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.”
The Bible is not historical literature. It is chalk full of non admissible chronological events. More of a collective of Greek and African stories than anything. These stories were retold by a Jewish writer intending on getting the Jewish tribe on its feet, hoping to ready the Jewish tribe to fight their Aryan enemy of the North.
So said the true guru of the Old Testament. Joseph Campbell was the authority. He understood the Christian faith and the Old Testament and accepted it for what it is. It is a myth. That means it didn't happen folks. The stories of Egyptian myth were retreaded and put in the Old Testament. The names of the people and locations was changed of course.
There was no Moses in history. But that whole story was great fiction about an Egyptian god. Horus. Scholars call it the exposed child motif. It was very popular throughout ancient literature.
The Roman pagans could not destroy Christianity although they destroyed the churches and all the Christian literature. No old religious material exists about Christianity. People hundreds of years after the formation of Christianity put together stories that they heard while they were drunk at camp fires. The Roman pagan ruler collected a sample of these stories which is now the New Testament. Myth, wild stories and interesting reading. Few Christians read the Bible. The leaders in the Vatican aren't even true believers of its contents and as you may know Catholics do not study the Bible like some Christian faiths.
Wow, that is very insightful. Its amazing how you even know about the campfires and drunken story telling that went on almost 2000 years ago. That scholar of yours is a true genius.
The only problem is that even non-religious scholars know this is a complete fabrication and has no relationship with the actual compilation of the Old or New Testament.
Spare the Rod, spoil the child actually is in the Bible. Proverbs 13:24 is the reference. "He who spares the rod hates his son" The change to spoil the child was probably meant to make it an 's' word so that it rhymed better. Nonetheless the principle is there.
Duh, those don't "rhyme" – it's an alliteration. And, "hates his son" and "spoils the child" certainly don't mean the same thing!
"what makes a sad man happy and a happy man sad... this too shall pass" is a Sufi poem said by a "famous monarch". Over time, this has been attributed to King Solomon, which is why many think it is in the Bible.
You bought a book based on my reivew? Why, woman, why? Destiny Disrupted is excellent. Something for you to read while fighting those labor pains (you're pregnant again, I see)
hmmm just three things ok well in no lpctiruaar order i love:Fireworks! Nothing says summer to me like sitting on a LI beach and watching the night light up with a fireworks display-classic summer!Dressing my little girl in summer clothes! I love to dress her in ruffle diaper covers, sweet sundresses and little hairbows!The smell of tanning lotion-I love the sweet coconut smell of tanning lotions reminds me of all my summers on Robert Moses!I could go on but you said just three, can you tell I LOVE summer!
While there are plenty of people who have no understanding of the Bible or its content I think this article is lacking because it mistakes what Religious Studies scholars call High Religion, the religion of the Elite, ie Priesthood, and scholars, with the low Religion of the common people. Should it really surprise anyone that new concepts and ideas have been incorporated into the everyday faith of people and if this ideas are assign the religious authority of being "Biblical" by people who know of no other Religious authority but the Bible it really should not be an issue unless of course you think there is no truth or religion outside the Bible. As for correcting the mistaken attribution of non Biblical verses to the Bible, well we could start teach Bible as literature in schools, though I doubt give the apparent lack of long term memory in our society that this would prevent non-Biblical ideas being credited with Biblical authority.
If you want a "Low religion" as you put it, then don't justify it with scripture. I think the term then is "Philosophy" but without the intellectual and logical rigor with which real philosophy is associated. It's great when people expand their minds beyond "The Priesthood" but stupid is still stupid.
More errors on the part of the CNN writer
“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."
Eve was indeed tempted
"1 ¶ Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"
Also The Bible is clear that Satan tempts
"Lu 4:2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered."
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.
Another OOPS! for CNN
2Th 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
Why be an atheist? GOD said, A fool said in his heart,there is no GOD!!! My friend,Please dont be an atheist, It really makes you look silly. Look at nature, and how things work in Harmony. Turn over a maple leaf and look how perfect the lines are!! God is real and Loves you!!
With your lack of basic thinking skills I hope you are only a child with the hope of getting educated.
