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.”
This is great! I can't wait to Jesus comes back! No need to argue, upon death or the rapture most will get the picture.
What really cracks me up about christianity is that it is such a caucasian idea. If you do not believe in our god then you will go to our hell. What makes christianity the right religion? There are so many in the world, how can everyone be so sure that christanity is the right one? What if all christians are going to a hell from another religion that christians wiped out a thousand years ago? If Jesus stood on a corner in New York city and said he was Jesus Christ and was here to lead his children threw the gates of heaven himself, no one would believe him and he would be put in a psych ward. Think of all the wars and deaths relgions have caused. Relgions were made to keep people in check, if the masses thought they could do anything with no reprecussions than there would be chaos. I mean who would jesus bomb.
Hey i have nothing against you but have you ever noticed how when poeple talk about buddhism you don't get mad or angry, actually you get interested and want to learn more? with christianity poeple get mad and angry, and have hate towards christianity... so that must mean it is real because if it wasn't then why would is there so much conflict, if it is just made up and fake, then why hasn't it died?
ok cd, then buddhism must be more real because its been around longer, along with hinduism etc
agree they have been around longer then "christanity" but im refering to God, he has been around for ever (that was my mistake) The Holy Bible states that in Genesis.God was,is and will be forever. He has been around longer then those.
True, cd, the Bible says Christians will be persecuted for their faith. It does say that. It really does. And J, one question: Have you read the Bible? Or do you just condemn in blindly? I think that Christianity is different from other faiths/religions in many ways. In some other faiths, for example, being helpful or kind is a law to follow, and you cannot be righteous enough to please your God unless you obey the laws. In Christianity, all you have to do is have faith in Jesus. That being said, I do believe that saying you are a Christian means you should want, and try, to live by Christ's teachings in the Bible. But if you fail, as everyone does, you're not damned for it. The people who are condemned are people who have heard the gospel, and turn their back on Jesus' offer, and refuse to believe it. Not people who have no idea, or have never had the opportunity to hear it. Not babies. Not little children who aren't old enough to comprehend. Not the innocent. The ones who say, Yeah whatever, heard it, don't buy it. Also, Christians are not supposed to be hypocritcal, Christians are supposed to be a light to the world, and love everyone. Not just other Christians, not just Caucasians. As for religions starting wars, I don't know what to say to that. It's true, people do fight for their religion. It shouldn't be about proving your religion is "right" and all others should pay the price for what they believe. After all, how many people has that converted? People are stupid.
Oh yah Christian are being persecuted. It's really a case of the persecutor claiming persecution. When you persecute other religions, you are inviting persecution yourself. How many cultures and religions have you driven to extinction with your beliefs?
God really put me in disbelief. He made one mistake and he continue to make many mistakes by creating so many humans using the same flawed and sinful mold. Even a scientist can think better than god. If your sample is contaminated. You contain it and start over agan.
Everything God has created is perfect, we are the ones who mess everything up,
The fact we messd everything up and is created by god clearly shows that we can ruin god's perfection. God s imperfect as a result of us.
If a perfect being can end up in imperfection. It only says how transient this perfection is. A perfection that can regress cannot be perfect.
God gives us a choice, he said don't eat from the tree of knowledge (looking out for our own good) adam and eve did it anyway(making us slaves to sin). Adam and eve made their own decision like i said God gives us a choice they disobeyed,
why would God make us slaves and not let us have our own choice on things etc? then you might ask why does he make us follow this strict rules, its our choice we will be rewarded with living with God for eternal life. if we decide to not to follow God then we go to hell by our decision.....i could keep going made it simple
Oh yah. We are perfect. But we are not as perfect as the creator. How do you expect a creation that is less perfect than his creator not to screw up?
we were made perfect, we messed that up, God chooses to be perfect, we chose not to be
Oh god gave us free will. But he expects us to listen to him like robots without which will be consequences. He will fly into a temper over every whim n fancy not in his books. A robot with free will is still a robot. A robot has to OBEY his master.
ok... shouldnt we obey the One who created us, who are we to disobey the One who created us, shouldnt we obey and praise God who by mercy and grace created us, who are we to to challenge God??thats is one of my responses, God is a God of love he is not making us do anything, living in obedience to God we are fulfilled though him, now i know you will be angry with me but nothing in this world will ever make anyone happy, not one thing, thank God that he has mercy and grace and hasnt destroyed us in our sin and disobedience,
Which god? The more who is more aggressive. The one who has lived longer than anyone but his wisdom is as low as man when he kills and instruct others to kill to solve problems? Either he is incapable or his wisdom has never evolved. One's wisdom is only as good as one's actions.
Religion is a tool of man. If king Constantine picked up Hinduism. Would not hindusim be the major religion in the western world supported by works and scholarly literature? Humans in the past pick religions that are in line with their agendas and some politically related that conveniences them. If u are going to lead a revolution, war and to kill. Will you accept a religion that advises you against it?
