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.”
Dean and other "non-believers"
Its strange how troops who are athiest or have otherwise no religious affiliations recite "Our Father Who Art in Heaven..." when mortar rounds start landing nearby. Is it coincidental that ethnicity has no bearing to the Judeo-Christian recitation during this period of the defecation hitting the oscillation? Hmmm...
Are you guys so naive to believe these are not in the bible? One google search followed by a scripture lookup in any bible will prove this idiot wrong on most accounts.
God helps those who help themselves is not in there. (it actually contradicts the bible)
Jer 17:5 (NIV) This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD."
Prov 28:26 (NIV) He who trusts in himself is a fool...
EXAMPLE that he is a moron and doesnt know the bible from the devils butthole
New International Version (NIV)
24 Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.
There are MANY interpretations of the scripture in many bibles. The exact phrase IS there. Some of them such as the above are only worded SLIGHTLY and uneventfully different.
Dont be sheep. DO the research yourself.
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, The Moon Gods
Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power. (1) Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Night of Power is! (2) The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. (3) The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees. (4) (The night is) Peace until the rising of the dawn. (5)And We allow them to running naked around their idol the black basalt stone and they are scream "Eureka"..i found it..i found it..and Lo! yet they don't understand what they had found. It was stupidity. Lo! Lo! Lo!
pertaining to no whale for Jonah..matt 12:40 Jesus clearly states as Jonah was in the belly of a WHALE...
Look it up in a Greek New Testament. Since the writers of scriputre had no knowledge of whales they certainly had no word for whale so what is translated as whale certainly means something else.
I think this article is a form of deception. At a time when radical groups are trying to discount biblical teaching, and calling the bible a story book, I feel that these people are trying to influence people in a state of confusion. I agree with the first comment that this article is a waste of time and has some faclicy to some of its statements.
I challenge any one that who want a relationship wtih Christ to read, pray and follow the teachings of the Bible and not people like the writers of this article.
Our pastor takes the time to correct misuses of the bible, and I agree with this story.
What is it to contest? If you question it, then find those sayings in scripture.
typical brainwashed idiot. Atheists are not radical groups, they are just logical people because science has already proven that the bible is hogwash. The earth is billions of years old and the bible says that it is 6000 years old. Do the math. Do you really believe there was a talking snake in the tree with adam and eve? fyi snakes do not talk my friend. wake up and stop living in a delusional fantasy world.
I challenge you to prove that god and jesus are real. Until you establish that, all you have is a lousy fairy tale.
All the events in this world are pointing to the Glorious Coming of our Lord and Savious Jesus Christ!. These events are mentioned clearly in the Bible. My appeal to all of you who have not believed yet is that you accept the free gift of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. All you have to do is acknowledge that you are a sinner, that God sent his only son Jesus into this world to die for our sins, that Jesus died for your sins on the cross of calvary, was buried, and rose again to ascend into heaven seated on the right hand of the father interceeding for us. His coming is very near and this time he will come in all his glory!...what a Blesssed Day that will be!.
I pray for all those who have not been saved everyday. This is the age of Grace, Jesus is knocking on the door, let him in.
What is interesting to me is that the day the diciples set out to preach the "Gospel" to the world, there was no Bible. There was no New Testament either. The day after that there was no Bible or New Testament either, and so on and so on. Maybe Jesus sent them out early so they wouldn"t have the problem on saying things that were not in the Bible. Does anyone have any integrity anymore? I am not trying to be arrogant here, but isn't this worthy of a little consideration?
This article was such a waste of time, and the "scholars" consulted were all from liberal persuasions (not surprising with CNN). Examples of wasted time – 1) nobody that I know of mistakes those "proverbs" for biblical passages, just as words of wisdom encapsulating biblical principles. 2) Stating that Jonah could have been swallowed by a whale or any other large fish, the Scriptures do not specify, but to state at the front of the article "Jonah was never swallowed by a whale" without the qualifying statement that comes later on in the article is just garbage shock value, and not very helpful.
Worse, however, is their take on the temptation of Eve. Their conclusions come from a number of liberal assumptions that ignore biblical context and other points. Clearly, Gen. 3 portrays a continuity of being located in the garden of Eden, and has no significant break with that until they are actually thrown out following the curse. Not only that, but the trees were located in the garden.... Also, his view of the serpent not being Satan is a modernist reduction of the Scriptures, which excludes continuity, divine authoriship, etc, etc. He assumes that Satan was read back into the story years later, when all of Scripture paints Satan as the adversary of mankind and the tempter who *hint hint* also tempted the Second Adam (Jesus Christ) to question the Father and get cast out of regaining what was lost for mankind in the garden (eternal life with God).
I've had five years of seminary, read Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, and despise the crappy scholarship that liberals (including their seminary profs) regularly produce. These articles lead less educated folk astray, and are less than helpful for anyone else.
