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.”
CNN on it's weekly we hat religion kick. Well at least it is not cheating husbands or polygamists which is their normal '"religion" report. Why do they hate Christians so much?
Geee, I don't know, but I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that you typically deny empiracle evidence if it doesn't suit your goal. Thankfully the fact that CNN had the BALLS to put this on their "Front Page" might be evidence that the "Logical Majority" is getting Totally SICK AND TIRED of the vociferous and controlling "Religious Minority!!!"
What does this story have to do with hate? Is that how you manipulate people...saying that they hate things? Next, you'll use fear...
Mr. John Blake and all other scholars' problems are that they didn't read the Bible or recall the content and still dare speak on the Bible. CNN, please hire some Bible-literate scholars for this section. You are so unprofessional in this matter, you know. Liberals.
Translation: "CNN, please hire some biblical scholars who agree with MY biblical interpretations. All other views are contrary to my own beliefs are illiterate, unprofessional, and liberal. I have all the answers because I possess infinite wisdom and I've never been wrong before."
Points and laughs
CHRISTIANITY RISKS BECOMING A MISUNDERSTOOD RELIGION LIKE ISLAM AND SOON WE WILL SEE CHRISTIANS COMMITTING SUICIDE LIKE MUSLIMS WHO MISUNDERSTAND THEIR RELIGION.
no that's wrong, those Christians who kill themselves have not have very poor understanding of the bible. Jesus died for all there is no need to commit suicide for any reason
Maybe they are not Christians..Maybe they are cold Christians or luke warm Christians ..To be a Christian you should be deep rooted in your faith and your studying and maturing in the faith. Too many static Christians can be questionable if they are truly are Christian...The outsider or non Christian does not understand this ... but they do have the criticism... Christianity is a long term process of maturation..Very few Christians know immediately what Jesus has in mind for them ...God works in His time in working in a Christians life.
I respectfully disagree with Prof. Dunn's statement that the serpent was not identified with Satan until much later. "Satan" is a word that means "adversary" or "accuser" and refers to a fallen angel named Lucifer. His behavior in the Garden of Eden exemplifies both of those definitions.
Erm, it is those very definitions that post-date the Genesis story by 500 years. Genesis quite explicitly states that God created the serpent, and the phrasing strongly implies that the serpent was an animal like any other, not a fallen angel taking a false form. Why else would God have condemned all serpents to crawl on their bellies if it was just a fallen angel impersonating a serpent?
It's far more likely that once the idea of Satan was fully established, people reading Genesis would think "you know, the serpent acts just like Satan would have", and from then the idea that the serpent was Satan could have taken hold easily. One could almost say that the concept of Satan was a development of the idea of the perfidious snake.
That's exactly the article's point. Your interpretation is projecetd back into the text. The "Satan" character post-dates the Genesis text and is read back into it.
And, by the way, the name Lucifer is also not found in the Bible. We have Jerome to thank for the invention of that word. His Latin translation of the Hebrew original is where the English world "Lucifer" comes from.
Ezekiel 28:2-19 also says that Devil was in the garden of Eden
God in the passage calls Lucifer out, God says you were an angel, perfect in the beginning until pride entered your heart. God says he cast him out of heaven and threw you to the earth. In the early part of the passage God says he was in the garden of Eden
Actually, every good thing and realistic thing is in the Bible.
Sure. Lots of good things are in the Bible. Along with thousands of... not so good things.
The patriarchs were polygamists. Abraham's very first son came from one of his slaves. Some of the twelve tribes of Israel came from the slaves of Jacob.
And yet today we know that slavery and polygamy are both crimes. So does that mean the patriarchs were criminals?
Solomon the Wise killed his own brother for wanting to marry one of the wives of his late father. Would we consider this justified today? Of course not. And yet it's in the Bible and the Bible considers Solomon a great, wise king.
