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Actually, that's not in the Bible
Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden right? Nope. That's one of many phantom passages that people think are in the Bible.
June 5th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Actually, that's not in the Bible

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.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Books • Christianity • Faith

soundoff (8,604 Responses)
  1. Airborne

    @ Studied and George DIyenno – well writen, thank you.

    When your pastor says, "Open your Bible to the Book of ...". Open your Bible and read it along with him instead of looking up at his PowerPoint screen. If he is using his own theology instead of the Bible then leave that church.

    This author does bring up some interesting points, but if there is question open up the Bible. AMEN.

    July 31, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  2. Linda Perusse (VBNinja)

    Come on...be factual about the Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child statement: Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. (Proverbs 19:18) That does exist!

    July 31, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  3. BK

    I think the average atheist in the US knows more about the Bible than the average Christian. Hint: That's why they became an atheist.
    I myself didn't become an atheist until I spent a year at a Christian school.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  4. justathought

    How about we all just read, preferably study, the book and let it speak for itself rather than debating with one another about what it says. God will prove Himself or not to each of us if we seek His counsel. It appears that this is the point that the author of the article was trying to make.

    July 31, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  5. Anon

    All Christians are screwed up in the head.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUVXEmJRGns&w=640&h=390]

    July 31, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  6. thechurchinthemirror

    There are an awful lot of misconceptions and theories about the meanings of the Bible both by these CNN bloggers and comments left here. More people need to study the Bible, the original meanings in the original languages, and not view the texts through the lens of their personal beliefs and values.

    July 31, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • puresmokey

      are you well versed in ancient Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew? Lucky you.

      July 31, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  7. Sarahmac

    "...biblical definition of goodness: defining one’s worth by what one does for others, like the poor and the outcast..." Wrong. Biblical definition of goodness is summed up this way : The life of Jesus Christ. The fact that you do not understand this and chose to write this type of article, is, in my opinion, problematic, to say the least.

    July 31, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Ken

      But... that is exactly what the life of Jesus was... caring for the poor and outcast. Yes, there is more to it, but how is the author's interpretation wrong? Incomplete perhaps, but not wrong.

      July 31, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  8. testifi

    as im reading some of these comments, id just like to say how amazing it is how many people there are nowadays who have turned cold toward God, Christ and the Good Word. there are so many lost people. they lonely journeys have made them angry, miseld and viscious towards anything to do with God. They blame God for what has happened in their lives and by doing so ackowledge His existence, but then deny there being a God. It's hippocritical. To the nonreligous, if you truly believe that there is no God, then why are you still alive? Are you scared of going to Hell for suicide? And why do you continue to do what you do if you did not believe you would be rewarded in the end somehow? Scientific principles state there is no God, and that you're better off dead because the world will just end someday anyway. So why are you still here arguing about this? Is it because maybe somewhere deep down you have just a whim of hope that what Christians say might have some truth to it, that you might be proven wrong? If you had lost all hope and all faith, you would be dead – that is the final destination of those who lose all hope and faith, they begin to want to die. You're so busy studying the world that you forget to study yourselves.

    July 31, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • puresmokey

      Oh, you know so much, don't you? And please, don't pull out the "it's not me telling you, it's God's word, I'm just the messenger. "This is so, so, so much the problem with religion, and in particular, any religion that mandates the conversion of others. It leads to arrogance parading as humility. Let me ask you a question: If you are so certain that God exists as laid out in the Bible, and that he is the supreme and all powerful authority, why do you find it necessary to defend him? Let "Him" have the final say. Who are you to tell anyone else what the Bible means, if anything. And keep in mind, that for some of us, the "lessons" of the Bible are hideous nightmares: Ask yourself, Why is laying your son on on a fiery altar and intending to cut cut him open with a knife a good thing just because God told you to do it? Why is owning slaves not one of the things forbidden by the ten commandments? Why is it so horribly wrong for two men to decide to "lie together," but OK to cut off your wife's hand if she accidentally touches an assailants genitals while trying to protect her husband? We didn't get our morals from the Bible, we developed them in spite of it.

      July 31, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • puresmokey

      P.S. You said: "Scientific principles state there is no God, and that you're better off dead because the world will just end someday anyway." What scientific principles state "you're better off dead?" What science books are you reading?