This is SPAM, not worth watching this junk, click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLLS.
“This, too, shall pass.” So what what is in the Bible is as made up as anything else – it should be included.
THIS GUYS HAS NO IDEIA WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT!! FLASE TEACHER!!! HERESY!!!!! DONT LISEN TO THIS LOAD OF CRAP BECAUCE THATS WHAT IT IS
Aww...is someone blowing on your house of cards?
Thats why we read http://www.faithfreedom.org/
148 pages of comments? wow... that's a lot of people concerned with myth.
You say it is a myth so prove it.
THERE IS NO GOD! and you can't prove it!
Jose the proof for God is all around us. Do some research on modern science, even secular science. Almost all secular scientists who do not believe in God and claim to be atheist agree that the universe has to have some sort of intelligent designer behind it. Everything is too "fine-tuned" that by just chance alone the possibility of everything in the universe coming together just right for there to be an advanced life on our planet (humans) would be completely unrealistic (something around 10 to the 450 power...which is 10 followed by 450 zeros!" They are trying to come up with other explanations for this, such as the possibility of the existence of an infinite amount of other universes in existence. But this doesn't change the fact that something had to design that in the first place for it to work the way that it does.
Did you know that we are one of the only planets in the entire universe that has the capability to be able to see the stars? We are located in a darker part of the Milky Way and the elements are just right all around Earth for us to be able to view the heavens. Is that merely a coincidence? That out of the billions of planets that we are living on one of the only places where we can see all of God's creation! It is pretty amazing.
Don't let you ignorance or lack of understanding stand in the way of you believing in the God whose proof of existence is all around us. Jesus died for you on the cross and he wants you to believe in him and for you to live you life honoring him so that you can spend eternity in heaven. I pray that you realize this someday and that I will be rejoicing with you in heaven when the time comes. Blessings brother.
Exactly Jose... and Drew is on drugs.
Drew: (1) Not one of the literally thousands of professional scientists I know believe in Intelligent Design. That is some serious weed you are smoking there. (2) Why should God care whether we believe in him or not? Why should that be a criteria for heaven? That doesn't make any sense. If God and life after death exist, then wouldn't it all be a matter eventuality from his perspective? Why create millions of people who do not find belief in something only to then cast them to eternal damnation. This is the plan of your "loving God"? Sounds like a little boy with a magnifying glass on ants, to me.
Kudos to Jose.
Drew, even if any of that mumbo jumbo actually proved that there is some sort of Intelligent Design, it doesn't point to a specific one. It could be the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster (PBUH) or Zeus for all we know.
Bob...either you are making that up or you are hanging out with some very questionable scientists. And the fact that you know thousands of them probably makes you the most popular man on the earth to actually know that many people personally enough to make such a statement for them. And even some of the big name atheistic scientists have admitted that there has to be some sort of intelligent designer behind the universe. That is why theories such as the multiverse theory, the string theory, and the theory that we are living in a "matrix" like world have gotten a lot of attention in the past 5 years in the science world. Before you make statements about what you think you may know about science, which you probably learned from reading a book or two or looking up a few internet articles or blogs, you may want to consider how foolish you are being with how naive and bias you have become.
And to the other "on drugs" comments. Everything I stated is backed up my years and years of scientific study. If you get brainwashed by people such as Richard Dawkins (Thank you to Jen for helping prove this point for me), then it will be impossible for you to see that.
And Jen, the reason that we can have assurance that it is the God of the Bible is that out of all of the "holy books" the Bible is the only one that has even come close to accurately describing the universe. Now you may hear some very bad interpretations of what the Bible has to say about creationism and astronomy, but as a student of astronomy I can tell you with great certainty (which I know means nothing to you) that they go hand in hand.
"Well, it could come about in the following way, it could be that at some earlier time somewhere in the universe a civilization... [came] to a very very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now that is a possibility, an intriguing possibility, and I suppose it's possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry and molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer. And that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe." -Richard Dawkins
Drew, you need to be intelligent to understand the laws of physics but physics is not intelligent.
Not sure what that had to do with anything. That is probably something your heard once and thought was clever so you posted it on here hoping that it was relevant enough to get some laughs. I think you missed the mark a little bit :-)
Sorry that was rude and I shouldn't have said it like that. Sometimes when getting on discussion boards like this it just causes me to become bitter, which isn't a good thing! I could have misinterpreted what you said entirely, so I apologize. Blessings to all of you. I just hope that you all can some day see truth in all of this.
how about reading the rest of the scripture.
