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.”
Revelations??? It appears that the unchurched cannot get the name of the last book in the New Testament correct...
The author wants to advocate the old catholicism authority by having a anointed clergy(because of ones training) to interpret the Bible for the layman. (Latin anyone?) (Damn the printing presses!!) That kind of power is what the excesses of the Catholic church was about in the first place (having too much authority and power).
With that logic Jesus never had any formal training either. In fact, wasn't it said “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” where Jesus was reared. (They were the hillbiliys of Israel) Why would Jesus pick fishermen and a tax collector rather than the most prestigious Rabbis of the day to train up for His work? Surely the author this article understands the contrast of my meaning.
The catholics also do not necessarily believe in irrerancy of the bible, so there is not motivation to study the bible since they place more emphasis on a huge dependence on clergy, traditions and customs of the church for their guide. So this would lead one to believe the catholic layman are very illiterate of the bible because it is not "God breathed". .The column writer appear to have never heard of Bible college graduates teaching Bible Study. Nor he has never heard of commentaries, Bible Dictionaries, or concordances for study guides for their Christians journey in the understanding of Gods word.
Also the author of this article could do with some proper exegesis training, proper context of the bible and though the lens of a Christian rather than a atheist. Atheists will never have a true understanding of Christianity being themselves spiritually dead..
pro-life schizophrenic fascist Christians, are freaking hypocrites and proves again, that Christians don't read their bibles.
the bible supported abortion. the footnote from NIV 1984 footnote from numbers 5:11-31 said.
" Numbers 5:21 Or causes you to have a miscarrying womb and barrenness"
to cause a miscarrying womb is an abortion....this verse is an ruse for an abortion.
why are these christian against abortion, when their god is not?
the bible supported murder, genocide, infanticide, slavery, bigotry, and incest.
these mentally challenged Christians support/ignore this, just so their mental phantasm based off this tyrannical, judeo-christian god myth can say: i love you and i have a plan for you?
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.
2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
i wonder if these people would honor their god by staying a slave, instead of running for freedom?
didn't these Christian's mythical god told them not to lie?
unborn baby/child is oxymoron and misnomer, it goes against the human development chart.
the fetus doesn't have the ability to feel pain until 24 wks.
the human fetus is a parasite.
You are so wrong in so many ways. Quoting Biblical verses out of context to make your point means you have no understanding of what you are talking about. Quit pretending you understand Christianity. You demonstrated yourself the simpleton. Get educated first and then make a comment and then we can have a discussion. You are just making a fool of yourself. You have a long ways to go!!
Ya Galerouth, you are way off. Just because a Bible verse gives advice to slaves on how to act, does not mean the Bible supports slavery. It means the Bible supports acting respectfully, fearfully, and sincerely, as well as obeying the people above you.
Read Ecclesiastes chapter 3.
The most ridiculous thing I've ever heard... You have taken every single verse out of it's historical and biblical context...
"It means the Bible supports acting respectfully, fearfully, and sincerely, as well as obeying the people above you." – – Wow, that's got to be the worst excuse for Biblical slavery imaginable. Funny how there weren't any verses about NOT MAKING PEOPLE INTO SLAVES in the first place?
Read the entire verse and then understand what you read Brother....... Numbers 5:21Then the priest shall make the woman take the oath of the curse, and say to the woman, The Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people when the Lord makes your thigh fall away and your body swell.
You pick and choose your verse to suit your agenda. Numbers 5:11-31 does not speak of an abortion. It speaks of making the woman infertile. In fact, the Bible is clear that a pregnancy is to be protected at all costs. Exodus 21:22-23 speaks of when if two men are fighting, and a pregnant woman is injured, then justice will be given as determined by her husband. But if the baby dies, then the men are to be put to death. Life for Life.
You also take out of context the slavery issue in the New Testament. Even Paul while in prison writes to Philemon and exhorts him to receive Onesimus back as a brother in Christ, when in fact Philemon sent him to Paul as a slave. Paul converted Onesimus and in Philemon 1:16 he writes to receive him "no longer as a slave, but more then a slave-a beloeved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in The Lord"
The Bible does not shrink from slavery, it existed all during the time it was being written. You'll see that God works great things even though both the slaves and the slave owners. Mankind can never be trusted to fully carry out God's will, so God does His work in spite of our sin. God is perfect, man is not.
You might also deny the truth that in modern times, Christians have been in the forefront for abolition, women's right to suffrage, the civil rights movement etc, etc. Remember, the Dr. Martin Luther King was a Reverend, and his letter from an Alabama jail was as God-centered a letter as the apostle Paul's letters he wrote in a Roman jail.
people complaining that he has taken verses out of context and 'pick and choose' ones which support his argument...
because no Christian would ever be so foolish as to do such a thing...
or totally misquote...
like this article is about...
