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.”
haha, these soap-boxers telling us how silly it is that only a serpent was in the garden and not satan. Pretty obvious that the serpent is SYMBOLIC of satan – but it only gets funnier because no where does the bible say that it was an apple, an even bigge faux biblical quote and these goofs don't even catch that. Almost hypocritical, but definitely ironic. If you don't know what you're talking about, better to keep your tongue still (From 1 Wookians 3:4)
So an "I know it all" christian admits the bible speaks in SYMBOLIC terms? Great! Then we don't have to literally believe the nonsense about the earth being only 6,000 years old, dinosaurs living with man, and 100,000 different species getting on the ark, right? Or any of the other magical talking cloud hokum? Whew! Praise the lord!
Bam the bible is a book written by man in a effort to make money. I use to go to church and when I did Pope John Paul the 2nd said Jesus would come and perform a miracle so everyone would know he exists. Jesus never did and that is when I realized it is a a bunch of lies.
o God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth... Did not say one thing about gays only about MALE AND FEMALE>
What the heck does that even mean? Your statement was irrelevant and inconcieved.
You should study up on your creationism. God's only direct human creation is man. He created woman from a rib of Adam. So, man comes from God, woman comes from man. Taken one step further, it means that man is created in God's image and woman is created in man's image.
If I have a man dressed up as a woman fellate me, is it still a sin if I thought it was a girl?
God is Al Mighty right? God must know if Devil tempt Eve right? SO why HeShe let it happen? Why HeShe let atheist and killer still live success rich?? why?? HeShe God anyway? Why not the shoemaker have rights to destroy the shoes ?He Created? BEcause it is so perfect that the shoemaker did't want to destroy the shoes?
The answer is not of our rights to know. The simple lesson is only "Believe and love" and "let it flows". There is time when God will heal. In last minute you will know why!
All Christians are screwed up in the head.
Is Christian morality psychopathic? (Sam Harris)
Sorry about the mispelled words and typos like scructures and what-not. That's kind of embarrassing coming from a two time spelling bee contestant, I now see why I didn't win lol. And thanks Sean B. I think you prove that there's unreasonable people on both sides of this issue.
I'm sorry if you feel I showed you to be "unreasonable". I just wanted to show that your thinking processes are impaired. Once again: why would an all-powerful god create something with attributes he couldn't control without creating something ELSE to control it? You are using (poor) scientific analysis to try to come up with a coherent answer for one of the contradictions in the bible.
@Sean B. i don't like silly arguments but i would cozy you with a response nonetheless. I'd like you to explain how we would be anything but automatons if God preprogrammed us to do as he wills all the time and not have the right to reject Him as you now do. There is no contradiction in scripture about being a free moral agent except the one you have insisted must be there.
dapo: What are you talking about? I said nothing about pre-programming people or anything that you are "responding" to. I responded to a fellow who felt he had to come up with a "scientific" explanation about god creating dinosaurs to control the unchecked vegetation growth that he (god) unleashed. Did you even read what I wrote? And I agree with you: IF (the big if) there was a god that created us to do exactly as he wanted, we WOULD be automatons. But we're not, he didn't, and your "question" is moot.
dapo: The reason the 6,000 year- old earth myth is brought up by us laughing skeptics is NOT because it is in the bible. It's because this obviously insanely wrong premise, which as you say is NOT in the bible, is embraced by an ever-growing horde of uneducated evangelicals and fundamentalist nut-bags and has become a central tenet in their faith- southern baptists and many sects believe this tripe. These "christians" are so stupid that they believe the young earth premise even with mountains of evidence from across the scientific spectrum showing the universe is billions of years old. I know the 6,000 year old earth myth comes from adding up the ridiculous lifespans (900 plus years, for most of them) given in the bible for the OT patriarchs. It is not stated as such in ther bible. We just use it because it is one of the most obviously insane claims made by MANY THOUSANDS of "believers", and a great example of how the determined person can see anything he wants (even if it's not there!) in the book of lies.
Here's one for senseless commentaries about the bible by people who haven't read it without holding a particular predefined conclusion they seek to arrive at: the bible in nowhere point says the earth is 6000yrs. Feel free to try to disprove this.
A number of people that have written to respond to this article have spoken of the interpretation of the Bible, which is the number one problem in this present world as the Bible itself teaches us that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). Only few people (Matthew 7:14) are able to understand the Bible and as long as mankind remains separated from God, the Word of God will remain a mystery.
Mankind in his natural state is unable to understand the Bible and unable to receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).
There is a natural body and a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44). The only thing that separates the Natural body from the Spiritual body is the Baptism of Repentance (Mark 1:4). To repent means: to change spirits and to turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan, whose spirit mankind is of (Luke 9:55), unto God (Acts 26:18). This is not an interpretation. Many people search the Bible for in them they think they have eternal life, but when we bring them the Scriptures they don’t believe us (John 5:38,39). Confused? There is no need to be confused any longer. For a better understanding of the mystery of God we invite you to read all the pages and articles of our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
So, before mankind will be able to understand the Word of God, mankind requires to be converted and transformed by God (not by any religion) and only then mankind is able to understand the Bible, as it is God (John 1:1).