Limb, the Bible characters show our own weakness. Jesus took down polygamy. Abraham knew not better. You are wrong about Jacob and Solomon, by the way. You didn't read the Bible. The Bible condemns everyone as sinner. Present baby-killing and perverse Americans are so bad it's not even in the Bible. American slave owners were far, far better than American baby-killers and American Sodomites. Know yourself. Present USA is more guilty than the past USA.
Why do you lie?
Just as a simple example, the Solomon story IS in the Bible: 1 Kings 2:13-25. As is the Jacob reference, where I'm not going to quote each and every verse for Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. It takes exactly 4 seconds to check on those.
In several of your other posts you deliberately misrepresent the Bible and seem to hope nobody read the Bible, or nobody would check.
I am starting to wonder if even your premise that you are somehow not American yourself is a lie. Your obsession with the American political issue of abortion, and your use of American political vocabulary pretty much give it away.
Did Fair Garden just justify slavery? Also why do pro-life activist believe that killing zygotes and embryos is a sin; but killing doctors is not. Also why do these activists believe in capital punishment and the war in Afghanistan? What part of "Thou should not kill" don't they understand?
Limbau is liberal...and what is different today?..is just man's flawed nature since he is a sinner..just like you are ..just like me..
David was Gods man..yet David was flawed..You will noticed when David screwed up he was punished..yet David was very repentant..He loved God and he expressed this throughout Psalms.
Are you telling me you are flawless???
This too shall come to pass was actually Jewish tradition. It was written on a ring given to King Solomon, the whole story about it is in Talmud. The author of this is no more fit to write this article than the clowns quoting, nor the people agreeing with him.
Kevin, you are right, atheists can be mean spirited and judgmental.
Jabba, Frank Herbert asked that George Lucas admit to stealing everything.
Mark Thompson, mankind didn't need religion to cause history's bloodshed, just excuse it. History's traumas were caused by those that thought they were perfect coming to the absurd conclusion that if they ram their perfection down others' throats, that would be a good thing. All religions have shed blood, led by leaders twisting scripture for the purpose of gain or dominance.
ALL good things in the human world are already in the Bible all along. Nothing is missing in the Bible. Only the stupidified Westerners imagine otherwise.
Is it really so threatening to you to imagine that non-Christian traditions are valueable to humanity, or that they might have divine 'Truth'? Why are so many Christians obsessed with being right? Did Jesus say: go forth and be right in your thinking, slamming, mocking and reviling all whose opinions are less glorious than yours?
Get off it already!
"stupidified"??? Things that make you go "Doh!"
You are so right. One stop shop.
@holycow – Actually, he said "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except by me." So, if you have a problem with the exclusivity thing, blame Jesus. But complaining about the exclusivity is just about as stupid as going to a club and badmouthing the bouncers at the front because you didn't think they'd let you in, when all you had to do is say "Dude, I want to go in", and they would have said "Wassup, holycow!" and let you in. It's actually that simple.
Jesus also said: "Ole Lord why has thou forsaken me." I don't think I want to get to god, through someone that god has forsakened.
What if they want to come to me, or to the Holy Ghost? You do know it says you can be forgiven foe blaspheming the son or father, but not the Holy Ghost. Does the Bible say Jesus is the only way to the Holy Ghost or the femine side of God or are we still stuck in the age of male kings?
The Christian West had the supreme advantage over all other human civilizations by having the whole Bible first and only that. But doing wrong knowing the truth is often worse than the ignorant pagans' wrong doings, though both are pure hellish. Westerners came back to the Bible after doing wrong, but this time the West may be crippled permanently as it did not get educated by even the two world wars. Nothing can help when people choose the path of destruction on their own.
How does adherence to the Bible guarantee national success even in a Christian context? Do you actually expect God to intervene on our nation's behalf if we were "holier"?
Horus, too late. Europe and USA crossed the line already. Repent and ask for God's mercy. You may be spared.
FairGarden, there are weeds in your pipe. The guidance given in the New Testament is that all of the world is to receive The Word. All people are chosen, not just one tribe or race.
