By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – NFL legend Mike Ditka was giving a news conference one day after being fired as the coach of the Chicago Bears when he decided to quote the Bible.
“Scripture tells you that all things shall pass,” a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to only five wins during the previous season. “This, too, shall pass.”
Ditka fumbled his biblical citation, though. The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Ditka was quoting a phantom scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it’s not there.
Ditka’s biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers. The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it’s also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches - all types of people - quote passages that actually have no place in the Bible, religious scholars say.
These phantom passages include:
“God helps those who help themselves.”
“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
And there is this often-cited paraphrase: Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden.
None of those passages appear in the Bible, and one is actually anti-biblical, scholars say.
But people rarely challenge them because biblical ignorance is so pervasive that it even reaches groups of people who should know better, says Steve Bouma-Prediger, a religion professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
“In my college religion classes, I sometimes quote 2 Hesitations 4:3 (‘There are no internal combustion engines in heaven’),” Bouma-Prediger says. “I wait to see if anyone realizes that there is no such book in the Bible and therefore no such verse.
“Only a few catch on.”
Few catch on because they don’t want to - people prefer knowing biblical passages that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, a Bible professor says.
“Most people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the book,” says Rabbi Rami Shapiro, who once had to persuade a student in his Bible class at Middle Tennessee State University that the saying “this dog won’t hunt” doesn’t appear in the Book of Proverbs.
“They have memorized parts of texts that they can string together to prove the biblical basis for whatever it is they believe in,” he says, “but they ignore the vast majority of the text."
Phantom biblical passages work in mysterious ways
Ignorance isn’t the only cause for phantom Bible verses. Confusion is another.
Some of the most popular faux verses are pithy paraphrases of biblical concepts or bits of folk wisdom.
Consider these two:
“God works in mysterious ways.”
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
Both sound as if they are taken from the Bible, but they’re not. The first is a paraphrase of a 19th century hymn by the English poet William Cowper (“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform).
The “cleanliness” passage was coined by John Wesley, the 18th century evangelist who founded Methodism, says Thomas Kidd, a history professor at Baylor University in Texas.
“No matter if John Wesley or someone else came up with a wise saying - if it sounds proverbish, people figure it must come from the Bible,” Kidd says.
Our fondness for the short and tweet-worthy may also explain our fondness for phantom biblical phrases. The pseudo-verses function like theological tweets: They’re pithy summarizations of biblical concepts.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child” falls into that category. It’s a popular verse - and painful for many kids. Could some enterprising kid avoid the rod by pointing out to his mother that it's not in the Bible?
It’s doubtful. Her possible retort: The popular saying is a distillation of Proverbs 13:24: “The one who withholds [or spares] the rod is one who hates his son.”
Another saying that sounds Bible-worthy: “Pride goes before a fall.” But its approximation, Proverbs 16:18, is actually written: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
There are some phantom biblical verses for which no excuse can be offered. The speaker goofed.
That’s what Bruce Wells, a theology professor, thinks happened to Ditka, the former NFL coach, when he strayed from the gridiron to biblical commentary during his 1993 press conference in Chicago.
Wells watched Ditka’s biblical blunder on local television when he lived in Chicago. After Ditka cited the mysterious passage, reporters scrambled unsuccessfully the next day to find the biblical source.
They should have consulted Wells, who is now director of the ancient studies program at Saint Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania. Wells says Ditka’s error probably came from a peculiar feature of the King James Bible.
“My hunch on the Ditka quote is that it comes from a quirk of the King James translation,” Wells says. “Ancient Hebrew had a particular way of saying things like, ‘and the next thing that happened was…’ The King James translators of the Old Testament consistently rendered this as ‘and it came to pass.’ ’’
When phantom Bible passages turn dangerous
People may get verses wrong, but they also mangle plenty of well-known biblical stories as well.
Two examples: The scripture never says a whale swallowed Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, nor did any New Testament passages say that three wise men visited baby Jesus, scholars say.
Those details may seem minor, but scholars say one popular phantom Bible story stands above the rest: The Genesis story about the fall of humanity.
Most people know the popular version - Satan in the guise of a serpent tempts Eve to pick the forbidden apple from the Tree of Life. It’s been downhill ever since.
But the story in the book of Genesis never places Satan in the Garden of Eden.