      July 31, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Studied

      Actually Satan is the SERPENT talked about in Genesis, as we all know snakes or serpents do not talk. From the start of Adam & Eves rebellion it talks about a breakdown of the relationship between God and man. In 1Cor 11-3 it states "But I fear that lest somehow, as the SERPENT deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. Rev12-9 ties Genesis together "The great dragon was cast out, the original SERPENT of old called DEVIL and SATAN who decieves the whole earth and his angels are cast out with him.

      July 31, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • KingdomCome

      will be cast down in the future... hasn't happened yet...

      July 31, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Sin D Fetish

      No, it's the hipocricy and unrealistic ways of the bible and it's religion portray that many people nowadays have turned cold toward ...not the denial of God as most do believe in one. There is a difference though christian scripture makes you believe otherwise. Our greatest freedom in America is religion...And it does NOT have an asterick at the end of it directing you to the bottom of the page that says "AS LONG AS IT IS CHRISTIANITY" This religion worked when humans knew no better a long time ago and used these stories to describe a complicated world. We have gotten smarter and that stings those that still cling to it's archaic mentality. The truth is brutal sometimes.

      July 31, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • testifi

      actually if you knew more about Chritianity you would know that Christians aren't for pride, God opposes the proud. Seconde, we tell people the bible the way it was said, not they way we want it to be – like you, because Christ did tell us to spread His word, and He also told us there would be scoffers – also like you. And third, you must care a lot about this because if you didn't you wouldn't be here yelling at me.

      July 31, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • testifi

      @Sin
      No, you can practice any religion you want to, but youre being hippocritical. I have every right to tell people about our religion and practices, just as you have every right to disagree with us. The whole principle behind Christianity is to be saved and changed, not to judge. I have muslim friends, atheist friends and other religious friends and we get along fine. Sometimes we talk to each other about religous principles and sometimes not. But the point is, you say that Christians are the ones dominating who can be what, but what I see is the exact opposite. When Christians speak about their beliefs online, what do you do? You so immaturely take them apart, call them names, treat them as if they were different than you. And if you really think about it, you've led this world now for the better part of the past 10 years, and you haven't been doing such a great job.

      July 31, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • testifi

      @puresmokey
      I don't need to defend Him, He could surely defend himself. But you think He cares what others think of Him. It is not Him I am trying to defend it is His principles, the principles that He laid out for His people, for the lost souls and the found ones. Everything you say directly and indirectly effects many other people's thought processes. For you to slander and say such lies without even knowing or understanding the underlying Christian cause – directly causes other people to think those lies, to have doubt in their lives. To God you are just like any other attacker – you will continue to attack until 1 of two things happens – you hit the demise set aside for suckers like you – or you come to your senses and realize that God is supreme, and your insistence on being outrageously viscous, prideful, and arrogant when it comes down to it, is really just huff and puff over something you can do nothing about. Your voice will die in the wind, but the voice of God will be heard forever.

      July 31, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • puresmokey

      @testifi "you hit the demise set aside for suckers like you." Ah, once again, the marvellously and generous Christian ethic. What happened to "turn the other cheek?" Oh, yeah, that's too hard to do. Besides, the Lord didn't really mean it in cases of internet comment boards, right? Admit that it's not your Lord, but YOU, that objects to criticism. Once again, arrogance parading as humility. You'll no doubt say it's not you who is saying I'm going to hell, but God. And yet, somehow, YOU are so sure I'm beyond the salvation you're trying to sell me.

      Yes, I said sell. Please don't give me that "free will" nonsense. There is no free will when a person is threatened with hellfire in exchange for eternal communion with God. That's like a thug holding someone on the edge of a cliff and saying: Now, I'm going to give you free will to decide. Either hand me your wallet, or I push you off this cliff." Admit that the whole idea is preposterous. Honestly.

      As to my comments causing people "to have doubt in their lives", I think you credit me too much. But I would ask you, what's wrong with a little doubt? Wouldn't you agree that in all other areas of pursuit Doubt is a good thing? In Law, Science, Philosophy, Government? So why not in matters of religion? There was a time when doubt, or denial of any kind, would have seen me burned at the stake. And if you find that prospect fun to consider, you're sicker than you think, and less of a "Christian" than you claim to be.

