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.”
Freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom of conscious. Something CNN is against, unless you speak so eloquently as they do, bunch of pompus misfits.
CNN let your statement remain posted so they must not be THAT against freedom of speech.
Try lookking up "mystery babylon" in Revelation 17 & 18 and you'll find the mother of CNN
If CNN is questioning anything that has to do with the bible, I refuse to be a part of those scoffers, who take truth and turn it into a lie for their own benefit. CNN is the worst news station in the entire world. They cannot be trusted period.
Pointless article. CNN, stick to your grade A media bias.
I hope people caught on...
Bingo is a Catholic pastime and the FDR-sounding quote is actually from the Firesign Theatre.
Bingo is mentioned in the Bible, as is my favorite passage: "All we have to fear is me."
Forget the snake, nowhere does it say that the fruit that Eve ate was an apple. At least not in the hebrew (original) version
The Bible is a bludgeon used by ideologues. They can find something in the Bible to justify whatever prejudice they want to extol. Of course they also ignore those little inconvenient things, like Christ's admonition to his followers, "Do not resist one who is evil." I'm always amazed that pro-lifers invoke the Bible to oppose abortion when nowhere does the Bible say that a fetus is a person or that abortion is wrong. Children who sass their parents should be put to death, but abortion seems to be OK. What a book!!!!
actually, fetuses are described as children in the bible. children in the bible are almost always conceived. when does conception occur? at the point when egg meets sperm? fetus = child? also there is an instance when Mary, while pregnant with Jesus, visits John's mother while she is still pregnant with John. it describes John leaping with joy upon this visit between fetuses (not born yet children).
Not in the Bible? Yeah, tell me another one. Which bibles are you reading? The ones the Devil wrote like He did in the Garden Did God say?
Prov 13:24: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (diligently)."
Prov 19:18: "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying."
Prov 22:15: "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."
Prov 23:13: "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die."
Prov 23:14: "Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (Shoel)."
Prov 29:15: "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame."
Hebrews 12:6-7: "...the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?"
Wow, I can tell your dad hit you a lot.
wow, try reading the article, he SAYS that "spare the rod, spoil the child" is a SHORTENED FORM of the proverbs you list. so you are agreeing with what he said.
Who is CNN to defend the bible? You don't even believe in it.
That's an arbitrarily stupid comment. Have you met everyone at CNN and asked them if they believe in God? If your answer is no then you're the hate filled person that God will surely punish for their wickedness.
There seems to be a lot of things we accept that are not in the bible....like
1. Sunday School Bus
2 December 25th, Jesus Birthday
3 .Building a church and then giving it a name.
4. Church Board
5. Church basketball team
6. Door greeter
7. Collection Plate
8. Church Choir
12. Bake Sale
13. Hymn Book
and on and on. I have to agree, that we mortals often infect the Bible with our own values and morals.
although a few of the things you listed do hit on concepts contained in the bible.
Unfortunately, Randy, many of those things have absolutely nothing to do with "morals and values" which by the end of your post you made the claim that they do. The Bible doesn't give account for every aspect of what we do in our life. It gives us a moral and holy doctrine that we are to live by. It gives us the hope of Jesus Christ through the Gospel. It gives us guidance in times that we are struggling. And it gives us a view of what God's heart really is. It was never intended to speak of church boards, bake sales, and whether Jesus birthday was on December 25th. Don't cheapen the Bible for what it was always intended to be. You can make choices and do things in this life that the Bible doesn't mention specifically (like the things on your list) as long as you are following the Doctrine given to us through Scripture.
You John Blake are exceedingly ignorant about the Bible and have no business even contemplating writing about it.
Just because the exact phrase you mention isn't there doesn't mean the concept isn't. These ideas are most certainly there but because you know nothing about it you don't know where they are.
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. Matthew 24:35 This statement made by Jesus (who by the way did actually exist) certainly does imply that all things will pass away.
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Malachi 4.
READ THE ARTICLE PLEASE... he never SAYS the concepts arent there, hes just saying people quote the bible with statements that are not in there EXACTLY. If people want to quote the bible, they should learn about it, and quote it PRECICELY
Sorry to disillusion you, but there is no evidence outside the Bible that Jesus ever existed. I happen to think that he did, but there was little resemblance to the mythological figure he was twisted into by later writers. None of the authors of the Gospels ever met Jesus and did not write their stories until many years after his death, and St. Paul's teachings fly in the face of what Jesus is quoted as saying (although those quotations are suspect, given that they were not written down until decades after his death. There is one critical statement made by Jesus that bears remembering: he says he is a Jew, believing all the teachings of his fathers, and saying that non-Jews should not be proselytized. If they had followed his advice he would be rembered as a rabbi and there would be no Christianity today.