“Genesis mentions nothing but a serpent,” says Kevin Dunn, chair of the department of religion at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
“Not only does the text not mention Satan, the very idea of Satan as a devilish tempter postdates the composition of the Garden of Eden story by at least 500 years,” Dunn says.
Getting biblical scriptures and stories wrong may not seem significant, but it can become dangerous, one scholar says.
Most people have heard this one: “God helps those that help themselves.” It’s another phantom scripture that appears nowhere in the Bible, but many people think it does. It's actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the nation's founding fathers.
The passage is popular in part because it is a reflection of cherished American values: individual liberty and self-reliance, says Sidnie White Crawford, a religious studies scholar at the University of Nebraska.
Yet that passage contradicts the biblical definition of goodness: defining one’s worth by what one does for others, like the poor and the outcast, Crawford says.
Crawford cites a scripture from Leviticus that tells people that when they harvest the land, they should leave some “for the poor and the alien” (Leviticus 19:9-10), and another passage from Deuteronomy that declares that people should not be “tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor.”
“We often infect the Bible with our own values and morals, not asking what the Bible’s values and morals really are,” Crawford says.
Where do these phantom passages come from?
It’s easy to blame the spread of phantom biblical passages on pervasive biblical illiteracy. But the causes are varied and go back centuries.
Some of the guilty parties are anonymous, lost to history. They are artists and storytellers who over the years embellished biblical stories and passages with their own twists.
If, say, you were an anonymous artist painting the Garden of Eden during the Renaissance, why not portray the serpent as the devil to give some punch to your creation? And if you’re a preacher telling a story about Jonah, doesn’t it just sound better to say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, not a “great fish”?
Others blame the spread of phantom Bible passages on King James, or more specifically the declining popularity of the King James translation of the Bible.
That translation, which marks 400 years of existence this year, had a near monopoly on the Bible market as recently as 50 years ago, says Douglas Jacobsen, a professor of church history and theology at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.
“If you quoted the Bible and got it wrong then, people were more likely to notice because there was only one text,” he says. “Today, so many different translations are used that almost no one can tell for sure if something supposedly from the Bible is being quoted accurately or not.”
Others blame the spread of phantom biblical verses on Martin Luther, the German monk who ignited the Protestant Reformation, the massive “protest” against the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church that led to the formation of Protestant church denominations.
“It is a great Protestant tradition for anyone - milkmaid, cobbler, or innkeeper - to be able to pick up the Bible and read for herself. No need for a highly trained scholar or cleric to walk a lay person through the text,” says Craig Hazen, director of the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University in Southern California.
But often the milkmaid, the cobbler - and the NFL coach - start creating biblical passages without the guidance of biblical experts, he says.
“You can see this manifest today in living room Bible studies across North America where lovely Christian people, with no training whatsoever, drink decaf, eat brownies and ask each other, ‘What does this text mean to you?’’’ Hazen says.
“Not only do they get the interpretation wrong, but very often end up quoting verses that really aren’t there.”
The truth about organized religion. I hope you gleam a small bit of useful information as I have. What games religion is playing in America and the world today? We live in a country where we can choose for ourselves how much or little Religion we want in our lives, but the followers of most religions just don’t understand the word no. Not in my life not in my schools not in my government, NO, is the choice I have made for me and my family, the following reasons are part of the problem as I see it.
First: religion is in no way real. The word religion or god is nothing more than an expression or product of human fear and weaknesses or imagination. The Bible/Koran, a collection of ancient myths and stories borrowed from many different cultures over thousands of centuries. Followers of Christianity, Islam, and others want to make decisions for us based on there interpretation of myths and stories from ages past that have change from teller to teller until were left with what we see today.
These groups are working hard and spending millions trying to influence our politician to pass laws based on their interpretation of these myths. Trying to convert the USA into a religious state. The only way this will end if things continue as they are is one group will out spend another and gain control in instant we could be living in the United Sates of Islam, sounds kinda funny but there are at the moment 2 sects with the money it will take to make the leap and crush the Wall of Separation. The Wall of Separation is supposed to protect us from all religions infringement upon our schools teachings of science to find real truth and knowledge. Not try and recruit our kids with fairytales or with some aged dogma from an era long dead, our children deserve better.