      August 1, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • testifi

      lets get one thing straight mr. smokey, i have never nor will never believe that christians killing other people is a good thing. I've always been one to warn people of the consequences, but let them lead their own lives even if it destroys them. Let me tell you what's wrong with a little doubt. Doubt destroys, it rips apart friendships, angers people for no reason, and causes arguments between people who don't know each other. I am not concerned with the way religion works in this world because I know it's pretty much hopeless for people like you to understand the concepts of Christianity, but so you know Christ said turn the other cheek towards violence. If you were to slap me in the face i would turn the other cheek. But Christ did not back down to a challenge by the people on His God and neither will I, and he repeatedly mentioned this is not for my benefit but for yours. I'm not saying this because I care if you say something to me, I'm always going to know you're wrong and misguided. i'm saying these things because people (you as well) need to hear them. You've fallen into the same trap that all the others like you have fallen into, you let your ego and your pride get the best of you so you will not see and understand any of the concepts of Christianity. You're too into this world, concerened about material things, possessed by the fake and the temporary, the illusion of the world fooled you, now you're acting like a fool because of it. And law, science, government, economic principles, whatever you want to name, can't save you, these are concepts that people created when they got bored of surviving and wanted to thrive. And as far as free will goes, yes I will tell you this: You've had two choices from the beginning and you'll have two choices at the end. They've never changed, never will and I think you've let freedom corrupt your mind way too much. For those of you who don't understand, yes, God is a communist. But that was always apparent. This is the point of Christianity, to submit yourself in full trust, love and faith to the Lord. Understanding that you've been warned by your creator, who created you, what can happen if you take a reckless path. And also understanding that God will take care of you through the good and the bad. But when we use the word communist today, we automatically think of Hitler. Even if Hitler was the only alternative in a distant world, i wouldn't trust him because he's human and he's corruptible, was corrupted. I trust God because I know God never changes, He never changes His principles or His mind when it comes to His laws. He's fair, and willing to help, willing to be there for you, but He's not going to take any bullcrap, and if you're not going to follow rules that really aren't that difficult to follow if you think about it (the same rules we teach kindergarteners today) then you've got problems deeper than you know. People choose their own destinies, God sets the consequences for those choices. You can't enter a perfect world and expect there to not be any rules, and every choice you make has a consequence – both in the real world and in the spiritual world.

      August 1, 2011 at 9:30 am |
      • Mary Rogers

        Wow you just brought up a very stupid example to make your point with. Not only was Hitler not a communist, he was a self-identified Christian who thought it was God's will that he destroy the Jews. This according to his book "Mein Kamf" and various speeches he gave, He was a member of the Christian Socialist Party and they gave him the authority to become a dictator.Since Germany was a Christian country it would have been impossible for him to get in power without the support of Christians.

        August 7, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • puresmokey

      @testifi:

      I'm sorry to break this to you, but Hitler was a fascist, not a communist. He hated communists. In fact, communists were among the first group of people to be sent by Hitler to the death camps. Please look it up.

      "if you're not going to follow rules that really aren't that difficult to follow if you think about it (the same rules we teach kindergarteners today) then you've got problems deeper than you know." I'm assuming your talking about moral and ethical rules here. Well, just for the record: I don't assault people, I don't steal, I don't kill. But I don't do those things, not because I fear a God who keeps score, but because I respect people's right to live happily and freely. I can't believe that's the only difference between you and me. Is it?

      I notice too, that you can't argue effectively against my analogy of the Salvation proposed in Christianity as a promise of threat. Believe in me or go to hell. What a choice. What a benevolent God. What a facist.

      Do yourself a favour. Read something other than the Bible. Once in a while. You might then know what the difference is between a fascist and communist.

      Isn't it amazing that God is political? How convenient.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • testifi

      You've just said exactly what God said you would say in the bible:
      II Timothy 3:1-5,7 "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of god; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

      I Timothy 4:1-3 "But the spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. By means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth."