Yes, word-for-word, these common phrases do not appear in the Bible, but they most certainly do if you actually read the Bible. This was an interesting article if you read all of it through.
Spare the rod, spoil the child = Proverbs 13:24]
Enmity between woman and serpent? I have had many pet snakes.I would not choose to be bitten by a poisonous snake, but as a teen I was the local "snake-catcher" when one wandered into a neighbors' house.
Please read Genisis, I believe you are taking this passage out of context.....The "Enmity" is followed by a prophesy of Jesus defeating Satan. The enmity occured when Mary concieved Jesus and Satan knew his defeat.
The New Testament is a book of fables with some basis in historical events. Some parts of the bible are more true to actual events than others, some versions more accurate than others. It was written by men hundreds of years after Christ's death (NOT by his apostles), and influenced by the politics of the times. Therefore, it is fallible. NO one should take the bible to literally be "the word of G-d".
you can't be serious
You have never read the bible because if you had you would beyond a shadow of a doubt know it is true, eve was tricked by the devil in the garden of eden, so far everything foretold in the bible has come true, and einstein, newton and many more have proven scripture to be true way efore our science could prove or disprove it
He's supposedly a CNN author/contributor. I tried to google him. And NOTHING came up. Which these days is surprising. I tried to find a bio, nothing. I even tried to find a picture of him, nothing. CNN lets this person spew vile articles on CNN's website. He's obsessed with skin color and keeps saying "white people are playing victim" and "white america turned racist after electing Barack Obama" and "Barack will never make any mistakes falling into the black stereotypes". After reading a couple of his articles you could obviously tell he doesn't celebrate the 4th of July (independence day) and he probably mocks people that are patriotic. I'm just curious on what this person looks like. Because I bet he looks crazy in the face. Not even black liberals are this obsessed over "white america is hate filled" like this man is. I know CNN isn't that far left bias as MSNBC but I think CNN is starting to become 100% liberal bias just like MSNBC. Letting this nut spew his anti-patriotic hate and name calling is seriously pathetic on CNN's part. I use to watch CNN and trusted them to be "fair and balanced" but the past 4 years especially the past year it seems CNN is totally starting to go further left of the political spectrum
Amen. Haha Jesus is nothing more than a representation of the sun's journey around the constellations. There were EIGHT Jesus like figures before Jesus. There was Horus in Egypt 3000 BC born of a virgin on Dec. 25 to a star in the east and was adored by 3 kings, then became a child teacher at 12 and then later baptized at 30, he had 12 disciples that followed him around as he performed miracles he was then betrayed and crucified, dead for three days and then resurrected. There was also Attis of Greece, Mithra of Persia and many many more, all possessing these same attributes. The reason for why they all posses these characteristics is strictly astrological. Watch Zeitgeist Christianity part 1 on youtube, not an atheist stand point just a historical and factual take on christianity.
Based on the evidence, you are a fable. You has stated many falsehoods in your reply and according to what millions have experienced God's Word is true. (I have not seen you, I have not heard you, and I did not see you type the response. This will take care of your future attempt to a truthful reply.) I have experienced God in my life. I have not experienced you. Any one can type just as well as any one who seeks will find. God has revealed Himself through the ages to His people. It is evident that you have chosen to not see. The cnn reporter is wrong. He is looking for sentences that mankind have said without researching the differences in how one might recall a passage in his/her own usable form for easy recall. But these statements to live by are cover in God's Word. You have got to want to see and for the right motive. His-Story
The New testament was not written hundreds of years after Christ. The gospel accounts were written by apostles themselves or by close associates to the apostles. ex. Luke followed Peter around and wrote the story as a biography of what happened. The gospels were written 30-70 years after Christ"s death and resurrection. The New testament is the most accurate piece of history we have to date. Paul's writings were dated within 10-30 years after his death. Everything written about Julius Ceasar or any other historical figure was written hundreds of years after their death...but not Jesus's. I encourage you to read "Can We Trust the Gospels" by Mark D. Roberts. Great read to look at both sides of the biblical argument. God Bless
unless someone has a bible from the time when the apostles lived, you can't prove when the new testament was written (in its present state)
The new testament for sure takes a lot from the writings of the apostles, but since they werent compiled into the new testament until years after the apostle's deaths, who knows how they may have been distorted due to the politics of the times. Look at how much people get misquoted in todays society, who can argue that the same situation wasn't present in the past?
everyone just beleives what their preist tells them without taking a good look at the bible and the historical context surrounding it. "matt" still thinks the snake being Satan is in the bible, after reading an article saying its not. Take some time, read it yourself matt.
ctr, you are not serious either are you? if you do not understand where the serpent and satan are related you also need to read on to the last book of the bible that brings it all together.
