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.”
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word shall not pass away – Matthew
For exact verse, just google the first portion of this scripture, you will find it.
I do NOT agree with the author that he misquoted as he never said to quote it verbatim. He has, in fact, quote the spirit / intent of the verse correctly.
The Proverbs passage, “The one who withholds [or spares] the rod is one who hates his son,” has been greatly misinterpreted. The original Hebrew "rod" (shebet) referred to, among many other things and relations, a shepherd's crook, which was used to guide sheep, and to retrive them should they fall into an area inaccesible to the shepherd. The rod was not used to beat young children, although many have suffered abuse as a result of this passage. The following is a good discussion of this topic.
Equating Satan with the serpent of the garden goes back to the Bible itself when Revelation refers to Satan as "that serpent of old". (And it seems pretty obvious this interpretation predates John.) But ironically, this article refers to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge as an "apple" while the book of Genesis never does. Nothing like a little biblical misquoting in an article on misquoting the Bible.
As far as Jonah and the fish is concerned, I'm guessing that ancient Hebrew didn't differentiate between creatures that swam in the sea. 'Leviathan' is often translated whale, but this term is also often used allegorically and appears to imply more dragon-like than whale-like qualities. (Heck – even Melville considered whales to be fish!)
4th TROLL ALERT- don't bother viewing this garbage, click the report abuse link.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 2 – 2:11, "...and that nothing was lasting under the sun."
Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 – 3:1, "All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under the sun."
It shouldn't matter whether scripture is quoted word by word...the basic wisdom is understood.
Are we therefor to give alms to Ra the Egyptian Sun GOD? Maybe HE, Ra, The Sun GOD asks us only for the Radioactive utensils we are finding hard to expunge from earthly existence.
And yet if it serves YOUR purpose you say it must be quoted word for word. All of it is stupid since it's all a myth.
It's obvious that you have never paraphrased to make understanding easier. All the so called "not in the bible" verses you mentioned are indeed in scripture, but merely have been paraphrased for those without knowledge can understnd
Uh yea. Spare the rod and spoil the child is out of Proverbs,but it has been shortened in order to be simple to say.
It's dangerous to paraphrase and take things out of context. That’s why these evangelicals are running amuck. They only care about their well being and their immediate congregation. Everyone outside the circle is an outcast or a heathen. They incorporate politics and religion which is out rages considering we live in a multi cultural multi religious society. Somehow people have forgotten the true message of scripture which is to love and help one another but that would be considered socialism.
Michael, clearly you misunderstood the purpose of the article. Paraphrasing as fine, as long as you don't change change the meaning of the original text. Making things clearer for the non scholars is fine too, however, I'd rather the people who spend their time and devote their lives studying the bibles to do that, not Tammy Faye whoever who's barely read a paraphrased version herself trying to "teach' the laymen.
And Shawn, people like you really frustrate me. The author clearer cites the derivative of the proverb quote and mentions it was paraphrased. Do you read the bible this way? Skim through it, see what you want and then argue? You're exactly what this article is about smh
Great article wasted on a lot of self righteous, clueless, shove my religion down your throat righties... America.
Ahhh....we can't assume what happened in the Bible days..only what is written in the TRUE Bible. However, it does stated that Eve was tempted by Satan. What is wrong this generation???!!!! My Bible does say," This stupid and foolish generation". Many people like to take the truth and twist it to their favor to prove whatever. However, what we do in the dark, shall come to the light. This country(United States) and any others, will pay for what they have done to the innocent. All of these things that are occurring, is supposed to occur. So, I am upset at seeing it, but I am prepared. My mother has always raised me to not believe what people tell me just because they say it. I find evidence to back up what is being stated or written. I don't doubt my Bible at ALL. I belive ALL of what is written in it.
Please post the chaper and vers that says "Eve was tempted by Satan"
"My mother has always raised me to not believe what people tell me just because they say it. I find evidence to back up what is being stated or written. I don't doubt my Bible at ALL. I belive ALL of what is written in it."
This about made me spit iced tea all over my monitor. The irony is killing me. lmao
NyteShayde wrote, "My mother has always raised me to not believe what people tell me just because they say it. I find evidence to back up what is being stated or written. I don't doubt my Bible at ALL. I belive ALL of what is written in it."