Second: Organized Religions have overstepped their boundaries on many occasions. It divides us as a people to choose ignorance over logic, to forsake the future for a ruthless past. Religion started with early mans rites and ceremonies to honor nature, it grew into Charlemagne outright murder of the innocent in the name of Christianity, to jets crashing into towers killing thousands in the name of Islam. The time of burning witches, belief in a flat earth, the murdering of doctors, and crimes against women and children or the followers of gods many other immoral and vile acts against humanity as a whole can no longer and should no longer be tolerated, no matter what religious book or god they believe demands it, religious leaders must be held to account for the acts of its followers.
Third: Coerced observance is the main method these groups use. Worship me or you will be tortured in a pit of fire for all eternity or, murdered outright. Fear mongering, tyranny, Remember the Dark Ages religions rule in that dark, distant past did not serve our ancestors well. Many of these groups place supernatural abilities on some of their members, kinda like the early versions of super heroes, born of a virgin nice trick or walk on water, hmm or cure the blind and sick shamans come to mind, super strength Hercules so many more. Throughout history you will find many who have claimed special abilities or feats. From every religious group again more fairytales entertainment for people who had very little else to do and lots of free time for the mind to wonder. No interpretation no matter how subtle can change the fact that their holy books are nothing more than a collection stories meant to entertain or teach something to the children or control people of that era nothing more.
Fourth: We put our trust in our elected officials to maintain the wall of separation, to prevent religions ever reaching grasp from tainting the consideration of new laws! This country was not founded on the rule of any ones religion, but more the lack of religious influence in the governing of this country. But time and again you hear religious overtones spouting out of our leaders, and wannabe leaders, the wall is crumbling.
If anyone of good conscience should agree with what I have said join together, so we can bring this country the very world we live on into the 21st century free of these groups and revel in all the promise this century has to offer so our children's children's children can look back in pride and say they did this for us and our posterity. This is after all a very small world and a grate leaping point into the vast unknown. I so hope more minds are opened and see beyond the centuries of engrained dogma. I just hope we have not destroyed it all by that time.
yeah sorry i didnt even make it past the first paragraph . if you want someone to read your post maybe it shouldn't be made so long .
BTW the church never really said the earth was flat- but everything else you said was spot-on. Bravo!
And just as my wife's grandfather (a claimed atheist) did right before he passed on, you will too, he was terrified of dying and couldn't bear the thought of everything coming to an end at the time of death and nothing after that. In his final moments he sought out God as I bet you will too.
It's kind of interesting to think that humans are so arrogant to think WE stand above all, WE know everything and are ignorant to nothing.
WHEN WILL ATHIEST'S AND PEOPLE OF THE BOOK REALIZE THAT THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD AND THAT ISLAM IS THE ONLY TRUE RELIGION LEFT WITH THE ORIGINAL ONE BOOK FROM GOD NOT WRITTEN BY ANY MAN AND PLENTY OF PROOF IN THE BOOK TO SUPPORT IT– SEE FOR YOUR SELF– DO A GOOGLE SEARCH AND READ FOR YOURSELF THERE HAS BEEN ALOT OF INNOVATIONS IN MANY RELEIGIONS AND ISLAM IS LEFT AS THE ONLY TRUE AUTHENTIC FAITH CONFIRMING THAT WHICH CAME BEFORE IT.. PEOPLE NEED TO GO BACK TO THE ONE LORD OF THE UNIVERSE THE GOD OF ADAM, ABRAHAM, MOSES , JESUS , NOAH, MUHAMMAD ETC, PEACE AND BLESSINGS BE ON THEM ALL. ISLAM IS THE NUMBER ONE CONVERTED TO RELIGION BECAUSE PEOPLE FOUND THE REAL TRUE FAITH. THE MESSENGERS CAME AS A WARNING AND IT IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL TO HEED THAT WARNING. STOP FOLLOWING MISCONCEPTIONS YOU SEE ON THE NEWS AND SEE FOR YOURSELF YOUR HEART WILL RECOGNIZE IT
The bible is just a bunch of anecdotal stories, anyway. Words of men, not gods or a god. What difference does it make if it is misquoted? It is only a tool used to control the masses.
And the alternative would be chaos, who would determine a base line for moral behavior? Hitler? the Volshevechs, kadhafi? Ted bundy, charles manson? The bible may not be perfect to some but it does have a pretty good base.
It's funny you mention Hitler, because the US modeled a lot of the "moral" laws here in the US directly after legislation Hitler wrote. Take the Gun Control Act of 1964. Very large parts of it were translated directly from German.
He who presumes chaos from order is blind to the future.