      Isaiah chapter 40 (NLT):

      13 Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? Who knows enough to be his teacher or counselor? 14 Has the LORD ever needed anyone's advice? Does he need instruction about what is good or what is best? 15 No, for all the nations of the world are nothing in comparison with him. They are but a drop in the bucket, dust on the scales. 22 It is God who sits above the circle of the earth. The people below must seem to him like grasshoppers! ... 23 He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing. 24 They hardly get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and their work withers. The wind carries them off like straw

      2 Peter Chapter 3:
      3 First, you must understand this: In the last days people who follow their own desires will appear. These disrespectful people will ridicule [God's promise] 4 by saying, "What's happened to his promise to return? Ever since our ancestors died, everything continues as it did from the beginning of the world." 5 They are deliberately ignoring one fact: Because of God's word, heaven and earth existed a long time ago. The earth [appeared] out of water and was kept alive by water. 6 Water also flooded and destroyed that world. 7 By God's word, the present heaven and earth are designated to be burned. They are being kept until the day ungodly people will be judged and destroyed

      9 The Lord isn't slow to do what he promised, as some people think. Rather, he is patient for your sake. He doesn't want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • testifi

      I would advise people to listen to the song American Dream by Casting Crowns. I hope you find it as inspirational to you as it was to me. Pay attention to the lyrics.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • puresmokey

      Here come the bible quotes, the last ditch attempt for a man with no ideas of his own, and absolutely no retort to the questions that I've put to him. Not one. And oh, what's this? They all refer to my arrogance and "the end times." There's a surprise. When I was a born again Christian, many many years ago, (believe it or not yes), that was the preferred tactic to get out of an argument. Of course back then, we had to memorize them and say them, we didn't have the cut and paste option that God Salesmen enjoy today. I know all those verses. I used to use them myself.

      And all through history, people have been talking about the last days. The last days. Jesus talked about them. All through the middle ages people dreaded the year 1000. The Great Disappointment of 1844. Again in 2000 there was all kinds of talk. It would have to end on a round number , wouldn't it? The countless predictions that the "end is just around the corner." You know why it's been predicted so many times? Because man is so inherently arrogant, that it assumes the most important moment in human history has to happen when he's here to see it. Why? Because he's here. It has to happen now.

      Listen, I'm not going to go on arguing with you, because it's pointless for both of us, and frankly, I'm sure we've both got better things to do today. All I can say is I've been down your road for more years than I care to count, and I've moved on. I know, I know, you'll say I'm backsliding, or lost, or blind. But the truth is, I still search. In my own way. I try to learn a little something each day, help others whenever possible, and feed and take care of my family. What I do object to, so passionately about so much of religion, is the presumption of many of its members to force their ideas down people's throats. "Believe in Me or burn in hell." I think that's a horrible story to tell. Especially to children. I find it morally repugnant. Even if it's true. Even if you're right. It's still morally repugnant. It's the promise of hope, based on a threat. Not on love.

      I've never denied the existence of "God," nor would I suggest I know that there isn't one. But when I'm told I'm going to hell because I won't believe, I have a problem. Not with the Creator. But the messenger. I know a little about some things, and nothing about others. But what I promised myself I would never do again, is pretend that I knew more than I did just because I memorized, prayed and contemplated a few verses from an ancient book.

      I wish you well. Be happy, and may you continue to enjoy the peace you've found for yourself.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  9. Palm Trees

    "Spare the rod, spare the child" isn't in the bible?? I have to say that while it isn't verbatim, look at Proverbs 13:24 KJV–"He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."

    July 31, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Palm Trees

      oops! I mistyped.........I meant to type, "Spare the rod, SPOIL the child."

      July 31, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Candylyn

      It is important to realy understand what is being said in the bible: "Spare the rod, spoil the child" is very different from Proverbs 13:24 KJV–"He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." The difference is motive. The almost says just beat your kids its gives no motation behind it. The true quote notes that your repremand your children because you love them not because you don't want to deal with a brat. Movative is key, walking with God through Christ is a love walk. Everything must be viewed through love.

      July 31, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • sliderossian

      What you espouse are ideas, not universal laws. Millions do not believe in a god or gods. Only a god could convince me of his or her presence, and that has not happened yet, although I sure have watched and listened. So all the talk about god, to me, is metaphoric and based in wishful thinking. The fact that Muslims see the name of god and Mohamed in pancakes and fruit and on water-damaged walls (just like christians see a crucifix at ground zero) is a big tip-off.