If you're right about religions being put in place to keep society in check, then why is it wrong? So if we get ride of religion, then whose believes do we follow? We won't make it pass ten years. Either way, we shouldn't follow religion because satan uses it as a tool. READ THE BIBLE YOURSELF and the truth SHALL set you free!
there is only one God!! the One Glorified in the Holy Bible! God is a God of peace love and joy, when poeple disobey God he warns then if they dont change there ways bad things happen, that is mostly in old testament, Jesus changed the covenant to a new one when he died on the cross. also the repture is pretty futile, but God is simply in this he says turn to his ways and you will be given life not death(life in heaven,death in hell) he knows we are mere men, he looks at our hearts, (i can go on for a long time on that)... i agree with you that religion is a tool of man, traditions ruin Gods work. im not religious, i have a personal passionate relationship with God, now all those other questions are good questions but God is real! hinduism is fake why would you want to worship a lifeless God, some poeple say they are "Christians" and they are just lukewarm or decieveing, God looks after us been when we just keep sinning, his Wrath comes, Fear of God leads a man to holiness
Mathamad ghandi once said that he liked your Jesus but not the Christians becos they are simply unlike their Christ. Hate is not born. Nobody is born to hate until someone started hating and wants to prove that they are more correct than the rest. That's when it became viral. We are very clear who started it and shame on those who are the persecutor of other religions and culture while crying being persecuted at the same time. I have no problems with Catholics who too are persecuted by people close to their own kind, the bigots especially.
Satan was a theist. What makes you think he doesn't know how theist think? For all you know, we maybe playing into his hands. Whether other religions are fake or real. How complete should truth be before it is completely true? How true should truth be before it is truly complete? How complete is your knowledge of other religions before it is right to comment? Without which. All comments are nothing short of ignorance and are in fact blind to some extent.
Ok idk what satan is he was a angel, a lot of people are playing into his hand, I go by God's word The Bible, all the truth is in there "How complete is your knowledge of other religions before it is right to comment? Without which. All comments are nothing short of ignorance and are in fact blind to some extent." then why are you commenting and i havent said anything wrong about other religions all i said was they are fake and their is only one God glory be his name!
Well. The world " fake" concludes everything. Would you make an effort to study other religions since you concluded it is fake much less waste your time on them. I study a variety. While I won't think that I am fit to comment but the very fact fundamentalistic evangelism tries to kill off other religions made me stand up for them. I find wisdom beautiful from whichever cultures and religion they may come from. They dun need to fall within a particular brand.
I met a serpent yesterday in a club. That apple was one of the expensive apple I ever try to eat. I turn it down.
Clearly to Genesis chapter 3 is talking about how to handle a problem in the workplace or church . Which that God had set the ground rules for in the beginining. Eve was deceived by the devil who came in the form of a serpant. And cause confusion and blaming in the garden. When this happenend God changed the whole atmosphere and put everyone out. This another example how the workplace should run and there will problably be no problems and fewer lawsuits. Because the innocent person will not be able to sue. And feel justice was done fairly eventhough they have lost there job.
Time to start taking the meds again
Pretty clear to me who the serpent was in the garden and that he tempted Eve,
And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
II Cor 11:3
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
Pretty clear to me that we should hate people who eat shrimp and crabs and such and make laws against them and burn them and detest them as they are an 'abomination', just like the gay people. Moronic.....
@ol' yeller: pretty clear to me that the myth of shrimp eating applies only to old testament jews – and that since Christ did away with the concept of jews and gentiles it doesn't apply anymore – moron
and which church is burning gay people these days i would love to know
The misconception about Satan appearing to Eve in the form of the serpent probably comes from 'Paradise Lost', where Satan does exactly that.
Proverbs 13:24: He who spares the rod hates his child....hate/spoil, close enough for me to get the point.
the acceptance that there would be a book in the bible called "hesitations" disturbs me less than the acceptance that the bible would have a passage referencing combustible engines.
Forever is not for us to decide. It's for god to decide considering that he is a jealous and angry god with a split personality.
"God helps those who help themselves." ....The issue with this phrase isn't so much that it promotes selfishness at the expense of helping the poor and distressed ...but rather it is contrary to the gospel of grace. The gospel message is central to the bible...and it teaches that we can't help ourselves. The bible teaches our sin has offended a holy God and there is nothing that our wretched souls can do to "help ourselves". The Good news (gospel) is that God helps those who can't help themselves...and He did so by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place for our sins and give us a restored life to God. (ephesians chapter 2 summarizes this concept pretty well) ...so God only helping those who help themselves undermines the message of the cross and that's the real contradiction to the bible.
