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.”
All this article is trying to say is that some individuals fail to actually read the Holy Book yet still paraphrase and wrongly quote verses to fit a specific event or situation they are going through. It is not blasting any form of any monotheistic religion; it's not blasting Christians or the Bible. It is simply stating that people need to read and actually quote correctly. This would definitely be a hard difficult thing to do, given the various versions of the Bible that are available. Regardless, the individual still needs to do some research of what their version of the Bible says and not regurgate what someone else said or what they heard at their church's sermon. Just read and educate yourself and quit taking this as an attack on the Bible or Christianity.
You need to read before you open your big mouth. That is what the writter trying to say... i do agree with that.
You don't even know what that is.
You'll agree with anything to
be objective and not be branded a liar.
Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.
A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.
Atheists are attracted to articles on religion like moths to a flame. The 3% of the population that are atheists, are always trying to convince themselves that their belief in nothing has substance. If they were so confident in their beliefs, they wouldn't need to convince others to believe them.
Actually, in Europe, something like half the population are agnostics or atheists. In the U.S., probably around 20 to 30 percent. Remember, an agnostic is not an atheist. They just (correctly) admit that we realistically just don't know whether 'god' existed, or exists currently. Agnostics are probably the most grounded, humble, and realistic humans on the face of the Earth.
No disrespect, but tell that to the Jehovah Witnesses that are my doorstep almost every weekend. The same thing goes for... non-atheist. Please, try again.
It's a lot more then that they don't do enough polls.
There is no God.
Agnostics just simply are afraid to take a stand. There is ample proof from the wondrous beginning of the universe and all of the finely tuned parameters that make life possible to believe in a logos. Modern science has confirmed from 20 – 300(depending on how many branches of science/scientists themselves) finely tuned constants and initial conditions that keep the universe as a place to harbor life. People do not want to search and find God. The overarching goal of the bible is to have faith – even Abraham was saved due to his faith and his search for the one true God. Without God, people are free to live any way they see fit (as the human heart wants) and so they look for any method to get out of being accountable to their own very soul. You are a soul and you have a body – remember that.
Umm... hey Moron... by your own definition, then all Christians must not be very positive in their faith because all they do is try to convert others to their faith. Must be a herding instinct in humans. Wonder if God was a pack animal, too because after all, we are made in it's image and he is prideful and jealous (also horrible human characteristics)!
"If they were so confident in their beliefs, they wouldn't need to convince others to believe them." LOL! Funniest thing I've heard all morning. How about the millions of missionaries that just NEED to get out there and spread the word of god. It's just.... Funny.
Soooo...atheists believe in nothing, and try to convince others of their beliefs? Have I got that right?
"Agnostics are probably the most grounded, humble, and realistic humans on the face of the Earth."
Pride comes before the fall......
You mean, just like the believers are trying to convince everyone, everyday of their convictions?
Also, by definition, atheists and agnostics don't believe in anything.
"If they were so confident in their beliefs, they wouldn't need to convince others to believe them."
I find this part of your quote incredibly ironic.
No, agnostics question faith. They neither deny nor affirm.
"Agnostics are probably the most grounded, humble, and realistic humans on the face of the Earth."
Oh, this is SPECTACULAR!!
Spewing inaccuracies and outright lies does not help your smug, self rightious belief system. Athesim is simply the lack of a belief in a deity, nothing more. Agnostics are atheists too since they also lack this belief but they realize they won't be demonized as badly if they use that term.
Most athesits I know can also be labeled agnostics since they don't make the statement that there is no god. Of course we are also agnostic in the belief in fairies, unicorns, leprachans and invisible teapots revolving around the moon.
I'm surprised Wells didn't know the origin of, "This too shall pass." It's from Buddhism.
Yes, and the expression "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", i.e. the Golden Rule, is from Kong Qiu, better known as Confucius. He lived a half century before Jesus, half a world away.
Why do you claim that they, (people) put passages in the bible just so you can claim that you know they don't belong there?
I have never heard anyone say any of those above passages came from the Bible , except you. Sounding like a correct all for lies to make people of religion look like liars....
What is your real goal , with all of these claims? The only thing I can see in this article, is that you want to discredit , religion, christians, The Holy Bible, and our belief system with your self centered alligations. Another useless attack on religion.
Where were you born...?
God and Democracy
I didn't take it that way at all. In fact, I was very surprised and thankful that, of all places, CNN, an article about God and His Word. It has given us all here an opportunity to talk about this subject with the world.
It´s kinda satisfying that so many atheist do go to the blog, it can only mean that we are growing in numbers and eventually intelliect will win over blind worship.
Amen to atheists.....by the way its E before I Jason.
What is there to win?
The more you read the bible, the less sense it makes as an actual narrative. Try Genisis 6:1-4 "When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, 'My Spirit will not contend with a man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.'”
Not exactly a story told in Sunday school, huh? The bible does have many great morals and teachings, but must be taken with a grain of salt, and not adhered to, well, religiously.
If you have a deeper understanding about what is being explained in that text, the daughters of men were Cains' offspring (those who didn't follow GOD) and Seth’s children are referred to as sons of GOD (and called his name Seth: For God, said she, has appointed me another child instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. Gen 4:25) Hope that helps, blessings to all.
You need to understand who were the "Sons of God" to better understand this scripture. Also, this scripture is talked about often whenever preaching about the story of Noah. Furthermore, the scripture talks about the result of living for yourself and not living the way God desires.
"spare the rod spoil the child" is misunderstood. The rod, in this case, is not meant to hit the child, or be used for corporal punishment. The bible referes to the rod of the shepherd which is used to lead the flock. The bible, or whoever crafted this phrase, was calling upon people to lead there children in a righteous manner, not to beat them! How ironic that this is totally confused and turned upside down.
