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.”
And remember that the Bible itself...a compendium of ancient writings...was carefully chosen, and rewritten by the Catholic Church, before being assembled as "THE BIBLE"...To say that it represents the word of God is naive.
A - to compare any American political party to the Taliban is ridiculous hyperbole. I'm no fan of the GOP but you might as well be comparing the Democrats to Castro's communists - it's ridiculous.
B- Second, yes the Bible is a compilation of ancient writings .... and yes, the Church, or what we now refer to as the Catholic Church, compiled them and decided which were in and which were out .... those are facts .... to say that the Church re-wrote any of it is a lie ...there is NO EVIDENCE of that ... but I guess it's easy to say that if you dont like what the Bible says.
Hey, Dmocratic Taliban guy...That would be the Roman Catholic Bible. Many versions have been written after going back to the original writings.
You may want to learn your facts a littler better before you spew off stuff like that. There are versions of the original text of the bible that predate the existence of the Roman Catholic church, several of them are used to translate our bibles today, like the NIV and the NASB... You heard someone say that somewhere and are quoting it as fact without having researched it at all. If you want people to respect your opinion, at least have some facts to back it up.
@Dave , Thumbs up dude.
Proverb 13:24 "Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them"
This proverb can be said many ways but the outcome is the same. "Spare the rod, spoil the child" OR "When your child strayes from the path, do not spare the rod" OR "Beat your child with the rod lest you spoil it" OR....OR....
This article is quite crappy.
@Rui: I quite agree with your explanation. Besides, the writer of this article doesn't know any thing about the Bible and should therefore keep quiet, instead of creating unnecessary confusion and offering misleading statements.
Agreed. The author needs to read a little more.
wow. Did you read the article or did you skip around?
Read the paragraph prior to the quote, then the paragraphdirectly after.
Then reply withan apology for not reading.
In a homily a priest at my church disputed the "God helps those who helps themselves" saying (as a popular quote, not a Biblical passage). Instead, he said "God helps those who can't help themselves." that has always resonated with me, especially given the passages referenced in this article.
Wonders why scholars think they are credible to understand the bible.
This article is silly, it's not meant to correct Christians but rather paint them in a foolish light, and based on the comments from the anti Christian crowd I can see it succeeded. This anti-Christian crowd talks about how awful and judgemental Christians are, but they should take a look in the mirror.
This article didn't have to do anything to paint Christians in a "foolish light". They're perfectly capable of doing that all by themselves.
The article is not silly at all. It indicates that there is still use for religious scholars who are taught to interpret the bible accurately. Please read the article again without prejudice. And as for the comments, plenty of ignorant and annoying people on both sides of the religious argument. Ever read CNN posts before? They are typically hate filled and inaccurate. I can only hope they are not a true referendum on american values.
Well, I personally don't see this as an anti-christian report. There's plenty of ignorance abound, and it's definitely isn't regulated only to religion, even one's own religion. In response to Jason, yes atheist gravitate towards anything christian so they can claim it doesn't exist. I've never met a single one who didn't preach their message louder and more unwelcome than religious types. To me, they come off just begging for someone to please prove them wrong.
Of course we're begging for someone to prove us wrong. If nobody does then we have to accept the fact that we live in a world where the vast majority of people believe in a glorified Santa Claus. But he doesn't, and that is fact, that is ultimate truth. If I'm wrong, prove it. Since you can't, I'm moving on.
@Bill .... i could pile up anecdotal evidence but you would call it all coincidence. So, what would be the point. You have already decided the Bible is fiction ... not based on evidence but based on the fact you dont like what it says ... so its easy to believe it must be fiction. The only proof you will believe is tangible, visible, sky-opening up and seeing Jesus face-to-face proof. OK, that can and will happen. Maybe tomorrow, maybe 500 years from now. But it will happen. But it's sad that until that day comes, you'll live your life without full joy and peace in your heart. As for "A gl;orified Santa Claus???" What Bible have you read. God is not nor has He ever been a cosmic vending machine. And any person who claims God just gives them anything they want is lying. This is God's world and we are just living in it. He gives us what he wants to give us. As scripture says "I will bless who I will bless" as well as "He rains on the just and unjust alike."
