repeated frequently.... She would have been imprisoned in these more enlightened times....
If Ditka says its in the bible than its in the Bible. He's Ditka, he can do that.
I sure hope this Bible verse is real: “The government authorities that exist have been established by God." (Romans 13:1). Because that's how we know the United States was established by God, and the Founding Fathers, as a Christian nation. If that's not a real verse, then where would all us religious rightwingers be?
Another text taken out of context. The part you added about America and the founding fathers being Christian is also not in the Bible. Please stop adding to the lies. The scripture is simply stating that all governments exist because God allows them to for now. In the Lords prayer, Christians are to pray for God's heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one. Read Daniel 2:44 if you want to see what will eventually happen to world Governments. Including America.
As a side note, God does not favor one govenment over another. Read Acts 10:34, 3. Read and study your Bible!!!
gee whiz albert, thanks a lot for clearing that up. I'm sure the original poster wasn't making a joke or anything.
@wwajdblogger you are a perfect example of the ignorance the author is talking about. here is an important part of the treaty of tripoli penned by submitted to senet by john adams, written by washington and signed by jefferson
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,"
wake the hell up
Too bad the angry ones don't catch that this post is saturated with sarcasm...
"I like your Jesus, I do not like your Christians, they are so unlike your Jesus."
This is the sort of stuff (esp the comments) that drives critical thinkers away from religion. The logic is not there. This supposed omniscient loving creator being sends obtuse messages in cryptograms that no-one can agree on what "he was saying" THEN distributes several slightly conflicting versions to his "creations" at various historical times and locations therefore ensuring that his "children" will squabble amongst themselves for all time. The only conclusion could be that this is some sort of transcendental bloodthirsty maniac toying with his "pets" for amusement. Sorry, doesn't wash.
Can any atheist please explain the phenomenon of near death experiences? How is it that these people (including atheists, in many cases) detail similar versions of Jesus and Heaven, and atheists come back to Earth converted? No atheist will ever answer this
Mathew 24:35 (KJV), "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Heaven and Earth essentially covers everything. Ditka was paraphrasing, as most people do in casual references to the Bible.
Also note 1 Corinthians 13:8, "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away."
Ditka was not saying "This too shal pass" is in the BIble. How could you get that out of what he said? He was paraphrasing that the former statement is in the Bible. And the reason none of the religion students catch the non-existant book of the Bible referring to internal combustion engines is because they are sleeping.
All the students were sleeping at the same time? Evidentally all our religious "leaders" were sleeping while they were students.
Really? The book of Hesitations? How about this one for the author: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." It's all translations and alliterations...none of it is in English goofball. Yeah, I like that one. I am not passing judgment, but, whatever.
Mr. Dunn is correct that in Genesis only a snake is mention as speaking to Eve. So Just who do you think spoke through the snake Mr. Know it all?
What's the point? Are you suggesting that the original books of the old and new testament weren't written by men reinforcing their own beliefs to support their own interests in the first place? If we accept the books as sacred why can't we accept the revisions as sacred? I choose to reject it all.
Or maybe the snake just spoke...? It seems a bit dramatic to assume that it was the devil merely based on the way some people would like to view the story and its origins.
New International Version (NIV)
24 Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.
"None of those passages appear in the Bible, and one is actually anti-biblical, scholars say."
So, who are those "scholars"? The meaning of the cited phrase remains the same...
I pretty much "know" all of the scholars who wrote the books to the Bible, old and new testament. They put their names on some of the chapters as a matter of fact. I think the author is shielding his sources which would probably turn out to be Ivy league "experts" and other "progressive" leaders, or "forward thinkers". I've got news for all of them on one of the hot-button topics for the anti-Bibical crowd: being gay or lesbian or whatever isn't progressive. It's as old as mankind itself. Progressive was trying to move forward and abolish it. Study up a little on Greek and Roman "progressive" history and find your roots.
They never say that it is this specific verse that is anti-biblical but another one later on. The point is that the "quote" doesn't exist...he makes no argument about referencing it.
Heaven sent us tornadoes, tsunamis, and cancers and other diseases too numerous to mention. God must be quite the as-shole.
Actually, weather and biology sent us all that, you cant blame God for every bad thing that happens then say that every good thing had nothing to do with him.
God created the world perfect – we messed it up. Don't blame your mistakes on God.
If God created the world perfect then lets go back to the garden of eden and stand around naked.
Darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of good. You are evil.
I don't know how you missed Satan in the garden. A plain reading of Genesis 3 explains that.
Perhaps you should read first write second. Or, just read.
Maybe you should try some rational thought. 78% of users saw a significant decrease in religious stupidity in 4 to 6 weeks.
LinCA, staying in the carnal mindset is not making the grade.
God made us to be carnal.
Yah, but not carnal is some other dude's a$$.
Come on, JJ; the bible is nothing more than a compilation of short stories which were written by plain old people. Use your noodle, that's why "God" gave it to you.
How are these phantom biblical verses. People really believe theses are in the Bible? They are obviously just sayings.
"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.”"
Also... destruction kind of is a fall. Sad that you are getting paid to write this stuff.
Americans are the shame of Christianity.
Christianity is all about shame. It is a shame.
Only the Americans?. Not the Irish and the rest of the world Catholic Cleric child abusers only the American ones? Not the Iranians? Not the German Nazis or the USSR communists? Not the Spanish Inquisitions?
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