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.”
It's evolution in action – Darwin's Cathedral written by David Sloan Wilson is a great book on this very topic.
“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.” – the reason for the many translations is because it has no foothold in reality. Unlike science, where we can independently and co-dependently check our facts and examine the evidence – nobody can speak to an invisible myth. The bible was written several thousand years ago by primitive men. Such a shame that people still hold onto this belief – it is a waste of a thing evolved most wonderful, the human mind. We can do better than this people. There are more moral alternatives than this barbaric myth that has brought us nothing more than greed, wars, and ignorance. Of course there has been love, cooperation, and sacrifice all in the name of the bible, but I would argue that those are human qualities that evolved. We should stop holding civilization back on the collar and chain of religion. It is more moral and compassionate to our fellow beings to accept reality and stop accepting a myth called Jesus into your heart. The human spirit can do much better than this – we have the power of our minds to explore space, to achieve peace, and to reach a new age in the development of human civilization. At the same time – people mix science with technology. I'm talking about a much more holistic science, like ecology. I am the primary author for the ecology wikipedia page – if you want a place to start to learn how the world actually works instead of living off these bloody archaic myths.
Science is actually very limited. Most things we think about-where we came from, what is the meaning of life, what is moral and immoral cannot be examined by the scientific method (for example, a scientist cannot witness the creation of the universe, it is an unrepeatable past event). And science was born from religion. The monotheists assumed that God made a orderly universe that can be examined by human intelligence, which was foolishness in the east and why the west and not the east is the birthplace of modern science. Also, science makes a lot of assumptions, like the assumptions of uniformitarianism, in order to make its conclusions. Having seen how much faith naturalism based on science involves, I have come to prefer Jesus, who answers my longings as well as draws me into a faith that gives me a consistent world view.
While I enjoy science, I implore you not to take it beyond its limitations. It can sometimes tell you how but never why. That belongs to God.
Proverbs 13:24, we find:
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
I don't know how anyone could even call the Bible a book. There's another best seller written about the same time, except it wasn't done by madmen with "tiger blood". They're both translated from ancient greek, and they both have sequels. One is taught to just about every college student studying english, and the other is the bible.
I must be slow. What is the name of this other book? Sounds interesting.
do tell us ..what is this book?
But I really like the idea that everyone should read the Bible – you'd be ignorant not to. Like not reading Shakespeare. And it is so easy to check so-called Bible quotes on-line at BibleGateway.com. We should all do that. It's a little harder to check when people say "the Bible never says anything about xyz," because it often does say something but not in the way you expect. Thus it is good to just read the Bible.
Why would anyone read the bible just to read it? By the same token one should read the Jewish and Muslim book as they believe in the same god. It is arrogance to claim those that would not read this book are ignorant. I suggest you read The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin. The ideas of Gandhi or Lord Gautama. If you choose not to I might consider you narrow or opinionated but I would never be so arrogant as to consider you ignorant.
I like how you imply similarity is the same as equality.
Yeah, you read it Michael. I'm sure that you'll come away SHOCKED that we have built a religion on this.
While you're at it, read the many spiritual writings that came BEFORE it. Anyone that does and still calls her/him/self a 'Christian' .....well get back to me. I have more for you to consider. Much more.
Need a list? (Times have changed)
Agreed!! It would help to take Bible classes, exegesis, hermaneutics, and Church History,
Judgmental, mean spirited, vengeful. These are the traits christians express towards atheists. Just read the comments here to see it for yourself.
I am so sick of seeing people judge Christians. It is ironic that the people claiming they do not want to be judged for being an atheist, ect. is actually doing the same thing. Just because other 'so called Christians' act a certain way does NOT mean that all Christians are that way. People sterotype Christians as these holy rollers that are out to condemn and judge the world goody-to shoes, and make us look like crazy people. My faith is not a 'religion' it is a way of life...a relationship with Jesus. It makes other followers of Christ sick too when people judge and act crazy to a non believer! Proverbs 13:24 says, "Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them."-NLT. There are many translations of the bible, but they all mean the same thing! So this article is most likely written by someone that has no clue about the bible or its different translations.
Certainly not true. I read and listen to ALL points of view and base my opinions on a wide variety of research. Just because I don't agree with you doesn't mean I'm vengeful, spiteful, or mean-spirited. It seems you may be.
