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.”
This guy should probably read the Bible before he tells us what it says, or doesn't say.
Jesus said in Matthew 12:40 (KJV) that Jonah was in the "WHALE'S" belly. So, actually, the Bible does say Jonah was swallowed by a whale.
I'll respond the the serpent/garden of eden error later.
I wish i could get paid to write stuff that wasn't true.
I wish i could get paid to write stiff that wasn't true.
the Bible is much like the Tarot... everyone has their unique path to God.... should you choose to read the Bible and meditate upon it, the correct path will be revealed to you... semantics be damned... if it resonates, incorporate it.. if not read a text that does resonate.. God is not constricted by the cut of the editor or the pen of a prophet... take care of your own house an the rest will be provided
The Bible is nothing like the tarot.....but you're a lot like an idiot.
Satanists have taken over the catholic relgion. Satanists have corrupted the religion and taught falseness.Prime example of this is the sabbath.That day is Saturday. Sunday is for the satanists to worship the sun god or something like that.Bottom line, satan is a deciever and all those who follow will burn in hell.Fame and fortune might seem great right now, but your soul is forever, so make your choice.
I am very offended that the author believes that I cannot sit in a group of Christian believers and understand the Bible accurately because of the fact that I have not attended Seminary classes. Does that mean that we should go backward in time and only allow certain people (i.e. priests, pastors, or seminary professors) to read the Bible to us and tell us what they think it means? WOW!!!
No such book like Hesitations in the bible.
Wow. You're quick.
My favourite misquotation of the bible is the whole christian religions interpretation of it, they do not have a clue as to what it's metaphors and idioms mean, for instance nowhere are we asked to say grace before or after a meal in the scriptures, NOWHERE!....tradition always goes before truth..take the doctrine of hell for example, the whole christian world fears this eternal torture pit of fire and brimstone...and nowhere is it taught in the original greek or hebrew, the scriptures teach that God will save all; Psalm 22;27 The whole earth will acknowledge the LORD and return to Him, all the family's of the nations will bow down before Him ....John6;37 All that the father hath `given` me will come to me; and him that cometh i will in no wise cast out....John3;35 the Father loves the son and has `given` ALL THINGS into His hand....anyone who says that the bible is infallible and innerant is obviously brainwashed....the scriptures are infallible because they are inspired of God, but the translations we have today are quite misleading and carry the translators interpretational bias...FACT!
Actually it does not say God will save all. It does say every knee will bow, but how do we know for some it may be too late. Matthew 13:42, Jesus says: "And shall cast them into a FURNACE OF FIRE: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
There is healing power and salvation through celibacy. The pain, heartache and suffering associated with lust and fornication has laid ruin to the lives of untold persons. Strive to defend the moral teachings of the Bible and let your faith be an example for others through your works of mercy to those less fortunate.
We are human beings and to propogate the human race we must procreate.
S-e-x is not only a basic human and animal behavior and instinct, but it is THE most important one. All other functions are in support of this vital one. We eat, drink, sleep, live, and grow in order to eventually procreate. From the smallest of animal and plant life to the largest most complex beings (us), s-e-x is the common factor that links us all together on commonality and perpetuates our existence. Get real. See reality.
I believe most of these "phantom verses" come from people who try to quote the Bible but can't remember it word for word and so they give their own interpretation of it in their own words and it goes from there.
I agree with Julie who said "Biblical reading must be done in context as scriptures are often explained, expanded upon, and repeated in other scriptures. Fully, read the Bible. Ask God for His wisdom in helping you interpret His words." Couldn't have said it better myself...
Also just for the record the story of Jonah and the whale is most definitely in the Bible. In the book of Jonah the "whale" is only referred to as a great fish..
Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
However Jesus referred to the "great fish" as a whale or at least it was translated that way..
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Clearly, John Blake fails to understand the Holy Bible is the inerrent Word of God. No, Genesis does not mention Satan as the Serpent; however, a full reading of the Bible leads the reader to that conclusion. Biblical reading must be done in context as scriptures are often explained, expanded upon, and repeated in other scriptures. Fully, read the Bible. Ask God for His wisdom in helping you interpret His words.