Drew Meyer is so brainwashed it is not even funny but it is kinda funny at the same time. Hey drew, don't you think that other religions think that your religion is insane just like you think that theirs is insane too? the point being the the possibility of your god existing is just as implausible as the possibility of any other god existing. Try thinking outside the box for once instead of thinking how your family and church taught you to think. Can you name one person who wrote anything in the bible without googling it? I doubt it and you hold so much value in what it says. Most christians cannot name anyone who wrote anything in the bible and they take every word as gold. Seems to me that in order to establish any credibility whatsoever you should probably know the source of information. Simple minded sheep.
John Blake... you need to research your article a bit closer..Especially about Satan and the serpent and Eve.. the one about sparing the rod and spoiling the child prob is a combination of Proverbs 22:15 and Proverbs 29:21.. The one about Satan and Eve was addressed in one comment.. don't know if you read all 8,000 some comments so I'll repeat.. Revelation 12:9 and 2 Corinthians 11:3...Bible ignorance is the fault of the "ruler of this world" 1 John 5:19. And the ones that are supposed to be teaching it..2 Corinthians 11:14&15. 1 Timothy 4: 1-3... 2 Timothy 4:3-5. 2 Timothy 3:5.. Hopefully in a future article you will clarify the errors..
Not everyone's bible contain Revelation and Corinthians, but the Christian Bible, Jewish Tenach (Old Testament for you), and Islamic Quran all contain the basic story of Genesis, sans Satan. He was added retroactively in only one holy book, therefore I think it's safe to say that there is no Satan in the story of creation.
Actually the Quran is very clear about Satan and he's prominent in the story of creation. However, there are key differences; he is not a fallen angel as many Christians claim
There is only 1 true God. That is the Lord Jesus Christ. If you read other bibles you may not hear of satan, or in fact no promises of salvation. Jesus said he was "The truth, the way and the life no one comes unto the father except by me." I choose to believe in Jesus because his tomb is empty.
Much ado about nothing
Here's something else that's not in the bible... The Christian idea of a virgin birth is derived from the verse in Isaiah 7:14 describing an "alma" as giving birth. The word "alma" has always meant a young woman, but Christian theologians came centuries later and translated it as "virgin."
Biblical verses can only be understood by studying the original Hebrew text—which reveals many discrepancies in the Christian translation.
I am inclined to disagree. The Christian idea of a virgin birth comes from the Gospels, particularly Matthew 1:23 and Luke 1:27. Also, depending upon what you mean by centuries later, it is important to note that the rather early Apostle's Creed(300's or 400's, or earlier) mentions the virgin birth of Christ. see also http://www.gotquestions.org/virgin-or-young-woman.html concerning the use of alma in Isaiah.
The Original Hebrew only applies to the Old Testament. For the new Testament one would need to know Greek and Aramaic.
Jews before Jesus was born did believe the Isaiah passage referred to a virgin. We know this because the Septugiant – a Greek translation of the Old Testament from 3 to 1st century BC translates it as virgin. Also common sense says a virgin with child could be viewed as a great sign while a young woman with a child is a normal occurrence.
You have no proof what they meant. Jesus was born from a virgin, I can believe that. Science can even make test tube babies so if you think being a virgin and having a baby is impossible please grow a brain.
lol Cowper's hymn, 'Light Shining Out of Darkness', was a18th century hymn (first published in 1779), NOT 19th century.
Satan is the serpent. Not because I think, but because the Bible says so. Rev 12:9 The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
see, thats a logical fallacy. That quotation says that Satan is A serpent, not THE serpent, or ALL serpents, nor does it say "Satan was THE serpent who originally appeared in the Garden of Eden." Cerebrus was a dog. Is my dog Cerebrus? Somehow I doubt it. My first clue was the lack of two additional heads. I'm observant that way. Now you try!
you said dragon? DRAGON?! last time i checked, dragons were mythical creatures o.o
Yep, Rev 12:9 And Rev 20:2 both refer to : "The dragon, the original serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, ....." in my Bible. This also shows the connection between the Hebrew Scriptures (some say Old Testament) and the Greek Scriptures (or New Testament).....So Eve was deceived by Satan at Genesis 3:4,5. Consequently see Genesis 3:14,15 for even better explaination of why Rev 12:9 and Rev 20:2 happened to Satan. It all connects.
There are dragons in Komodo
All those pithy quotes which the author describes are essentially distillations of biblical quotes and biblical teachings, worked into a few easily remembered words. Much easier to learn than Hebrew, Aramaic, or Latin verses. Really, a total non-issue.
Although the guy who thought "this dog won't hunt" was biblical brought a good laugh from me.
Even if most christians did make the effort to read the bible, which they don't, hardly any of them would understand a word of it. That is why I get irritated when they act like they are offended by any statement that remotely doubts or questions their beliefs. If you are not educated to make an intelligent argument in favor of what you believe in then don't act like you are offended. You don't know what you are offended about.
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.