@tf You may not be, but there are those who love nothing better than to lump all Christians into a big heap and judge them blindly without ever meeting them. They would not appreciate the same treatment I am sure.
Some so-called Christians are mean and vengeful. Just because you sit in church doesn't mean you are a Christian. To be a Christian you have a true loving relationship with Jesus. You just cannot act like a Christian. Your heart has to be true.
The verses concerned with judgment are at times misunderstand. Even Jesus knew the woman was probably a harlot when she was brought before Him to judge, but he was not there to judge and He stated He would not judge her. But he did say to her not to sin any more. Judgement was not his purpose in His God incarnation. He was there to serve man because of mans inability to propitiate for his sin with God the Father. So Jesus was there as a living sacrifice and as a servant. It is when he returns- he will judge!!
You can't be serious...YOu don't see more than an equal share of hatefulness directed at Christians by atheists?..It is fun to stereotype and fuel our hatred, but harder to recognize the negative aspects of the human condition are equal opportunity and unavoidable no matter who you hang out with.
If you are pointing out that Christians can be sinful, I fully agree! We all have a sin nature and are tempted. I wish we Christians never sinned and that people that don't actually love him claim to follow him. But that's why we all need grace from God. No man is good enough for God, and what you have posts attests to this fact.
All religions along with their Bibles, Korans and Talmuds are no longer relevant since "he who is almost like a god, Obama" got elected. The second coming has come so wake up and smell the coffee.
Get a grip or stop posting.
“Where are the Christians and why aren’t they addressing this issue?” The answer is simple- Jesus said, “Cast not your pearls before swine,” and there are a number of “swine” on this board. Nevertheless, for the sake of those who are seeking truth, this article is just another one of CNN’s attempts to sling mud at Christianity. They had a field day with the Koran burner and the false dooms day prophet, and now this. They should get their facts straight about Scripture and consult someone who truly knows the Bible before publishing something as fact. They have mingled truth with lies which is what Satan does. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice.” He also said that those who belong to God hear the words of God. You need not man to teach you. Prayer and Scripture is the number one resource. The Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35) "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)
and what is that truth? that jesus is god! well he never said it
I admire your passion. Could you point out where the author of the article is lying to us, please?
so which parts of the article are incorrect? i see you quoted your own verses...but being able to quote something correctly does not prove that people canNOT quote something incorrectly, which was the point of the article. i'm not sure this is even slinging mud at a religion since it's either true or not true. i suppose if it violate some dogma like 'nothing can be misinterpreted in the bible because god said so' then...ok it might be contradicting something that people believe in... but still..the article's assertion is either true or not true.
Finally someone who speaks the truth.
We are all gonna die deal with it!!!
you will either die in eternity or live in eternity..but you will not be destroyed ..you will be aware where you are...either with God or separated from God...
Brilliant! What's really truth telling is when you ask most christians, who was King James? I've heard everything from the King of Jerusaleum to0 one of the apostles. Most Christians cannot name all the apostles. Oh Dear!
The state of of knowing God's word by Christians is abysmal, but not knowing God is worse. Depending too much on your own understanding can be a killer especially when you don't know everything.
Death for eternity is hell...life in eternity in the Glory of God would be my choice..
We are Carbon Copies of the Reflections of Reality, Self Respect for others and VICE VERSA: It's a Doctrine Of Sacrosy.
I look at judeo-christian islamic believers as the world's most violent book club. And amusingly, like most book clubs, the majority never read the entire book.
Ask any muslim child, you will find many of them memorizing some chapters of it. Google fthe number of people who memorizes the whole koran (almost 600 pages), you will find tens of thousands.
During the month of RAMDAN (the fasting month) most of muslims read it completely at least once.
Sorry atheistic communists have the worst record...they just keep it quiet so u can make ignorant comments you just made..Christians have not hidden history as to what they did...and they did plenty because of their flawed state of sinful man.
Bear up, my child, bear up; Zeus who oversees and directs all things is still mighty in heaven. -Sophocles
For know that no one is free, except Zeus. -Aeschylus
It is not possible either to trick or escape the mind of Zeus. -Hesiod
Open your mouth and shut your eyes and see what Zeus will send you. -Aristophanes
Accepting death is hard I get it, it is tough to comprehend that people die but believing in stories about floating spirit clouds is not the way to go about it. We need to move on past this ancient belief in gods goddesses deities jinn demons angels witches and harry potter. Come on people 20`1. Time to outgrow these childish religions. Our planet looks like it is inhabited by a species of morons. Lets try and cosmic the heck up here.