..he he... so now we have to hire a catholic priest to help little children read the bible. We will actually have to pay him while he maybe molesting the children (as 'some' catholic priests love to do).
You seem to prejudiced against the Catholic Church especially its priests-another great American tradition.
Visit a Roman Catholic Seminary and live with seminarians for some days.You will not be molested,in case you are,I will take full responsibility.
3 non-sequencial comments:
another phantom notion in the Bible: the word 'rapture' is never used.
too many emotionally charged weirdos ranting metaphysical gibberish in riligious debate.
I loved the author's last image, about living room Bible studies with brownies and decaf. Nail on the head!!!
Want some more tea and cookies ?
'religious' O heavens to Betsy, a typo doth smate upon my comment.
I would have said your comment beshat upon itself with a typo.
Our country has enormous issues and this is what the news media wants to talk about.
Yeah, it's OK to obsess about a tech gadgets that have a life expectancy of one holiday season but not OK to contemplate the purposes and meanings behind Life? Priorities are good dude, you're right.
You know what else doesn't appear in the bible?
The Truth IS in the Bible, but people aren't getting it. What they are getting is a bunch of twisted logic, verses or parts of verses taken out of context & mixed in with borrowed/adopted pagan doctrine and traditions by a clergy class that has a vested interest in keeping the public ignorant of the real Truth of the Bible. More & more people are becoming disgusted with religion & rightfully so. The mainstream, hi-profile religions are a scam & a racket.
However, religion being false doesn't make the Bible false.
so it's wrong to respect other people? Don't do unto others as you'd have them do unto you?
So, I guess you should trust a science book...which in five years will be obsolete. Of course, we never look back and say..."oh, the things I defended and used to criticize others with were actually wrong...because the newest discovery has shown..." Scientists have proven one thing for thousands of years. They are only "right" during their lifetime and then the next generation proves them wrong. In essence, everything you believe will be proven wrong by someone like you in twenty years. The defacto is that you are actually wrong right now, you just don't know it yet.
how many times has the bible been rewritten?...that being said the only truth is jesus :-)
Blessed are those who believe as a child.
The Bible was only written once, but there have been many translations. Most of those translations taken from other translations. There are, however, a modern English translation that has been made directly from the oldest available Hebrew & Greek manuscripts that is much more accurate then the commonly used translations, but it isn't in favor with the major sects of Christendom because it doesn't have the altered texts & mis-translated verses that support the false doctrines that are the principle dogma of the majority of the Apostate Christian sects.
you my friend are correct in all you have written. Most will never understand the message you are conveying. Relgion is almost the complete oppostie of scripture and the true original text in the original languages with the original intentions have been lost in translation for all who are not in the one Body of Christ (let him who reads understand), for if ever the theologians, church leaders, or church goers understood the absolute truth found in the Bible they would not willingly be able to accept it due to the required changes one must undergo in order to adhere to all the eternal laws of God almighty.
Frankly most would rather believe they are right and everyone else is wrong regardless of claming to be christian or athiest or any other side of this multi-sided coin. The truth is we all are, by our very nature and by perfect design, wrong and only that which comes from God is right.
"He that spareth the rod hateth his son: he that loveth him, chasteneth ( to inflict suffering upon for purposes of improvement) him betimes.
EVERY wise, true thought or wise, true saying/proverb in the whole world has been in the Bible all along in better forms. Proverbs actually not found in exact form in the Bible are summary thoughts that have been in the Bible. And the Bible texts are far superior over everything.
what other ancient texts have you scoured to bring you to your conclusion? or are you just going with a divine warm-fuzzy feeling?
The "Golden Rule" as some Christians might refer to it predates Christian Scripture. Those viewing it from a broader perspective might refer to it as "The Ethic of Reciprocity."
Clearly the Bible is not the only way to truth.