      July 31, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • joanbarker

      Candylyn, Irrationality is a typical problem with modern pop-christianity. Your explanation is irrational, affective and lacks clarity. It sounds like christian psychology but is not hermeneutically sound. You can't just "make it up as you go". To claim the difference is motive has no real foundation. No offense. I know you meant to weigh in on the conversation with pithy comments.

      August 1, 2011 at 3:31 am |
  10. xmatman

    Knowledge takes work, wisdom takes time; and the simple truth is most don't want to do either.

    July 31, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • david55

      its easier to read a book, or just a few bits of the book, and claim you know everything.

      July 31, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  11. Matt

    The serpent being Satan is supported by the Bible. Assuming you believe Satan and Lucifer were the same, he was, before the fall, an angel. There are different classes of angels, which the Bible specifically references. One type, and the type Lucifer was before the fall, was a seraph. The Hebrew word for "Seraph" is synonymous with the Hebrew word for "Serpent." So does the story really say "a talking snake tempted Eve" or does it say "the fallen Seraph tempted Eve." In fact, before the term (which means "burning ones") was commonly applied to snakes or angels, it referred to fallen angels or demons in the appearance of a snake. So more accurately, it says "a demon/fallen angel in the shape of a snake tempted Eve." Lost in translation, I suppose.

    July 31, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Matt

      Adding on... the author of this article commented that people make misinterpretations of the Bible because they are not Biblical scholars." Looks like they should have consulted with a few more Biblical scholars them self before posting this...

      July 31, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • JoeO

      No, serpents were referred to anything that is conniving and deceiving. For all we know, it could be Satan. The Bible never specified. Usually, in literal terms, serpents refer to reptiles and dinosaurs that existed during that time. As well as easily reserving the use for the word serpent to call people like Judah. There's no "evidence" that supports anything for the Adam and Eve story. No one even knows who wrote it originally. And the original text is written in Latin, is it not? The Hebrew language being correlated with the Bible must have began AFTER Noah's Ark and the Great Flood, because the most likely area all these happened is around Mesopotamian Fertile Crescent. To put it frankly, the Middle East. Places like Afghanistan.

      July 31, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Matt

      JoeO, you seem a bit confused... The original "Bible," here being the Torah, was in Hebrew and Aramaic, with Greek in the New Testament as well when it came about after the start of the Christian Church. The first five books of the both the Christian Bible and Jewish Tanakh were written by Moses. The Romans and resulting Latin language did not exist until a good 500+ years after Moses was gone. The specific term used in the Biblical account of Adam and Eve is Nachash, meaning "shining one." Serpents were sometimes referred to as burning ones due to the burning sensation of their bite. Seraphs were called the same because they emanated light like that of a flame. If we want to take it more literally, "the shining one" would be Lucifer specifically, who was in fact the angel of light (Lucifer actually translates to "Light-bearer"). And Mesopotamians did not speak Latin... those would be Romans... who hailed from Rome. Mesopotamians spoke Babylonian, Aramaic, Hebrew, Egyptian, and a plethoria of other ancient languages, depending on their tribe or clan, none of which spoke Latin until the Roman Empire expanded. Afghanistan probably wasn't the site of the Garden of Eden as it is not in Mesopotamia at all. Mesopotamia is today the area we would call Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Most people place the Garden of Eden there or Ethiopia. Continuing my point... Latin was not spoken or written in any of those places until much closer to the birth of Christ so Latin doesn't really factor in here.

      July 31, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Matt

      Btw, the Bible never suggests (and historians, archaeologists, etc. all agree) that humans and dinosaurs existed at the same time.

      July 31, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • John

      Satan is not Lucifer according to the bible.

      July 31, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Mike

      I was reading your comments and then I saw the ol' Dinosaurs living with humans remark. "Okay, we got another crazy here....next comment!"