All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9. The Bible is true in all things and is the discerner of every thought and the intent of the heart (Hebrews 5:12).
Still trolling trying to sell your cult and book it's complete garbage. Click the report abuse link to get rid of this troll.
So you say the #1 problem with the bible is people trying to interpret it- and then YOU go on to interpret it. Shall I fall to my knees before your divinely- inspired persona?
Stop in at the Motel 6. The Gideons put a bible there for you. Instead of writing tripe like this article, you too can find what is and what isn't in the bible.
Then make your choices. And live with them.
I'm Tom Bodet, and we"ll keep a light on for ya.
I personally believe that the Bible is the most misunderstood and misused book in history. It's also true that people take excerps from the Bible to reinforce their own views or to further their own agenda while largely ignoring the rest. This I believe doesn't discredit the Bible in anyway whatsoever. Also the Bible is a very large book and a lot of people seem to have an aversion to reading somewhat like cats to water so people paraphrasing scriptures is not shocking or uncommon in my view. First off, as far as Mike Ditka is concerned, I believe he was trying to quote Jesus as he was speaking at Mathew (5-18), I won't include the text because many no doubt have different translations of the Bible so you can look it up for yourself and form your own opinion. Secondly, as regards the dinosaur issue. I've heard this question before and I'll admit it had me in a quandry for a time. But it would seem logical that if an intelligent individual were to set about creating life on a massive scale. With the level of diversity so numerous I don't think anyone realistically believes all life on this planet will ever be identified and/or counted. With each level of lifeform virtually dependent on all other levels. It would seem reasonable that an intelligent individual would create such life in stages. Now keep in mind that life is aggressive and pervasive. (I think anyone who has tried to keep weeds out of their garden or lawn would agree. Or anyone trying to keep mold out of a damp basement has noticed this phenomenon) So while building life in stages, one of the earliest being plantlife, I can see the need for huge herbivors that would keep the tree and plant population in check in certain areas while other more fragile and less aggressive lifeforms take can hold and flourish. I can also see how an intelligent individual might have a need for voracious carnivors to keeep certain animal life in check until smaller less aggressive predators could populate and thrive on this planet. It must have been a masterful undertaking to bring all the levels of interdepent life together and in perfect harmony and balance to develope one amazingly, diverse, sustainable, and shokingly beautiful ecosystem together at one time. Of course, in anticipation of mankind's arrival those enormous predators simply had to be done away with. I don't think anyone would want to share this planet with a T-Rex or any of his brethren.
If you've ever noticed most scructures that have been built, you've probably notice scaffolding built right alongside that scructure, ( which I think most would agree that scaffolding itself is a scructure) yet whenever that building or home is built, at or before completion, that scaffolding has to come down, it was simply a means to an end. I certainly believe the Bible harmonizes with the real facts.
You seem to be thinking, but your thinker is busted. You believe an all-powerful god would need help in keeping the weeds he created under control? If he's so high and mighty and can do anything, why didn't he just create plant life that didn't NEED animals (not yet created) to control it? Or make himself a ginormous (say about as big as Noah's ark) can of Weed-Be-Gone that he could use on the stuff? What some people come up with! I'm still laughing about this one!
just like this example : why would god create satan?
seriously, answer this one and i'll believe.
surprised the writer got away with writing this one.
SPS are you a crazy person have you ever heard of carbon dating it is scientific and it works and it says the earth is more than 4 billion years old. Get out of here with that B.S. the chinese like dragons so it proves dinosaurs exist. Making the bible scientific doesnt work there EVERYBODY PLEASE GO TO 6000years.org and see how crazy extremely religious people can be.
Christians invent stuff to stick in their version of the Bible to suit their needs.
Amenm, hallelujah, Word of the Lord, and praise little baby Jesus.
Oh, please...ha this article misses the obvious. Christmas is not in the bible, nor are any of the practices associated with that holiday. Easter is not in the bible, nor the Easter bunny or Easter candy. In fact most of the religious practices/rituals now considered 'christian' are not to be found in the bible. Christ 'turned the other cheek," but today's Christians are quick to attack whenever they feel threatened or want retribution. "Do unto others" IS in the bible, but many ignore that one.
heh If folks really want to believe only what is in the bible, it's not hard to determine–its just hard to follow through.
All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.
Exodus 21:7 advocates the selling of your daughter in slavery.
Goyim don't know how to read the Bible.
Well, technically that's true. But only a putz would point that out.
If the bible is literal and the Earth is around 10,000 or less years old, somebody please explain dinosours to me. Why are there bones millions of years old?
Obviously Satan put them there. Duh.