JT, such a positive comment. You don't know Steve or his intelligence level, in fact, You don't know squat about faith therefore shouldn't comment about it.
Sorry Steve, I do look at nature at a molecular level for the past 20 years or so. You will have to look elsewhere for your evidence of god.
cmdvimes, so what is the molecular composition of nature since you have looked at it for the past 20 years?
Aaaa,the bible,that happy little tome that inspired such frivolities such as the burning of arians,catholics,protestents,'withches' infidels,and spurred forth the crusades,the inquisition,pat robertson and other blights upon us all. When was it that purgatory 'officially' stopped exsisting,was it the council of Nicea?
please quote a scripture in the new testament (christain texts) where violence is promoted. please, just one
for people like JON that he said if you are none believer, why than read this article is exactly is the problem with religious people, they don't read anything else that is opposite their opinion, but this is how we learn. if i read only what i believe i will stay ignorant.
about that god word will stay for ever, is another issue that shows ignorance, we know very we choose in bible what we want to believe but what will stay for ever is human or natural law that bible took from old civilization like Mesopotamia for example old testament of creation, will stay in next 100 of years because they are religious they are human and natural law.
In the Name and shed Blood of JESUS CHRIST, be silent satan.
The learn aramaic and greek. Otherwise, you are a phony who claims love but cannot take the trouble to learn the gospels in their original language. What kind of faith is that? You are endlessly open to temptation if you literally don't know what was written.
Ignorance of Holy Scripture isn't limited to Christians. The phrase "Islam is a peaceful religion" is often quoted by those who either do not know it or have a hidden agenda.
Allah supposedly justifies destroying towns, villages & cities
verse (17:16) reads:“ And when We decide to destroy a town, We send a definite order to those among them who are given the good things of this life. Then, they transgress therein, and thus the word is justified against it. Then We destroy
it with complete destruction”.
Murder of unbelievers is justified......
[2.191] "And KILL them wherever you find them........if they do fight you, then SLAY THEM; such is the recompense of the UNBELIEVERS."
Posted on katw0man: Your posts cerakcd me up! Here's whatcha do with ugly-as-sin soap:*Label it as such and pretend you MEANT it to be like that! Like Ugly as Sin Soap: Because the World Can Get Really Dirty! or something like that* Cut it up and let it become one with the liquid hand soap in your bathroom, a little at a time* Cut it up and sew it inside little green washcloth bags that can be hung and dried between usesHeather: This also looks a lot like miso dip. A takeoff on Notagirlymom's great idea would be to make some washcloths that look like rice cakes. ;-)Sharon CBL?s last blog post..
America, if YOU let them, Religious Fanatics will DESTROY our country, and Fanatic Religious People (of ALL faiths) are one of the PRIMARY reasons the world is in a perpetual state of Wars/Strife, because they want everyone to abide by THEIR religious beliefs. ALL Christians (like me) are NOT Religious Fanatics, but here are the Top 7 Signs that YOU are a FANATIC, DOGMATIC, HYPOCRITAL Christian Religious Fanatic.
7 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours. You blindly follow your religious leaders (i.e. Preachers, Priests, Imans, etc.), as if they were God, never questioning their statements or actions, and You are INCAPABLE of thinking, actions, and using sound logic, reason, and intelligence to arrive at a conclusion, WITHOUT INJECTING YOUR religion into an issue.
6 – You would be screaming from the rooftops in OPPOSITION if Muslim Koran Sharia Law (or another religion different from your own) was imposed upon everyone and YOU were denied Equal Rights if you did NOT abide by Muslim Law, but you think it is OK to impose Christian Bible Laws on everyone and deny OTHERS Equal Rights if they do NOT abide by Christian Bible Law. You say the Bible is the ‘Holy Word Of God’ and should be followed for verses and interpretations that support your PERSONAL position on a subject, but IGNORE the Bible when passages do not support your positions.
5 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt. You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God. You also laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
4- Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don`t even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
3. You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old. You believe that the entire population (and rival religions) of this planet, with the exception of those who share/follow your beliefs, will spend Eternity in a Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
2 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to
convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity. You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" and evidence that prayers work, and you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
1. You actually know a lot less than many Atheists and Agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.
this is a message board, people ussually dont read walls of text
especially if your caps key is stuck
There is only one sign for a religious bigot, but you have published seven of them.