      July 31, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Matt

      My last post isn't showing so here goes again... First of all, I wasn't saying dinosaurs and humans existed together, that was bad syntax on my part. The Bible says NOTHING about dinosaurs as man never encountered them. On to Satan/Lucifer. Satan means "Adversary." Jesus uses it in the NT but in the OT he is only ever referred to as "The Devil." Jesus uses this term not only for one being though. He even calls one of his own disciples satan at one point. So if Lucifer stood against God and fell, he would be part of the greater group of adversaries that Jesus spoke of. As far as being "The Devil" Jewish stories/myths (not in the Bible but still part of their culture) do associate Lucifer with the Devil. Christians took this idea and further developed it. Regardless, even if Lucifer himself is not "The Devil," we do know that the Devil is said to be a fallen angel and I think I've already done a decent job of connecting angels to the word used in the story of Adam and Eve. One last note, even if Lucifer doesn't fit, all angels are described as shining, being like lightning, etc. So any could fit the bill here. I haven't met many shiny snakes.

      July 31, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  12. Pete

    “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.”

    I'm glad I read this – I had no idea Biblical scholars had a monopoly on Biblical interpretation. This makes sense because these scholars rarely disagree with each other (sarcasm). What a condescending paragraph that was, and you wonder why Martin Luther had so many followers?

    July 31, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  13. TheAnt

    The same problem today they had thousands of years ago. People listen to the religious leaders and others rather than go to the text and what is worst they have a bible in their house.

    Good artical.

    July 31, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  14. abrahim faith

    NOTE: All quotations of the Bible are taken from the King James Version.

    III) Concept of God in Testament:
    1. God is One

    The following verse from the book of Deuteronomy contains an exhortation from Moses (pbuh):

    "Shama Israelu Adonai Ila Hayno Adna Ikhad".
    It is a Hebrew quotation which means:
    "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord"
    [The Bible, Deuteronomy 6:4]

    2. Unity of God in the Book of Isaiah

    The following verses are from the Book of Isaiah:

    (i) "I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour."
    [The Bible, Isaiah 43:11]

    (ii) "I am Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides me."
    [The Bible, Isaiah 45:5]

    (iii) "I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me."
    [The Bible, Isaiah 46:9]

    3. Old Testament condemns idol worship

    (i) Old Testament condemns idol worship in the following verses:

    "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

    "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:"

    "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God."
    [The Bible, Exodus 20:3-5]

    (ii) A similar message is repeated in the book of Deuteronomy:

    "Thou shalt have none other gods before me."

    "Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that in the earth beneath, or that is in the water beneath the earth."

    "Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God."
    [The Bible, Deuteronomy 5:7-9]

    July 31, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  15. parkerlew

    Does CNN use child labor? This article was juvenile and petty. I agree with UNRELIGOUS that he really missed a great opportunity here to make some good points. I give John Blake credit for spending about fifteen minutes googling his sources to support his point... whatever that may have been. He simply did what he accuses others of doing. It's irritating when arrogant religious people misquote the bible and warp its real message for their own selfish purposes. And it's just as much irritating when CNN writers do it too. John, do some homework and write a story on the Emergent Church Movement. You sound like you would fit right in.

    July 31, 2011 at 4:46 am |
    • testifi

      i think you missed the point of the article, to show how much people (both Christian and non-Christian) use phrases that are considered by modern society to be in the bible, even though they are not. Whether or not they support selfish behavior is not always the case, and anyway aren't you using this article to support what you believe? Aren't you angry because this article doesn't mention non-belief? It seems to me you're judging all Christians before you even know or meet any of them.

      July 31, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • parkerlew

      testifi: Do we really need a CNN blog to simply point out that the bible is misquoted by both christian and non-christian? Everyone knows that. He is pointing out the obvious. That is what I meant by juvenile and petty as he offers no new insight. Many (not all) preachers, evangelists and sunday school teachers carelessly take scripture out of context to fit their topical teaching or to present a "new" revelation. Some do it to support a specific doctrinal or denominational slant. On the opposite end, athiests will tend to present inaccurate meaning to verses to fit their agenda as well. Sometimes it is simply ignorance of the bible that causes people to misquote it or misunderstand the meaning. Whatever the case, this is nothing new. People should know what they believe and why so when Ben Franklin or John Wesley, or Mike Ditka or William Cowper, Barak Obama or George Bush, an athiest, a pastor or next door neighbor coin a phrase that sounds biblical, people would know the difference. Paraphrasing a verse, (but still retaining its original meaning,) is not the problem although John tried to say it was. My criticism was of the author and the fact that he squandered a great opportunity to point out instances where misquoting the bible actually does cause harm. He pointed out a couple of those only. There are many of others. He missed it and instead tried to make an issue with Jonah, the wise men, proverbs, etc. And he is quite wrong when he said “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.” No one can tell the difference because of ignorance and laziness, not because of the different translations.