:shrug: what does it matter if it makes people happy? Anyway, it's not like we don't find plenty of other idiotic things or ideologies to fight over, anyway.
"Have you ever read this thing? You're not even suppose to go to the bathroom." – Reverend Lovejoy.
"I did everything the Bible says; even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff! What more could I do?" – Ned Flanders
Actually, it appears as if it is badly infested by a very destructive type of hairless ape...
:shrug: what does it matter if it makes people happy?
What if it makes other people unhappy by trying to impose it's ideas on the rest of society. You know, like hating gays, women and owning slaves?
lots of words are not in the bible because you all took them out right?
And thus your failing, for religion is a perception of reality, one man's understanding or translation of the word of God is another man's spear.
What? Is that another phantom quote?
Get a grip.You are so 1950's.
Year 1950 (MCML) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. It is also the index year, or year 0, that scientists use for before present figures.
Actually, Ezekiel 28:2-19 shows that Satan/Lucifer WAS in Eden. He is addressed as The Prince of Tyrus, and as The King of Tyrus, in these passages, because he possessed that King. He is also addressed here as: "the annointed Cherub", and as he who was perfect full of wisdom, etc. "Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God;..." verse 13 says.
Oh thank GOD. Lucifer was in Eden. You all had me worried there for a minute.
Actually, your King of Tyre is NOT the cherub, he is ACCOMPANIED by one. Second, the use of the word "Eden" comes as an interpretive translation of the Hebrew word "odn", which turned it into a proper name. That's how we got "Eden", but biblical scholars now understand the word to be more along the lines of "luxury". Seriously, Google it. I think this kind of situation is exactly what the author of this article was going for.
LOL @ RickisReal
You need to read the Sumerian/Akkadian/Babylonian writings recently uncovered and translated since 1974. The Bible writings are simply a 12th generation version of that information. Re-copied and redacted.
Get a grip.
utterly insulting to even a mediocre Biblical scholar
The article or the phantom quotes from the bible?
lol what a joke ....
Who cares? It's all made up anyway.
Haha, just kidding. It IS important because you people can still vote and therefore make laws to repress anyone you don't like, gays, blacks and thinking people like myself. Although if I was in charge of things you wouldn't be able to. Vote, I mean.
JWH018, please remember that Christians, like other people, are on all sides of an argument or issue. For instance, many anti – slave abolitionists were Christians. Many that fought with and against the Nazis were Christians. Nothing is as simple as you'd like, I'm sorry to be the one that has to break this to you.
What you don't seem to understand is that NONE of those people, except for a very few, are actually going to be "representing" you in government. And if they are making decisions based upon their religion, the results will be malfeasance, for the whole population is neither his/her particular religion, nor does the population consist of ONLY religious believers.
And what do these people end up doing anyway? The same ole crap? No, our gov't keeps changing for the worse.
The choices for a legislator or such are either: Do your job ethically or not.
Religion does not engender ethics. Religion is a form of pseudo-ethical delusionary tactic where the believer absolves themself of all accountability and pretends it all devolves upon their deity of choice, leading to unethical behavior as a matter of course, as lack of accountability is a strong incentive for doing unethical things.
@JH1978 – Right...the thinking, loving, guy who wants to deny people the right to vote because he disagrees with them. Well, thank God we have things like "laws" which prevent your ego from exercising it's tyranny on the rest of us.
Blacks are Christians are they not? So that was a misguided comment..And far as gays ..your comment is misinformed....you have not read the bible so you make comments anyway about something you do not know anything about. Maybe you should know something before you make more ignorant comments.
All the more this affirms my belief that they more a person knows what's in the bible, they less likely they are to believe it is divinely inspired.
That's the opposite of my experience, actually. When I became a follower I though for sure that Christanity was just another worldview that would fail me as I try to poke holes in it, but my experience has been the opposite. Over the last 9 years my view of scripture has been strengthened! Pray to God, read the Bible with a open, yet critical, mind and when you come across something, go to people who argue both sides of it. It might just change your life. Also, we have a culture that reveres science without examining it limitations and assumptions so approach it with an open, yet critical mind as well. God bless!
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