I say this, 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to show thyself approved unto GOD, a reader that need not be ashamed in rightly dividing the WORDS of TRUTH. (I know I'm Paraphrasing)
Scott – Chapter & verse
2 Corinthians 11:3
Scott – Chapter & verse here ya go:
2 Corinthians 11:3
Really? Can anyone with two functioning brain cells really take the Noah and the Ark story literally? Were there kangaroos hopping around Noah's backyard? Or giant pandas? How could he possibly have collected animals, not to mention birds, reptiles, and insects that were not native to his part of the planet? And if the flood was truly universal, wouldn't it have wiped out all of those species he wasn't able to collect for his floating zoo? Of all the stories in the bible, this one has to be the silliest. Or answer this one for me. No where does Geneis tell us that Adam and Eve had daughters, or that either Cain or Abel had a wife. So if you believe in the bible literally, then you have to believe that incest is a game the whole family can play.
To the person about adam not having any daughters. Anyway the sin with Eve was that she cheated on Adam with a monkey. That is why Darwin is partially right.
In this article the writer notes that the scriptures do not say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale but a great fish. I would like to point out that the scriptures do tell us that it was a whale. Jesus says so himself in Matthew 12:14. Quoted below.
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.
Yes, not to mention that the way we classify animals was not invented until the 1600s. To the ancients anything that swam in the sea was a fish.
Different versions of the bible had "great fish", not "whale".
The Bible was also not written in English.
Yeah, I know the feeling. I get about 600 new items a day. A lot of the feeds I'm gnsied up to are only on the off chance that I see something interesting.. I tend to know where the worthwhile news is so I seek it out and ignore the rest. I use Mark all as read a lot.
The rod in short, can be anything used in love to correct a child– time out, talking, showing the consequences of actions, and giving place for a child to understand why actions are good or bad. Remember the spiritual desert? Oh wait, is that scriptural?
If the rod can be anything please explain Proverbs 23:13-14 (NIV)
13 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.
I don't think he's taling about timeng_out children to death
What is even stranger than whats not in the bible is what is in the bible. For instance a reference to standing up on a mountain top and being able to see the four corners of the earth (written before people understood the earth was round).
Lets face it, a primitive book written to control a primitive people. Talking bushes, every species saved by being placed on a small boat built by one man, the parting of the sea, six days to create the earth six thousand years ago. The absurdness of it all goes on and on.
Soon Jimbo, we Human Omnivores may come to a breaking Point where civilization's current Culture will fall from its' own Ingratiated lavishness. This world we know may one day in its' Future fall prey to a Culture clash the likes that we have never seen!
Richard, all I have to say to your rubbish is this: Rubbish...and even if it is true, so what?
NyteShayde wrote, "Richard, all I have to say to your rubbish is this: Rubbish...and even if it is true, so what?"
All I am saying NyteShayde is a simplistic view of how I see things. I am truly sorry if you find my words offensive.
Our World is ancient when compared to the Life of us Humane Omnivores who embellish with lavisciousness eating other life forms and their seeds. I am but a low man on the totem pole of us Omnivoes. May you NyteShayde become a peacemeal to those whom you dwell with.
I have never understood the gist of this criticism. Even today people talk about things like "to the ends of the earth" and "The four corners of the globe." When the Bible is being poetic or metaphorical it is clear and when it is not being poetic or metaphorical it is also clear. Criticism like this take poetry and reduce it to dry fact and at other times take clear and precisely worded facts and turn them into metaphors. Even when I was an atheist I knew when to critique the facts as facts and the poetry as poetry.
As further evidence of the shortcoming of this criticism of yours is that it does not even hold up to its own scrutiny. The premise is that the Bible shows the ignorance of what people at the time didn't know, but people at that time COULD and DID stand on mountain tops and see what was there to see. When one does this, one does not see anything resembling "corners" but is in awe of the limitless expanse before them... again, this is praiseful poetry and no "ignorance of that time" can be accredited to the verse you have quoted.
Obviously you must be one of those primitive people since everything is relative. When you sit on top of a mountain you see at the edges of the earth.though it would look round but flat kind of like a pancake. but it is still relative since they did not have space travel
Another saying that is NOT in the bible in direct form but is most likely taken indirectly from Romans 1:22;
"You should never argue with a fool. People listening may have trouble deciding which is the fool".