...interesting interpretation and a more loving one than those they spew about punishment. I like it
Not true! Proverbs 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
"Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die." – Proverbs 23:13
The words 'strike' and 'beat' have a fine but definite line between them.
Matthew 12:40 states that Jonas was in the belly of the whale for 3 days and 3 nights.
the Greek word translated whale, in the New Testament, does not of necessity mean a whale, but may denote a large fish or sea-monster of any kind.
Another thing not mentioned:
The wise men weren't part of the "Nativity Scene". Matthew 2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
I agree with the Apple not being in the story of Genesis.
Here are some scriptures that support some of the concepts of the "misquotes"
2 Thes 3:10 ... that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
Psalm 30:5 ...weeping may endure for a night, but joy [cometh] in the morning.
Isaiah 55:9 For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Matthew 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 three nights in the heart of the earth.
Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left [to himself] bringeth his mother to shame.
As for Satan being in the garden of Eden that
Gen 3:1 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?
Revelation 20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
Ezekiel 28:12-15 compares king of Tyrus with Lucifer.
"And he seized the dragon, that ancient SERPENT, who is the DEVIL and SATAN, and bound him for a thousand years" Revelation 20:2.
Which was written well over 500 years after the book of Genesis
A serpent is another word for a dragon - this does not mean ONLY a snake = serpent. Maybe we should look for a dragon in the Garden too.
I just stopped in to see the can of worms CNN opened up :)
One of the oldest debates in history. Religion.
This reminds me of a cartoon called Moral Orel. In the cartoon the boy would receive lessons from Moses "lost commandments".
On Sunday Morning – What else we expect from CNN – Another anti Christian report. when will this end Lord?
How is this "anti-Crhristian"?
What is anti-Christian about this article. Every Protestant minister in America is telling his flock to read the Bible so as to understand its teachings. This author is saying the same thing.
Do you defend people who mis-quote the Bible? I have been quoting Moses all my life, "Spare the rod and spoil the child." Only today did I learn that I was wrong. I am always grateful to anyone who shows me that I am wrong. Otherwise, I might remain wrong for the rest of my life.
Christians should actually throw out the Bible and start over with a new one. The current Bible was assembled at Constantine's order centuries after Jesus died. It is filled with books of doubtful content. The Old Testament is complete nonsense and has no relationship to Christianity at all.
If the truth hurts, then so be it, but it's not anti-Christian to advise those who claim to be Christian to actually read the book they consider the cornerstone of their religion. I find it sad that many so called Christians have very little knowledge of what's actually in the Bible, and prefer to just wing it, instead of actually READING it.
I'd like to know how this would be considered anti-christian. It is stating misquotes...common ones. Unless you frequently use those quotes, I don't understand the insult (which should be more an embarrassment than insult) ...minus a massive victim mentality.
Everyone makes mistakes...to think differently would be...well...anti-christian.
Ah, yes, the bible. A nice piece of fiction that is taken way to seriously. It does have some value as a rule and guide in social behavior, but most of it is way overrated. The "old testament" for instance was written in about 5000 bc for the temple in Jerusalem. The purpose was to entice people to obediently pay their taxes to the temple. The "new testament" is a collation of pieces found here and there, most of it not even written by the alleged authors. To view upon it as the foundation for a religion is kind of iffy at best.
Enjoy the lake of fire.
And where is your proof for that? For instance, the books of Kings and Chronicles were ongoing histories written as things happened by the kings personal historians and scribes. (for a cross reference look up the book of Daniel where king Nebuchednezzer was reading the history of his own reign so he could fall asleep). Did you also know that there are literally thousands of ancient texts from different regions of Europe and Egypt that date within just a hundred years of the original writings. There is more proof for the Bible than there are for Plato and Aristotles writings. Get your facts straight or show proof that it was written solely for tax gains.
Actually the Bible never says 'apple' in Genesis either, it says 'fruit'. See Genesis Chapter 3.
Ummm... yeah it was Tree of Knowelege not Tree of Life.
I see that! An article about misquoting the BIble, does so themselves.
That's because just as in the Bible all of it doesn't exist. All you who believe in the Bible have all been fooled!
ah at last, someone to point out things others haven't! how thoughtful, thanks so much! *gag*
My personal favorite is that the older versions of the bible didn't use the word "virgin" to describe the mother of the savior. It was a translation error from one language to another that got written into the Jesus story long after he died. But once that got in there, Jesus' mother became the "virgin" Mary and that concept sure got entrenched in Christianity! So much so, that the catholics decided to declare that Mary herself had an "immaculate conception." Sheesh.
But it did say she did not know a man. I'm pretty sure it refers to knowing a man in the biblical sense. Pun intended.
False. The word for "virgin" and "young woman of marriageable age" (alma) is the same in Hebrew - but the Jews understood the Isaiah prophecy as the "virgin" meaning. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses "virgin" in that context.
Miraculous births are a big part of Jewish religious belief. It makes complete sense why it would a virgin birth wouldn't be included in that.
The "immaculate conception" does not, as many people think, refer to Jesus' birth, but rather to Mary's. She was (according to the theory) the only human being who was conceive and born free of the taint of original sin.
** "It makes complete sense why a virgin birth wouldn be included in that."
I can't type.
Immaculate conception means that Mary was born without original sin, unlike the rest of us.
ifonlyuknewme on June 24, 2011 i am glad u all made this my life has been a sggltrue i have attempted suicide a few times i got help and feel like there is hope it gets better i swear !!
The word "Rapture" does not appear in the Bible either. Someone should tell that to Harold Camping, failed doomsday predictor.
In 1 Thessalonians 4 the the term "caught up" is used and it is translated from the Greek "Raptuzo" which is where we get the English Word Rapture.
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.