You act like if we didn't have the bible people would just be killing, stealing, rioting.. Give me a break, we're a civilized society and we don't need a 2000 year old, mistranslated, misquoted, totally irrelevant book of man-made stories to keep us in line in this day and age.
are you trying to say morality came into existence only after 1 AD? that morality solely and wholly depends only on the bible? that without the bible people would be characterless? that people who don't follow the bible are immoral?
Mark.....you infer that chaos leads to nothing but evil men. That in effect would discount chaos. The outcome of chaos is not predictable by definition. Quit perpetuating such rubbish.... The outcome of human total existence is based in chaos...Rule is born from chaos.
I love how in the article that he points out that the story of Jonah is misrepresented as a whale instead of a "great fish" as if that makes the story any less ridiculous.
I'm an atheist, so fortunately, I just see the bible as a clever story written on fancy paper.
I have an older son that claims to be atheist. He has no clue. Neither do you.
Sure am glad I'm not your kid. He must be embarrassed to have such an ignorant dad. Luckily it didn't seem to effect his logic/reason in the long run. Good for him.
An honest Atheist would have to proof that there is no God. To do so would require absolute knowledge. If you are the embodiment of knowlege, then you would be that which you deny: a god yourself.
The burden of proof is on you dumba$$. You have to prove the existence of God. We don't just assume everything exists until disproven that would be absolutely retarded. Of course I wouldn't expect you to understand that.
It's not even very clever. Most of it is plagiarized.
Actually we don't have the burden of proof since we're not making the claim that something exists. You can't prove that something doesn't exist you can only prove that something does exist, so until you can prove god does exist we don't have to do anything. It's the same with invisible unicorns, can you prove they don't exists?
The presence of a quote in the bible has no relevance to its being true. We could have the same discussion about quotes from "Harry Potter," or "Hustler Magazine," It would amount to the same thing.
Did you see what happened to the wizards wand in the sunday paper ?
Not to mention that your two examples have way better credentials (as to who wrote what when and what did they mean) than the piece of bad fiction known of as the bible.
In the same way, the fact that the Bible is often misquoted does not automatically mean it is not true.
No amount of reason or logic will ever convince you hard core believers. When you've poured your whole existence into a false reality it's hard to accept anything else.
Thank you Lainey0828. You explained it perfectly. These so called bible quotes mentioned in this article are paraphrases taken from books in within the Bible. We have many versions of "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth" and everyone's book is not the same.
Something about bible phrases? LOL, if you want hits you got it. Controversy sells. More hits equal more advertising potential. That's how some snot nose twenty something year old geek sitting around a dorm room can write some program for an idiotic social networking site that is free to join, yet he'll get paid millions or billions for it. And Zuckerberg isn't the only one to pull off such a joke of a feat. He and other like him will never know what it means to have to truly work for a living.
The financial industry was deregulated, BOOM, incomes for people associated with it rocketed to the moon at the expense of everyone else. The advertising industry was deregulated, BOOM, the incomes of the people and businesses in that field rocketed to the moon. The public is smothered in ads and commercials, brainwashing runs rampant, false advertising, which used to be illegal, is now the norm with the way the truth is stretched and bent to sell, sell, sell. All those wonderful celebrities and sports hero's that are getting those idiotic contracts for using their face for a product are getting paid by passing cost's on to the consumers. Every time a person clicks on a website or story they're giving that site value, a hit, the advertisers, data miners and so forth eat it up left and right.
For all the wonders and greatness of the internet, the negatives are quickly overshadowing them. No privacy, even if you don't participate in the give your whole life story social network sites. ID theft running rampant. Ridiculous wealth being made on idiotic sites due to fad behavior, "This is the new, latest and greatest thing." "If you're not participating in it you might as well be living under a rock." Lemmings to the sea!
The best thing that could happen would be if the sun would release a gigantic EMP, like scientist are speculating could happen, that would wipe out all our electronic gadgetry bull crap, totally shutting down the web.
That EMP you mention , I dont think you have to wait that long .
In the last 7 plagues in the revelation , that would be the 4th plague , it will do much more than just that .
The 4th plague will burn the earth and everything on it .
I cant say how long from now that this will happen .
But just looking around , I CAN say that the 6th seal is about to happen , which will finish with the first polarshift .
Blessed are those who die , for they will not see the horrors to come .
Blessed are those who survive , for they will witness Gods work .