"And the Prophet Voltaire said "God fights on the side of the heaviest artillery" Psuedoepigraphia 2:19
(There is a numerological message in the Ch. & vrs,)
in the picture at the beginning of this article, have you noticed Adam and Eve are portrayed with navels. you can't have a navel if you wasn't born.
What's even stranger that must mean since God made man in his likeness that he too has a belly button...how is that possible....
So what are you saying? God didn't draw the picture, an artist did who assumed they should have navels.
Haha yes since this drawing shows that they have navels, that must mean that it is completely accurate and that Adam and Even weren't created from dust and that they were born just like everyone else. I am so glad we have such a drawing that gives us such an accurate depiction of Adam and Eve thousands of years ago. Oh wait...this is a recent drawing? And it isn't inspired by God and therefore cannot be trusted as an accurate depiction of Adam and Eve? Wow I don't know what to do with myself now.. :-)
This too shall pass is from the Hindu scriptures, the Upanishads. It is Krishna whispering into the ear of Arjuna on the victorious battlefield. The concept of impermanence is woven deeply into Hinduism and its successor Buddhism (and Taoism and other south and southeast Asian traditions). The impermanence of the spirit, of life, of relationship, even of victory and failure all point to the Dharma teaching that unattachment will lead to the transcendence of pain. At least the player got the application correct!
Thank you James. Ahimsa
1 Cor. 2:11: For what man knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him? So the things also that are of God no man knoweth, but the Spirit of God.
That is where "God works in mysterious (unknown) ways".
Secondly, the serpent in Genesis IS universally considered in the church to be temptation of Satan, which would make sense, because the enmity between the woman and the serpent is enmity between the Church and Satan. Did the "theologians" at your "divinity" schools miss the millenia old understanding of this?
And this idiotic Protestant canard of "protestant tradition that anyone could read the bible" has GOT to stop. Bibles were chained in the middle ages because they were transcribed by HAND. They were nearly priceless. If they were to be available for everyone (and they were, as they were NOT in the sanctuary (near the altar), but at the lectern where anyone who could read could see it,) then they had to be secured so as not to be stolen.
Once printing presses were common, Catholics published bibles more than anyone else, and there has been an indulgence granted for prayerfully reading the bible for at least the last 100 years.
If you're going to write a blog on faith, and particularly faith HISTORY, find someone who actually knows about what they speak. Unfortunately that would knock out nearly every graduate of the protestant so called "theological seminaries or schools" in America.
@Craig – "And this idiotic Protestant canard of "protestant tradition that anyone could read the bible" has GOT to stop. Bibles were chained in the middle ages because they were transcribed by HAND. They were nearly priceless. If they were to be available for everyone (and they were, as they were NOT in the sanctuary (near the altar), but at the lectern where anyone who could read could see it,) then they had to be secured so as not to be stolen."
Try doing just a little research. That way you won't look so foolish.
William Tyndale stated "I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spare me, I will one day make the boy that drives the plough in England to know more of Scripture than the Pope himself!," which is probably from the t-itle page of the work of Erasmus Greek which states that the plowman and the carpenter should know the Bible because it is addressed to them.
"The Church’s ban known as the Const-itutions of Oxford in 1408, which forbade anyone to translate, or even to read, any parts of vernacular versions of the Bible, without express Episcopal permission was the foundation of the great persecutions of many martyrs. (Tunstall, Bishop of London, in inviting More to attack Tyndale, gave him permission to read the offending books.) Many copies of the second Wycliffe Bible were in people’s homes in the early 1400s. The prohibition of the Church still stood, and now printed versions from the Greek, and Hebrew threatened to flood the country. A royal injunction of 1530 forbade buying or owning any English Bible."
"One year of city life showed William Tyndale that no mercy would be given by the clergy to any movement that would disturb their living. He saw men around him led to prison and put to death for owning, or reading, a copy of Luther’s writings. He knew well that a Bible translation would be considered a still more dangerous book." – FBInst i tute
So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. (Rev.122;9 NWT) Indicates that the serpent tempting Eve was Satan.
Craig, I'm sure glad that the Bible was allowed to be read by the masses. It was then that they began to see the many lies being told them by their priests, the Pope, etc. Can you say "indulgences?" NOTHING biblical about that...and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
this article just points out that people should read the bible before quoting it...
for example, dana swipes a passage from revalation that has NOTHING to do with Eve and the snake, and takes it to be referring to the snake. This kind of misunderstanding is what the author is speaking out against
We are currently in a series at church called "Lies my pastor has told me".. We have discussed many of the misquotes. It's been a great series because it's horrifyingly true and few question it and just pass it on as truth.
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.