The animals listed as unclean were and still are more likely to have diseases or be high in harmful things such as high cholesterol or cause allergies. That is still good advice to this very day. Researchers have worked hard to find cures for diseases and vaccines to prevent them but the listed animals are still the most likely to cause health problems. And even some of the clean are now seeing diseases none of us would wish for such as mad cow and chronic wasting.
you are what you eat.
One must remember that clean and unclean were Mossiac Laws not laws of God. In point, Jesus says, Do not concern yourself of what goes in the mouth, rather what comes out.
To My Beliefs the WORD is the Continuation of the Spoken and the Written throughout Time Immemorial.
Does Genesis use the word "Satan" to describe the Serpent in Genesis 3. No. But Rev. 12:8 clearly describes Satan as the "ancient serpent", clearly referring back to Genesis 3. BTW, chrisg510, Matt. 9:43 never says anything about cutting the hands off of thieves as punishment. It does refer to cutting off one's own hand, which is, like many of Jesus's statements in the gospels, hyperbole.
2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is NOT Of This WORLD; If MY Kingdom were of This World, then would my Servants Fight, That I should not be Delivered to the Jews: but now is my Kingdom not from hence.”
Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or lo there! For, behold, the Kingdom of GOD is INSIDE You!
Mathew 6:33 But seek ye FIRST the Kingdom of GOD and HIS Righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
The Bible is an outdated useless pile of toilet paper. Garbage, all of it.
Mi pare di poter dire che Excite Truck rimane gfrnicameate ancora il miglior racing game su Wii. Sono stati bravi i programmatori all epoca (wii apena uscito) o meno bravi questi (wii in circolazione da 3 anni) .
Yes, the Bible does not say "Spare the rod and spoil the child." It does say, however "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him" in Proverbs 15.
I remember reading this exact article 2 years ago. Never thought I'd read a re-run.
You must be a bored little booger
Nice to see an American who actually has a memory.We need more of you.
The article is partly correct and partly incorrect. The author is no more accurate with his statements than his accusations against others regarding quoting scripture. No one should quote scripture for wicked or self-serving agendas, but rather for the edifying of one another, teaching and correcting but in gentleness, love, to give encouragement and hope.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto GOD, a workman that needeth mot be ashamed, RIGHTLY DIVIDING The WORD Of TRUTH.
The WORD Of TRUTH are not only the Gospels but are also each and every BOOK EVER WRITTEN with Regards around One’s Engaging Consuming Nature to Read and Write.
RIGHTLY DIVIDING The WORD is Reason enough for anyone to be Judgmental unto that which One does Read or Hear.
And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.
satan means adversary, opponent, enemy – serpent/ satan is the same in this case
Hey Helen, You are exactly what this article is talking about, Funny
I see what your saying helen, but we how does serpent mean enemy? If you relate what your saying to this article a serpent is a serpent. Today we DO VIEW the serpent as a Christian symbol for satan but you still have to relate everything back to this article. Besides serpents have more symbolic meaning, they can mean rebirth (b/c they shed skin) and they are messengers.
King James Version (KJV)
1Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Mr Blake though I agree that many misquote scripture and fall to research the words and their meanings in the strongs exhaustive concordance as chrisg510 has (Mark 9:43 speaks nothing about a thief what so ever). However I recommend that you both first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Matthew 7:3
People who quote the bible chapter and verse don't win any arguments. All they have proven is that they can quote a book chapter and verse. Big frikk'n deal. I can quote Moby Dick, so what?
The innacuracy stems from using the word "apple". This verse clears labels the serpent as the tempter, the problem is with the apple. The bible does not use the word apple here folks.
Oh, good. One quote from ONE version of a single Bible. Can we get these verses from other versions, too? Exactly the problem with "The Bible". "A" single version doesn't exist. Let your imagination in translation begin.
So, what is your point in quoting the verse? It seems you made their point that Satin was never mentioned...only a serpent...and the serpent was acting in a way that god created him..."more subtil than other beasts..." The verse is misquoted and misrepresented in literature and art as well as on the pulpit of many churches.
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.