In other words, there is no magic formula to get what you want from God. And He doesnt reward you for being "good." If he does bless you with wealth or provision it is because He wants and expects you to use those assets to help others. And if He gives you difficulties and trials it is because He wants you to have to lean on Him to see you through. THOSE are the pieces of evidence you truly need. The fact that in the most difficult times, God is there to give you peace and joy in your heart. Jesus said to seek first the Kingdom of God .... a relationship with God and a life of Joy, peace and love ... those are the only gifts and the only treasure that matter and THAT is EXACTLY what Jesus tried to teach people during his time on Earth. But somehow, for the past 2,000 years, people have misunderstood, what "treasure" Jesus was talking about and began to teach a false "name it and claim it" Gospel. The Gospel, the good news, is that the Creator of the Universe wants a personal relationship with you individually and that he wants you to live with you forever with Him in Heaven. And the message of how to live life on earth is peace, joy and love, to rely on God for all things. He won't give you everything you want but he will absoilutely give you what you need. And here is a hint .... YOU dont know what you need but He does. Trust Him.
To the best of my knowledge, I believe John Milton gets the credit for having first named the fruit "apple" in Paradise Lost. I thought John Blake was setting that up by explicitly saying "apple" instead of "forbidden fruit", and was a bit surprised to discover he was only falling prey to his own topic.
انزل الله عدة كتب سماوية
منها كتابكم المقدس
لكن جميعها حرفت اي تغيرت بسبب
تدخل البشر في كتابة ماليس من الله
بعد ذالك انزل القران الكريم
ناسخ لجميع الاديان
عند سماعه تشعر انه من الله
وهذا القران الكريم محفوظ من الله من تحريف البشر
Allah has sent down several books celestial
Including your Bible
But they are all distorted because of any changed
Human intervention in the writing of God Malis
Afterward the Qur'an was revealed
Burner for all religions
When you hear is that it was God
This preserved the Koran from Allah, the distortion of human beings
9:20 am eastern time. I am loading the wife and children into the mini van and headed to Sunday school and church. Praise God! Jesus loves you.
I'm wasting my time too.
About 10 years ago I was watching a show for children in which Scripture was being discussed, and the preacher hosting the show got to talking about various concepts and he quoted chapter and verse. I noted said chapter and verse, went to my copy of the King James – and the verse did not exist. I see a few folks are being rather defensive against so-called atheist postings to this blog. But it doesn't help when someone in their own house is encouraging them by not just misinterpreting the Bible, by not just remembering the Biblical equivalent of urban legend, but outright making stuff up assuming most people are too lazy or illiterate to pick up a copy of the book for themselves.
Not sure lazy is the correct word, maybe ignorance?
in the movie "Pulp Fiction" the versus he quotes before he kills a person are not found where he claims they are.
I bet you could find a quote in the bible to fit any situation or any perspective, if you tried. But why try - just make up a quote, throw in a 'thou' or a 'thine' and a 'come to pass' and you probably nailed a biblical quote pretty close anyway. Let me try ... "Thine riches will be twofold in heaven if thou giveth all thy riches to me on earth." I bet that's in there somewhere. I accept personal checks.
I like this article.
People do love to put words in the mouth of God. One of the great problems of humanity.
Imagine if we could all step back and recognize that we should just try to live a good life and stop judging the people next to us.
And then there are things that should not be in the bible:
Saving Christians from the Resurrection Myth:
From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.
From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:
"Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.
Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.
Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.
The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.
Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "
"In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.
Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty wingie talking thingies".
With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:
o An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
o "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."
o p.168. by Ted Peters:
Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "
o So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.
Mike Ditka was more likely paraphasing Ecclesiates 3:1-2 "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven, v.2 A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted." New American Standard Bible. So, what Ditka said would be paraphasing to say that there is an appointed time for everything and all things have a beginning and an end, i.e. "this too shall pass".
That's a stretch. Ditka said what he thought was the truth. No harm there.