My favourite misquotation of the bible is the whole christian religions interpretation of it, they do not have a clue as to what it's metaphors and idioms mean, for instance nowhere are we asked to say grace before or after a meal in the scriptures, NOWHERE!....tradition always goes before truth..take the doctrine of hell for example, the whole christian world fears this eternal torture pit of fire and brimstone...and nowhere is it taught in the original greek or hebrew, the scriptures teach that God will save all; Psalm 22;27 The whole earth will acknowledge the LORD and return to Him, all the family's of the nations will bow down before Him ....John6;37 All that the father hath `given` me will come to me; and him that cometh i will in no wise cast out....John3;35 the Father loves the son and has `given` ALL THINGS into His hand....anyone who says that the bible is infallible and innerant is obviously brainwashed....the scriptures are infallible because they are inspired of God, but the translations we have today are quite misleading and carry the translators interpretational bias...FACT!..
Are we talking about facts here? Cause God created evil to bring us humility and to lead us back to him in a world with material surroundings. Doesn't mean you can sin like a freak and get away with it. God also said that in time, he will then Destroy the evil that is amoung us, and then it's all good in the kingdom of God for those who dont give thier souls to evil. So if you hurting people, dont think a simply begging for forgiveness on your death bed is gonna save you cause it wont. It's all about how treat others your whole life and if you learn from it at all. Goodluck and peace
God did NOT create evil....He gave us "free will" therefore hell to pay.
In Isaiah 45:7 God speaks directly and says that he creates evil. The point is, this is your god's show, one way or the other. He's a total jerk for even allowing some evil to exist, even if he didn't "make" it. God created and sustains an eternal lake of fire for those who don't act like he wants them to act. That's an @.s s. hole move.
That does not even sound like the Bible. God only created the angeles and since they had free will, 1/3 of them rebelled with the most beautiful creating being, Lucifer, meaning light-bearer, morning star. There is heaven and hell on this earth, and non of the hell on this earth is brought by God's own hand. It is rebellion and selfishness that makes people take advantage and hurt one another and God will be the judge of both good and bad things, however, people here are confusing Gods mercy by allowing evil to exist. If God made a minority report judgment against humans no one would exist. God knew angeles would rebel, but he created them for companionship and allowed the wicked for the sake of the righteous.
All of you are speaking of something as if it actually exists, and NONE of you have a shred of evidence, other than: "my mommy, or sunday school teacher told me so", or "but, it gives me a good feeling". You are all full of BS, spouting off about ridiculous musings, myths, and made-up stories to patronize and appease the human psyche. You all sound like fools arguing over things that a bunch of old men copied and pasted from their history in order to control their current masses. The fact that you won't even think this through proves that you are brain washed and scared to actually seek reality. You are living in a dream world. I don't expect you to understand, you simply don't have the cognitive/emotionally ability.
One simple question to any of you who dare to answer it... What gives anyone the right/authority to tell anyone else how they should "interpret" anything? I'm not a scholar of anything, but im fairly certain I can "interpret" for myself. If I can't, why bother reading for myself? So many of you are so full of yourselves!
I don't agree some people are "full of themselves". The reason for so very many differing interpretations of what the Bible Truly says is wrong interpretation. There is ONLY ONE TRUTH, so some people must need spiritual help "seeing" the true Way.
I agree. I am a Catholic and have been told many times by well intentioned Baptists that I am not a Christian. My response is usually " God is wonderbread, He is found in most grocery stores" You can take 10 Baptists, 10 Catholics and 10 Methodists and you will get 30 versions of a paragraph in the Bible. I say dont judge my eternity, judge my behavior :)
Just wanted to mention that while Genesis does not link the Devil as the serpent (or the devil using the serpent as a "puppet" so to speak)...Revelation 12:9 refers to Satan as the "original serpent". An obvious referral to the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
The problem of people accepting these phantom verses does come from people sitting in living rooms asking "what does this text mean to you." The problem comes from people not willing to actually read the Bible.
All Christians are screwed up in the head, no exceptions whatsoever.
Well, if being screwed up in the head is the reason for my contentment and serenity, I say I am happy to be screwed up in the head. I was a lot more intolerent before I was bit in the rear by the Holy Spirit. Now I can love everyone as Jesus loves me, with all of my faults. But to each his own
Cindy came with all the silly isseus Y and / or your parents embarrassed sein.Shhhhhuuuunnnnnn.Brennen you in hell the devil, who teach the very first thing, fear keeps them in line like nothing else. Threat to the fifth year from the burning of the world to try them directly.