Luke 21:33 heaven and earth will pass away. But my words will never pass away.
I think heaven and earth are everything
hmmm... First you say a couple aren't in the bible and then you tell us where to find a very close interpretation of it. The spare the rod one in fact. I always just thought that was an excuse like most of the other sayings to justify yourself when someone questions you. I also guess this means that I was lied to in bible school when we were not only taught that there were three wise men. We actually did a play on it. As well as the Jonah being swallowed by a whale. It was required study and teaching. So glad I grew up and realized there really is no god. I'm a much better man for it too.
Let him know he doesn't exist when your standing before him, as he has told mankind that every knee will bow and proclaim him to be God.
nah... he never said that. Some guy that made all this up did. And made quite a living off it too. Fleecing both young and old. Especially the old.
The bible says that god he a mean ole nasty and he gonna whup your ass with a tornado or beat you with cancer. Just because you there. Every human need a good beating now an then. Bible says.
wow ! these bible people sound like some of the most evil people in the world.
Most people don't realize what the Bible is. It is not history but an actual record of furture events that happen over but who is smart enought to understand that? Only myself... And NO ONE ELSE apparently.... So sad.....
Very few people actually read their 'holy' texts. If they would just once, perhaps they could avoid a life of irrationality and the world might be a better place.
In so many words,Proverbs 23:13 & Proverbs 29:15 says "Spare the rod,spoil the child". The facts of this story are not all true. Read the Bible more for wisdom from God than criticism of "phathom verses?"
One more correction: you stated that, "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." However, the Bible never mentions an apple. It only mentions "fruit." Again, how do artists render a fruit, but to paint it as an apple.
Since the garden of Eden is in Iraq, the fruit should have been a fig. It was European painters who painted apples.
It was the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil".
The bible certainly does identify the devil as the serpent that tempted Eve. If you read in Revelation (aka Apocalypse) 12:9 or Revelation 20:2, it specifically identifies the devil as the original serpent, the one called Satan. The statement that the devil is not the serpent shows that a in-depth study of the Bible has not been done. Try again.
The point is it's not part of the original story. That addition came 3000 years later.
Does it state that the serpent that temps eve is the original serpent?
Not that it matters all that much since it's all been rewritten and adjusted over the centuries to fit whatever agenda the writers had at the time.
Sounds like you need to re-read those passages. They say nothing of the kind. Try again.
Unfortunately, Revelation was written centuries after Genesis.
And your point is...? The book of Revelation was written hundreds of years after Genesis. The Gospels were written decades after Jesus supposedly existed. There are no first-hand accounts in the Bible, the entire thing is a work of fiction.
Actually, that doesn't solve the problem, because Revelation was written years and years after Genesis, considering that Genesis is actually from Judaism. Basically, a different author identified the serpent as Satan, not the same author who wrote Genesis, which is exactly what this article is about.
And you, offbeete, didn't read the article. It said that the devil is not mentioned in Genesis. It said nothing about Revelation, a book written centuries after the other books and is still controversial of whether it should have been included in the bible to this day. Try again.
Hey zeus-z The bible also says you should sacrifice your children for the lord if he asked you to... please don't pay attention to those voices in your head.
It doesn't say to sacrifice your children anywhere in The Bible. In fact God gave the promised land to Israel because the people of those lands were doing that very thing, among many others. And if you're speaking of Abraham, read the Hebrew text and see what God was really asking Abraham to do. God fights to save lives not take them.
I am a devout Christian. I believe that the Bible is the word of God. I do believe that over time certain words have been changed through interpretations, but that the meaning is the same. The Bible teaches kindness, love for others and gives us instructions on how to live a life pleasing to God. Jesus as the son of God knew what was best for us and as Christians we do our best to follow in his foot steps to be pleasing to God. A person mentioned earlier that the Bible teaches fear. I don't get that from reading it. The book is actually a love story. A lot of Christians get that wrong and it turns people off. I believe in the Bible like I believe in gravity. I can't see it but I can feel it.
Be more specific on your statement regarding the Bible. Only the New Testament teaches what you state regarding Love , Jesus, etc. The New Testament is the Christian text. The Old testament only gives a historical Jewish story that led to we Christians having the messiah in Jesus that the Jewish people reject.
“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.’ ’’ Well, no. "And it came to pass" was used when the ground game just wasn't getting them anywhere.
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.