CHRISTIAN = HYPOCRITE
Christians know nothing about their own religion, they do the opposite of what Jesus would do every day.
If you are in any way racist or bigoted you can not be a Christian, at least not one Jesus would approve of.
Christians have killed more people in the name of God than every other religion combined.
The Spanish Inquisition
The murder of the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas and the Native Americans.
So called Christians call the Koran evil, but Jesus is mentioned in it more than Mohammad and they fail to realize how evil the Old Testament is.
Ed your a nitwit
The Twenty Top Human Atrocities
Rank -Death Toll -Cause -Centuries -Religions/Groups Involved*
1 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")
2 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)
40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)
4 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)
5 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)
6 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)
7 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C
8 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)
9 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C
10 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)
11 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)
12 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians)
13 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C
14 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C
15 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C
16 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)
17 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans)
18 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)
19 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)
20 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C
*:" Is religion responsible for more more violent deaths than any other cause?
A: No, of course not – unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century – Two World Wars, Red China and the Soviet Union – no religious motivation there, unless you consider every belief system to be a religion."
Q: So, what you're saying is that religion has never killed anyone.
A: Arrgh... You all-or-nothing people drive me crazy. There are many doc-umented examples where members of one religion try to exterminate the members of another religion. Causation is always complex, but if the only difference between two warring groups is religion, then that certainly sounds like a religious conflict to me. Is it the number one cause of mass homicide in human history? No. Of the 22 worst episodes of mass killing, maybe four were primarily religious. Is that a lot? Well, it's more than the number of wars fought over soccer, or s-ex (The Trojan and Sabine Wars don't even make the list.), but less than the number fought over land, money, glory or prestige.
In my Index, I list 41 religious conflicts compared with 27 oppressions under "Communism", 24 under Colonialism, 2 under "Railroads" and 2 under "Scapegoats". Make of that what you will."
Ed: History strongly suggests you are correct.
I thought the most revered book in America was the checkbook.
Proverbs 13:24 "Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them."
Hmm, this is nothing like spare the rod spoil the child. You can probably guess the rest of this article is garbage.
Read again – you misquoted and proved him right.
Of course, you choose to cite the NIV passages, which were written about 50 years after the term "Spare the rod; spoil the child" was coined. This is precisely what the author is talking about – passages that do not really exist, but become part of the vernacular.
Actually there is nothing in the passage you quote that says I am "spoiling" my kid if I fail to physically discipline him. I believe in discipline but I will never strike my child and anyone that knows me or my son will tell you that he is very well-behaved. This one false passage is responsible for an unconscionable level of child abuse and you should be ashamed of yourself for defending it.
Beware of proof-texting: "proving" the meaning of a verse by quoting another verse in the Bible. Quotations from the Bible should be taken in their context - cultural, historical, etc. Each biblical book was written from a particular point of view by an author with unique motivations. We can't divorce the human element from the divine when it comes to the authorship of the scriptures. The Bible is the Word of God in the interaction between the faithful reader and the Holy Spirit. What happens in many cases is that people make an idol out of the Bible. The Word is Jesus Christ and the Bible points the way to Christ.
Jesus himself refers to the creature that swallowed Jonah as a whale in Mathew chapter 12 verse 40. this is in the King James Version.
LOL yup, it's right there in that version of the Word of God.
this article is blasphemous and unless the president publicly condemns you i will gather a mob and start randomly murdering people.....nah, .even if the president condemns it along with the mass majority of people i will still start randomly murdering people because you even thought about criticizing muslims....oh wait...you are trashing christians...that's fine...in that case you will probably be nominated for some awards .....
First of all if you are talking about religion I don't think you are on the right pace with GOD. GOD forbidden war. What people do recently makes Religion War all across the World. And when our Father GOD wanted to teach us about the Rules that we have to live with, was written in a rock by thunder lighting, and those Rules if you follow them, you can see the change already, don't act but do! GOD only teach the one that needs to known. And to be teach by him, you have to allow his Holy spirit makes the temple inside of you! That is when you obey not all but your possible with recognitions.
12:06 " And thuo I shall pass gas"
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.