WOW...you go on and on....what is destroying America is greed. Nothing more.
TL;DR Wait, who's the fanatic here? BTW, none of your blathering is going to change people's mind but if it makes you feel better, have at it.
Hear, hear! There's only one problem with your statement, however. Trying to reason with religious people is like trying to reason with a tree. They're brainwashed. They're in need of a mental crutch. They're immobile. They're weak-minded. They're scared of their own shadow.
Spot on. Now the question is, how do we reduce the level of religious fanatacism in the world?
I had no problem with taking the time to read it. After all, it's pretty well thought out and on the mark.
MATT, 12, 40, FOR AS JONAS WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE WHALE'S BELLY, SO SHALL THE SON OF MAN BE THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS IN THE HEART OF THE EARTH. KJ version
I believe if Jesus said it, then it is true!
The KJ version is different than the NIV because Matt 12:40 says, "for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
Also, the wise men did visit Jesus, read Mathew 2:7-11 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
Proverbs 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
The King James translation is still the most scholarly and the most accurate. It was translated from the Greek and the Hebrew by people who thought it sinful to change a single word while translating, far better than the modern translations that were made to make money.
Except they did change words. King James insisted the word CHURCH be used instead of the phrase that appears "Those called out to worship" to solidify his position as head of the church and the Anglican Church insisted on the anglicized word "Baptism" instead of the accurate translation "Immerse" because it contradicted the Anglican Church practice of sprinkling.
...and they were translating from copies of the original manuscripts, which were themselves often translations. Words were definitely changed. It's inherent in the process of translation.
While the Word of God may not "mention" Satan's name in Genesis chapter 3, a talking snake tempting a human being must bring to mind something other worldly. Also, apple is not mentioned either, but that didn't stop you from using it in your piece. Later in the chapter when God speaks to Adam, Eve and the serpent, he tells the serpent that the seed of the woman would crush his head. People who read and understand the Word of God know that God is actually speaking to Satan.
Yes, there have been people who misquote, mislead, and outright lie on the Word of God, but there are just as many if not more, who love and live by the Word.
And I am not weak minded, but highly educated! I am an African American woman who votes, pays taxes, did not have children out of wedlock, did not go on welfare, but believes every Word found in the inerrant Word of God. He is not some invisible man upstairs, He is the Living and True God He is my LORD and SAVIOR and I love HIM. I do not subscribe to the thought that because my people were enslaved and our history stolen from us, that I am living "the white man's faith" what rubbish.
For those of you who have no idea who God is, perhaps taking an objective look at Him would change your minds!
good article to spark some religious debate- or, as I like to call it, idiots arguing with other idiots
Time to turn the Page on this lunacy...I heard last week a former presidential candidate say that god has established the borders of Israel and that no man has the right to alter! Great recipe for theocracy a-la Iran.
In speaking to Israel God said
Ge 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
I had to look up something after reading this. I was confused again. It reads there are two trees in the center of the garden. 1 – The Tree of Life, 2 – The tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil. Which one seems more pleasent to eat from?
They were 2 separate stories. One was the Northern version the other the Southern. If you took an OT class you would know that. So much for the knowledge of an atheist.
The majority of the people posting here dont understand the bible or the christian religion. The bible is made up the old testament and the new testament. God had a covenant with the people of the old testament (jewish Law). Jesus destroyed the temple and the jewish law and made a new covenant with man. a covenant with all men, jew and non-jew.
The old testament cant be tossed out though.
2 timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
Just like history, you can learn from it.
So we like splitting hairs over Hebrew to Greek to English translations do we Cnn. Be sure of one thing Gods word will impart the knowledge we seek in any language from generation to generation. People may misquote many books they read but I can assure you if they have read Gods word in will be understood rationaly or the persons will intentionaly misquote the bibile to futher there own agenda.
My conversation ended with you when you cussed and called me a "liar".
I will return the back the bottom part of your comment back to YOU "The disconnect between your brain and reality is vast.." hateful, and filthy- I have to add. Since your actions itself prove it.
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.