This is a very good observation. However, the idea that God can be "offended" is another projection. Grace is the flow of pure possibility that cannot be motivated by the human ego since it comes from beyond the ego's limited and fear-based view of the world. It can only flow through humility, which is sadly lacking in most religious folks, who seem to think that God exists to juice their Ego, rather than the truth which the Bible makes clear, which is that you have to surrender egoic control over your life in order to let God – and Grace – in. In that light, interpreting Franklin's "God helps those.." phrase from a spiritual perspective, one realizes that "helping yourself" means maintaining a state of humility and availability what the Divine asks of you, at best a state of co-creation, not going out and getting all you can while quoting how God is enabling you.
A proud god would only invite proud followers. Like father like son. Like god like followers. How then do you explain people singing praises over all the good things and the bad things they try to defend and say it's part of the plan. Why does god have a ego that need stroking everyday.
i like how everyone loses their mind over the bible or other religious books when morals are all they really teach *I don't see peeps have huge debates over aesop he taught many things that effect morals all these stories from any book teach us how to live and love one another how to treat each other so the world is not a living hell but no one listens others would take from those who have nothing so they can have it all. greed is the problem does a man really need 50billion dollars while whole villages of peeps live in cardboard houses ? im sure any killing done was by man not for god or religion it was for land and money .Just like all laws or morals peeps only use them when they suit them . These books and "RULES" we say we follow are just observations made by intelligent men who studied the world around them seen what was best for the majority maybe they had divine guidence cant say. All im saying is lighten up i know peeps are passionate about thier beliefs but have some tolerance for what another believes.
Matthew 12:40 "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." – Jonas is clearly a reference to Jonah and whale is clearly a reference to – a whale!
It's all in the translation Dude... My New Revised Standard Version of the bible states, "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a sea monster..." Gotta go back the original story and read it in the original language if you want to take it literally. Otherwise your faith is really placed in the men who taught ancient languages to the men who decided to rewite the stories in a more common tongue.
Muslims believe in Jesus Christ and the holy book bible but dont follow it only becuase of these reasons. One of the miracles of Holy Book Quran is that, if you pick any copy from any part of the world, you will not find a single word or phrase difference in any of them.
Whow, I don't think you have this right. From what I've heard from researchers on this very subject, just like the Catholic church put in verses or books into the bible, so did different sect within the Islamic faith pick and choose their version or books.
It is very sad that more people don't read the Book that would give them a most special gift. God (whom I call Jehovah by name taken from Psalms 83:18) wants all mankind to draw close to Him, and He in turn will draw close to us (James 4:8). Most people know the periodic table of elements better than they know their Bible, and that is even worse since most people are not scientists.
7th TROLL ALERT- don't bother viewing this garbage, click the report abuse link.
I think the biggest mistake ever made in history is believing it to be truth.... Who needs logic and reason when you can lean on a divine crutch such as religion?
"The Book of Genesis meantions nothing but a serpent" I'm guessin he doesn't realize that serpent has always fallen into being considered one of Satan's creatures/how Satan shows it's self?
satan doesnt take the image of the snake but rather tricked the snake into decieving Eve for him because he could no enter the garden of Eden so he hung his head over the wall and talked for the snake (posession) cuz the snake didnt know what to say. Both the snake and satan were punished for that. Remember god curses the snake to crawl on its belly and eat the dirt: meaning the snake was a creature in the garden which was located in eden and seperated male and female and eve ruled over the female and Adam ruled over the males: but the animals at that time were intellegent even had the ability to speak as the snake spoke to Eve and it was not uncommon or freigtning to her. After this Adam and Eve were casted out of the garden, and the animals alike. And Adam and Eve feared the animals (beast) would kill them for there sin so God dumbed the animals so that Adam and Eve would rule over them. Satan there after presents himself in many images: most commonly as an angel of light (meaning an Angel who follows gods commands which he is not). He even presents himself in the image of Adam to Jared when Satan tricked him to go down the mountain to where Cain and his children dwelled. Geneisis does mention the serpant but it never says Satan was him.
I read proverbs every day. And those verses are exactly what it says and they mean the same things as the shortened version though people should really quote them word for word. Satan is the serpent, either that or Satan might have used the serpent, as the bible mentions a Descendant of Eve who will "crush your head and you will bruise his heel". The Bible also says Christ defeated Satan hence the serpent must have been Satan. Cnn is right, people need to stop sayin "what does this mean to you", or "what do you think this means". There are Pastors who go to seminary to learn a pastor isn't just "called" and that is it. It isn't that its wrong for regular people to read the Bible its just that if they don't understand something they need to ask someone who knows, meaning pastor and of course God. Nothing in the Bible conflict with other parts so if your idea of what it means can be proven to conflict with another verse then you are wrong. Simply put don't be stupid and think you have found some new perspective, because it was those old ideas which began this country.
If anybody paid attention to other than the relatively few oft-quoted "scriptures" of the Bible they'd be flabbergasted by the shear creepiness and ancient lameness that abounds therein.
I look forward to Blake's critique of the koran with mohamad cartoons – not going to happen
Yes, because it was the very next dat Ditka misquoted the Koran.
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.