Spare the rod, spoil the child is a phrase that comes from the bible
"Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death" -Proverbs 23 verse 14
think this author should fact check! =)
Think there is a silent war against believers world wide harassing them through their beliefs;
Tajik Children Banned From Mosques
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Saturday, 18 June 2011 10:19
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Generally Christians are people who desperately want to know something special. Which is a forgivable human trait. But rather than reflect on how difficult and rare uniqueness is, religious people want to believe they have gotten lucky and are already far down the path of ultimate truth. To them it is like a game of bingo where certainty defines the thinking that they can find every letter and number called out and crush all the other yahoos playing along as well.
With 30 years of Christianity and missionary work behind me I can see now that the world is not really full of evil foes to vanquish and a movie like narrative about me and gods plan for me were little more than silly delusions which allowed me to keep my distance from other humans so as not to empathize and not be ashamed at what we do to each other in our hateful judgments. The closer a Christian tries to literally understand what the Bible says the sooner they will abandon their faith. No good or thinking person can honestly justify the meandering immoral disparate story. It is far flung. It is amoral. It is ruthless. It is meaningless. The prophecies do not pan out. The connections are not real. The whole thing is irritating when I look back and think it took me that long to figure it out. Oh well. Just glad it didn't take longer.
Sorry you feel that way. But have you really scrutinized the Scriptures. Please tell me what Bible point has caused you to lose faith?
This is all about lazy people believing what they hear and not reading it for themselves. False prophets will have a field day with this world of people, sheep are lead real easy or should i say sheeple
Genesis doesn't identify the serpent as Satan, but Revelation does. In numerous passages Satan is identified to have certain powers of deception.
Genesis mentions only the "fruit" of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It was medieval/Renaissance artwork that portrayed it as an apple.
The Hebrew word in the Jonah story is translated as "fish", "whale", and "great fish" depending on the translation. It could have been one of a couple of species of whales native to the area, or a large fish (don't impose our 21st century taxonomy on 3000+ year old taxonomy). Regardless, it also says God "prepared" the creature, so whatever it was, there was some amount of miraculous treatment involved.
Doesn't the fact that there are so many possible (and much used) translations demand that we are all a little more careful with how we claim to have the word of god behind our words and actions? We don't actually have the word of god, we have the zillionath human translation of stories told about what god wants/wanted. This is simply the reality. No on knows what god really said or wants from us. We all need to stop acting like we know the truth...and let people live the lives they see fit. The rest should be left to god
I do not understand. Does Mr. Blake claim that the serpent spoke of it's own volition, or that Moses lied when he wrote Genesis and the snake did not actually speak to Eve?
It was Satan in the form of a serpent, or in the actual body of a serpent and giving it power to speak.
This article is exactly what gets me most about the xian religion. The contradictions, inconsistencies, errors, and denial. And to top it off, they say they believe every word in the bible, but they have never even read it entirely. When they get caught in a debate not knowing their bible, in other words, with their holy pants down, they cry "well, all I need is faith," and run away. Also, it has always bothered me that if their god is all-loving it cannot create evil (Isaiah 24:7), can it? And if it is also omnipotent why doesn't it just kill this satan thingie and eliminate cancer? Much like the neutered dog, I just don't get it.
You are right. Most Christian religions have a lot of falsehood from their teachings to their doctrines. For instance the teachings of a Trinity and eternal torment in Hellfire are not in the bible. People are fooling themselves if they think that all they need is faith. According to the bible we need to take in knowledge of God and Jesus: John 17:3; and James 2:19 says "You believe there is one God, do you? You are doing quite well. And Yet the demons believe and shudder. and James 2:26 says Indeed, as the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. So believing alone is not enough, faith requires action. As far as your questions go, the bible actually answers them. Most people will probably tell you God is a mystery or it's not for us to know. But frankly, God explains all of that in the bible. It teaches Satan is a fallen angel who chose to become bad, he was not created that way. God gives us all free will. We choose our course. Also the bible explains why God allows suffering. Satan challenged his right to rule in the Garden of Eden when he deceived Eve. And because of Adam and Eve's sin we now face sickness and death. Romans 5:12. But God has not gave up on his original purpose and in the near future plans to restore this earth and mankind. Rev 21:3,4 Tells us death and pain will be no more. There is so much more to tell you but I have to stop somewhere, this is just a brief overview. If you would like to learn more, you may contact me or visit watchtower.org and request the book "What Does The Bible Really Teach?" All of the literature is bible based. There is no charge. Why not read it? You've got nothing to lose. It will answer all your questions and leave you feeling satisfied.