      July 31, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  16. unreligious

    Wow, I thought this was going to be a good article when I first started reading it. I agree that there are way too many "bible sounding" sayings that are thrown around carelessly. And some of them actually are opposite of what the bible actually says, which leads people to the wrong conclusion about God, Jesus and the Bible.. But then, the author goes down a strange road. When he claims that the bible does not say "Pride comes before the fall" he is correct in that the bible does not actually say that word for word. But read it again....it is not incorrect to say it this way. That verse is a two part verse, with both parts making the same point. Shorten it and it still retains the same meaning that Solomon was making. Another one, Spare the rod spoil the child. This again is a shortened version of the verse. An undisciplined child IS a spoiled child. A parent who doesn't discipline a chile shows contempt for them. The rod of discipline doesn't mean a rod to beat them with. Then, it gets worse. His heading "When phantom Bible passages turn dangerous" his first two examples are "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." REALLY? This is dangerous? A big fish or a whale??? Three wise men instead of three kings, or four, or six visitors??? He missed the whole point of the verses. Seriously. This author could have really made some good points but it seems he was bored by his own topic and resorted to dramatic and sensational nonsense.

    July 31, 2011 at 3:59 am |
    • testifi

      this is true, not all made up passages are wrong when you consider the bible's true messages. But understand how easy it is for someone to create a quote and argue that the bible theology supports this. This is why Christians stick to the text (for the most part, can't speak for everyone), so when someone comes up to argue with them about bible theology, they can use bible reference to try to get people to understand what was said. Of course there is always going to be people who have created a seperate system of beliefs based off the Christian bible and still call themselves Christians.

      July 31, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  17. george diyenno

    The Bilbe never abrogates the 4th commandment. Just a little something that means almost all Christians do the exact opposite of what God the Father, Jesus the Son command – check with your internal God the Holy Spirit and look for yourself in the Bible.

    July 29, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  18. Kindness

    well it is ust like the Trinity.....the Bible never mentions a trinity God.

    July 29, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  19. GodPot

    "What is this, a Gummy Bear?...the pages are sticking together..."

    "Actually, that snot in the bible"...

    July 29, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  20. Wackadoodlesneednotapply

    I'm reading these comments and all I'm reading sounds like some self-aggrandizement "my beliefs are better than your beliefs" just like 5 years old chant about the size of their bikes or their Sponge Bob DVD collection. This debate about religion and scripture and ideas about what scripture means is an offense on the actual principle any number of these religious texts hope to parlay to the people reading them. Unconditional love. The idea that we are all connected. The idea that all living things including the Earth itself is of paramount importance. The idea that our spirituality begins within and spreads outward. The idea inner work is paramount to how we present our "Godliness" to the word. Instead of seeing these simple truths we allow our utter UNCONSCIOUSNESS and over inflated EGOs to rule our thoughts and consequently, our actions. To rule our lives and create discord when at their core, with the exception of a few, the basis of MOST religious context is "LOVE IS ALL". If this is the case, most of us on this very forum have no rightly idea who we are, why we're here or what even our spiritual beliefs beckon of us. This little interaction is the truest litmus test that a whole lot of folk only know drama, disparity, ego and divisiveness. The ACTUAL truth need not apply. Closed ears. Closed eyes. Closed minds. Closed spirits. Open mouths. Shame.

    July 29, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • Gregs777

      Amen

      July 29, 2011 at 5:28 am |
    • GodPot

      I'll agree that there are some 5 year old rants, but I think the majority of the debate is valid. It's the cross section of debate between the relgious who attempt to take every word in the bible literally and those that believe much of it but think some is up to interpretation along with the non-religious who believe the whole book is a bunch of made up hooey and the non-religious who think it still holds out some good principles but is just a collection of an ancient cultures customs. If you are offended by this type of debate then I suggest you stop reading the blogs here since that is ablout all you will get on just about any of these blogs.

      July 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
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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.