I would argue that the bible is NOT literal, and also not a scientific textbook. Just as the sentence "In Ben Franklin's day, the automobile had not been invented" does NOT refer to a 24-hour period, the biblical "day" can have many meanings.
The bible is useful for understanding human emotions and relationships, and useful as a guide for living a happy life, but there is little reason to look for answers to every possible question we can think of....
Humans and Dinosaurs coexisted. If they didn't how do you explain how Fred Flintstone got his job done at the quarry? Do you think Mr. Slate bought machines or something? Sheesh, how dumb can you be.
The answer to that question is easy to find. one website is 6000years.org
sps – I sure hope you're being facetious. Because, if not, you're a complete idiot.
90% of the article is correct but people often say religious phrases without actually quoting the Bible. Just because someone speaks of God, Jesus, any other Biblical character or with a religious undertone does not mean they are 'quoting' the Bible.
I recall "Spare the rod and spoil the child" form the age of 4. I am 83. My grandfather was born in 1879. Yes, the phrase is not a quote. It st a paraphrasing or distillation of passages from Provers Chapter13 and 23. I would disagree that these distillations are pithy. Whether they are pithy or not really relates, I think, to the motivation of the speaker.
Mike Ditka was probably referring to Matthew 24:35. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."
So only modern trtialasnons for you how about the Greek New Testament? There's a version for you!Here is my breakdown:Study NRSVGeneral reading NIVRead through the Bible in a year NLTTrying to find a verse I knew as a kid that isn't coming up in the NIV concordance through any words I can think of KJV
This seems to be a forum for people to vent, rant, shout, or have nothing better to do. Few are saying anything of value.
This is why I have written to CNN to ask them to remove the comments section from their articles. BBC does not provide and comments section and there is no purpose to them besides providing a breeding ground for hate and needless argumentation. People are not brave enough to talk about these things in public but if they can't say it out loud they need to figure out how much they actually believe in what they're saying and revise their behavior.
If you read the stuff that I write, I'd have to agree with you.
The author does a good bit of misquoting the Bible, himself. The serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, not of the Tree of Life. In fact, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden so that they would not eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. The author proves his own point: it is very, very easy to misquote the Bible.
He never misquoted the Bible concerning that story. He merely presented a popular misunderstanding of the story: "Satan in the guise of a serpent tempts Eve to pick the forbidden apple from the Tree of Life." He didn't give credence to or uphold that version, nor did he correct it. It was an illustration of how people often get it wrong.
The bible is misquoted alot. But in Gen. (Genesis 3:17-19) . . .And to Adam he (God) said: “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and took to eating from the tree concerning which I gave you this command, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. 18 And thorns and thistles it will grow for you, and you must eat the vegetation of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.”
So it was because of the disobedience of the commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve that they were cast out of the Garden of Eden.
The author of this article gets away with posting this Biblically exegetically inaccurate nonsense precisely because few read their Bibles.
Genesis 3:13, 14 –
"Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life."
The Bible speaks in metaphors throughout.
1 Timothy 2:14
And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
2 Corinthians 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.
The author isn't fooling anyone by playing the literalist who may whine "but, but... it doesn't LITERALLY come right out and say the 'serpent' was the devil or Satan!" Like any ancient religious texts like the Quran or whatever, you must - and I emphasize MUST - read in context. Unless the author is unschooled and isn't aware of these literary nuances (a possibility in which I extend condolences to him) then I don't think there's an excuse for using bandwidth on a deceptive and sensationalistic diatribe on CNN.
Do you not see, though, Evan, that because these "literary nuances" ABOUND in this text, on which so many people put so much importance, that it can lead to serious problems? Pretty much all works of literature have some degree of literary license in them–this is part of what makes them rich and interesting. However, most literary works are not used in the way these religious texts are. There is much danger–yes, danger–in the fact that any yahoo can come up with some completely off-the-wall interpretation of these texts, wrap them in such levels of dogma that they can't be questioned, and then lead others to follow that interpretation even to rather ugly actions. If the text is that important, should it not be crystal clear, so as to discourage ambiguity and misinterpretation? If these texts are truly inspired by God, what did God possibly have to lose by making the wording clearer? You can't claim there isn't a problem here–even Christians can't always agree on the meaning of the text!
Also, while you may feel that ANY ancient texts have to be read in context, and you specifically mention the Qur'an, how many self-professed Christians do you know who have NEVER touched the Qur'an, much less read it, yet will gladly tell you that they know everything they need to know about Islam?
Evan, you are leaving out one important point. John Blake errs in his statement that Eve was tempted by a serpent, not Satan. Because, as we know, Scripture interprets Scripture. And in Revelation 12:9 and Revelation20:2, Satan is identified as "that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray" That started with Eve and continues today with one John Blake.
To further qualify scripture;
New King James Version (NKJV)
9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
New King James Version (NKJV)
2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;
"Scripture interprets Scripture"
It would be more accurate to say that scripture re-interprets scripture, which is little different than what every other yahoo does.
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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.