In Islam, when one quote a verse from the Qurán, the verse no & chapter has to be quoted as well. And usually learnt Islamic scholar will also quote the original verse in Arabic. As such there is no room for error. Even in quoting hadith (narration of the words or reported actions of the prophet Mohammad pbuh), one has to quote the original narrator. In the books of hadith a single hadith would have list of narrators, up to the original person who had appeared in front of the prophet. Refer to the link for introduction of sceince of hadith. http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Hadith/Ulum/
no one asked about how to quote the quran, therefore it's safe to assume that no one cares
Providing reference to the actual verse would certainly help accuracy. In any religion.
And let's get over the religious prejudice.
My favorite one is when people say, Money is the root of all evil. The Bible NEVER says that. What it says is that the LOVE of money is the root of all KINDS of evil.
I always equated "...the one who withholds the rod is one who hates his son," to the carrot and the stick analogy.
If you love your child, you will hold a reward in his sight for him to excel.
It worked with me.
It's not child abuse, it's just a bad idea, and he should be sein.Kinder litgtimaee need to decide what they want to believe, and not their parents force them to believe how much nonsense.
I think these parents shluod be their child a religious theories unterrichten.Ich also think that parents need their children right from wrong teaching. Not everybody does it, however. They teach their children to steal, lie, etc. I have students tell me they get into trouble at home if they did not steal anything. *** *** Sad but true I'm 26 years lehrte.Keine school teaches students, we are apes.
My favorite verse is. "And on the 8th day was the doo doo thus created. And I tasted the doo doo and it was good."
I think that this article misrepresents religious misquotes. While some points are valid, others such as "spare the rod spoil the child are not." While this is a misquote is more a summation of the text or paraphrase. The article only includes the first part of Proverbs 13:24: “The one who withholds [or spares] the rod is one who hates his son.” the rest of it continues " but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." . One must also consider Proverbs 22:15 "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." Both of these verse suggest that.
And also Proverbs 23: 13 and 14 "Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." From these verses the phrase "spare the rod spoil the child" may easily be gathered. While it may not be a quote it is scriptural. This article was not fair in representing what is actually in the scripture.
As far as the Ditka comment "this too shall pass." . One can argue that it too while not being a quote is a summation of Isaiah 40:8 " The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. Meaning that all things shall pass away but the word of God. Thus "this too shall pass" is a true statement in the eyes of the scripture.
Good job Keith. This article is just another way the media is and does mislead the public concerning the bible and the Christian Faith.
If the words of the Bible are the inerrant word of God isn't it wrong to change the words to make it say what you want? Are your words better than God's? If you don't believe it to be the Word of God then maybe the quote is someone else's idea and not a valid representation of what the Lord intends. Either of these makes it wrong to incorrectly quote the Book.
Thank you! It's called: Revelation or Illumination so that we can perform these scriptures with accuracy in application! Thank you, again. I despise misquotes though, when one says "the Bible says..." when the Bible doesn't...but what you said is something I agree with
I agree with Keith that most of the samples the author provides as misquotes don't really count. Since it is all translated to English, no one is "quoting" word for word. The author makes a valid point that the KJV is not the only English language bible anymore, but fails to point and (and seems to fail to understand) that "spare the rod, spoil the child" and “The one who withholds the rod is one who hates his son.” likely to be close enough to the original language, be it Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic. As an aside, I think the alleged existence of Satan in the Garden of Eden aids Christians in pulling the wool of over folks eyes creating a need for a mesiah to protect us from our sins. As I understand it there is a somewhat of a divergence from the God of the first testament to the God of the second. The early Christians had to separate themselves from the Jews somehow. But I stray from my point that the first book doesn't talk too much about Hell, Satan (as in the Devil and lord of Hell), and forgiveness of sin. I'm sure that Jews could find a lot of things Christians got wrong about the bible. But then most people of faith I've encountered are so retarded about faith it makes me chuckle. People of protestant denominations often don't seem to regard Catholics and Mormons as christians. To be fair I'd guess Mormons don't really know either, but seriously...?
But it was Gandolf who said "YOU! SHALL NOT! PASS!"
In the book of Revelation there is severe accountability for those who add or take away from the text of the Bible.
(Revelation 22:18-19) 18 “I am bearing witness to everyone that hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone makes an addition to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this scroll; 19 and if anyone takes anything away from the words of the scroll of this prophecy, God will take his portion away from the trees of life and out of the holy city, things which are written about in this scroll.
Therefore, when quoting from the Bible, be sure it is in fact from the Bible and not your own definition or opinion.
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.