We know from genetic science that if the human race began with only Adam and Eve as a base, the limited gene pool and inbreeding would have caused such birth defects and mutations that humans would have only lasted a few generations, if that. Yet this happened again with the limited gene pool of Noah's family after the Flood.
Unproven genetics for perception is not equal.
While I don't write off evolution as a tool of Gods perpetual machine of creation, you should consider that Adam and Eve had all dominate gene traits and no genetic abnormalities. If so inbreeding would not be an issue. It was very common to marry a relative in early bible days. Even Abraham was married to a relative. Genetic anomaly’s from environmental conditions or sinful behavior would eventually make their way into the gene pool that would make inbreeding dangerous. Maybe this is a possible explanation for why the first people in the Bible lived much longer and as time went by began to die at earlier ages.
Being raised by a very atheistic, God and religion hating man, I find that everything Christian is under attack. I had to hide my Bible and was not allowed to attend Church. This nation was founded by people who believed in freedom. Hey, God gave everyone free will, believe what you believe. Just find tolerance for each other's beliefs. Hey, you can believe what you will, but realize God calls Christians to still care about you. And to just to say I'm a molecular Biologist and a biochemist. Your argument basically decimates evolution.
This article is in error. All the worthy thoughts are in the Bible and in better statements at that. Compare the followings. All you need is getting the right word or phrase and find the Biblical text. Use a concordance if necessary.
"This too shall pass" – Isaiah 40:6-8, I John 2:17
"God helps those who helps themselves" – Luke 12:57
"Spare the rod, spoil the child" – Ephesians 6:4
Satan the Garden of Eden – Revelation 12:9
(You can't really find out what Genesis tell you about if you don't read the whole Bible.)
"Only a few catch on" – Matthew 7:13,14
"God works in mysterous ways" – Isaiah 55:8,9,
"Cleanlines is next to godliness" – Isaiah 4:4, 64:6
And most of the greatest leaders and wise men at one point or another used these phrases to rally there followers, to inspire and to command.
It is always amusing when protestants appeal to the inerrant authority of the Bible that everyone ELSE should obey, but then keep twisting the words of the Bible to suit their own world view. But then again that's the protestant tradition: interpret for yourself and make believe you are smarter than thousands of years of ACTUAL Biblical scholarship because you can cherry-pick a few phrases here and there that appear similar to the phrases you want to prove. And by 'similar' I mean they have two or three words in common hence can somehow be interpreted by a creative mind.
"There's a sucker born every minute." -P.T. Barnum
What on earth are you talking about. The verses you point to don't say what you claim they do, as anyone can check.
Luke 12:57: Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?
Yes, I sooo completely agree that this is EXACTLY just like the phrase 'God helps those who helps themselves.'
All your other interpretations are also sooo correct. It's like you should have written the Bible yourself because you know what the Word of God actually means...
Actually, you're in error. It's so easy today to do a search of all the Bibles versions on the Internet. These are NOT biblical quotes.
Fairgarden – – U are so full of BS – – what's your point ? ? Just being a Troll ? ? Get back under your Bridge ! ! !
This is news? Headline, front page article? Wow.
i was thinking the same thing. It's an interesting piece, but hey unless we go to war or have an economic crisis I guess there's nothing better to.....oh wait....
I know.. There are people who really need help in this world, and yet this god of theirs sits on his hands and does nothing..
Typical CNN anti-Christian hit piece. The point they are trying to make is that Christianity is outdated, crazy and Christians are a bunch of disingenuous– or at best misguided– fools. Their premise is wrong in trying to make it out that when someone says something like "spare the rod, spoil the child," that they are thinking they are using a direct quote. Most people who use these expressions are using them AS EXPRESSIONS, not as direct quotes.
I'd like to see CNN do a piece like this on the Koran– except the belief be that Islam is peaceful. Then they can debunk this fairytale by quoting all the hate in the Koran– commmanding Muslims to kill all nonbelievers. Of course, they would never do such a piece, because CNN and liberal networks love everything anti-christian and they love Islam.
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.