It is true that to know authentic biblical passages is different from the general understanding found in society, but the idea usually remains consistent. However, it will be the word itself that will judge the outcome in the end, so it is certainly of benefit to know it for what it is, rather than what it is believed to be. But then again, better off are those who don't know and commit sin, than those who know and commit sin.
Those that don't commit "sin", because they know it's all baloney, are even better off.
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.
The bible never states that the fruit was an apple..And it was not the tree of Life
15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” NKJV
Clearly not the Tree of Life
The bible says Jonah was swallowed by a great fish prepared by God..No where does it say whale
17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.NKJV
Proverbs 13:24 He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly. Proverbs 13:23-25NKJV..Translate to spare the rod spoil the child to me
The point of the article is that once you stop using the quote, and use your own tweet version, it's inaccurate. Next someone will rephrase your tweeted version, and then it's even more different...and so on. This is how we've ended up with so many variations on what god's "actual" word is...As I tell my students when writing research papers, "If you can't repeat it word for word, it doesn't belong in quotations, and you sacrifice the strength of your argument"
Satan and Serpents.... (Jesus talking)
18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Read Below... does the thief sounds familiar??? Wait Jesus used 'The theif' and not Satan... so I guess he is not talking about Satan???? Hmmm?
John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
What??? Satan is the subject in that passage
Read this... sounds like a powerful-being...subservient to God...who resided on the earth... trying to trick, steal, kill, and destroy.... any similarities to Gen 3:1-3????
6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
12 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
BTW that's old testament for many of you.
What in the world are most of you including the author talking about.... read the bible.... Jim is James..Bob is Robert...Lord is God...the Serpent is Satan. Come on!???
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The sin was they became aware who god really was. God was revealed for what he/it was. How could they respect a god when they learned he was not a god? God wanted us stupid and innocent. We became aware and it was not us that was ashamed, it was god.
you wrote....'How could they respect a god when they learned he was not a god? '
WHAT??? – are you talking about Jehovah or Satan.... Where/How did you interpret the scripture to mean they learned he was not God... You must have been reading something else. If its say 25 it means twenty five not thirty nine. Don't twist the Word of God to fit one's personal belief. Then again you may be saying something else. Enlighten me.
BC, you kind of lost the argument on names. "The Bible" wasn't written in English, and there was no one named "James" or "Robert" in it. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic; the New Testament in Greek. As you know, both were translated into Latin and then into English and many other languages. "James" and "Robert" were interpretations, and the accuracy of interpretation of these and much bigger matters should always be open to debate.
@ Mahlia's reply: What BC was referring to was that everyone knows that Bob is another name for Robert, Jim is another name for James, the serpent is another name for Satan.
Correct me if I misunderstood you, BC – but that is how I interpreted what you said.
To make this article a bit recursive, Bible scholars have determined that many of the Psalms that are attributed to King David could not have been written by him. It's the same phenomenon at work; if an anonymously-written poem became popular it was natural to attribute it to David, the great musician of lore.
Likewise Mark Twain is often credited for brilliant things he never said. http://www.snopes.com/quotes/twain.asp has a list of them, including "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." (actually Disraeili), and "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."
Take a look at the actual book of Psalms, many of them attribute themselves to "David", "Asaph", etc. All 150 are not David's, and they don't claim to be. As for scholars being able to "prove" one way or the other, I laugh at that and call it conjecture.
How about the coming of the "rapture". Not everything in the Bible is to be taken literally (called a "metaphor"), and not everything that happened (Sacred Tradition) is in the Bible. Misquoted (as it happens to movies) is one thing, but to take something that doesn't exist.
And what about us Catholics that have books that Protestants don't?
Jerome, who compiled your Catholic Bible in the 300s, identified most of those "extra" books as uninspired, not canon. But the Catholic church decided to include them anyway, and teach them as canon. The "Protestant" Bible doesn't have those books because of the same reasoning as Jerome: they're not inspired, in some cases clearly fantasy work, clearly not the work of the identified author, and/or directly contradictory to other scripture.
Don't forget "the lion and the lamb." You will not find them together in the Old Testament.
"Don't forget "the lion and the lamb." You will not find them together in the Old Testament."
Technically true, but it seems like a reasonable paraphrasing of these verses:
IS 11:6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
IS 64:25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat.
(Unless you mean "If March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb." That's definitely not canonical. :-)
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