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.”
Gen 3:1: Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field, which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Hath God said that you should not eat of every tree of the garden?" (obviously this is not your ordinary snake/serpent as he - the serpent - appears to be something more special than a snake (more subtle).
Rev 20:2: And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
Not that I disagree with you sir, but the argument is that Revelations came much later in history than Genesis, so it cannot be used to identify the serpent as Satan. However, Satan is identified in the book of Job which is much closer in time and is in the Old testament.
You should look up what "serpent" means. It is a mythological creature. The story in genesis describes how a real creature, the snake, was derived from a mythological one. Do you REALLY think that Satan had his arms and legs chopped off, would be literally stepped on by people, would crawl on his belly, and would be bellow the other 'livestock' in the garden as a punshsment from god? Seems to me that is clearly describing a SNAKE, and not Satan, the rebellious angel.
the bible was translated, hand copied myriad times, with changes almost every time for many centuries. read Misquoting Jesus by Ehrman ..the bible is nothing more than inaccurate folklore and legend
you're not suppose to read the Bible like a chronological story. And Genesis is the only story that was not witnessed by man...so be careful on how you read it.
Gary: take a look at Orthodox Christianity...they kept account of all these heresies you're talking about in order to keep Jesus Christ's teachings pure.
Jelly – What "orthodox" christianity teaches now, is vastly different from what orthodox christianity taught then. Trying to claim that these is consistency here is rediculous. Things have changed a lot over the years. Look at the story of jesus and the adulterous women (let he who was without sin throw the first stone). it is NOT in the oldest gospels we have. it was added, and that is not disputed.
The serpent is the devil. How can the serpent not be the devil? How does that fit into the rest of the Bible? Lucifer was cast out of heaven and sent to earth. He wanted to implement his form of government (rebellion against God) and be like the most high. If the serpent was not the devil than where was he when the serpent was tempting Eve? Don't you think the devil wanted Adam and Eve to disobey God and turn against him, just like he got 1/3 of the holy angels to turn from God? Lucifer started the rebellion in heaven and has brought it here to earth. Mankind was not tempted by some animal. The devil deceived Eve and continues to deceive mankind.
Ok, let me put this i terms thatyou can understand.
Batman was written and created by Bob Kane. He set the part of the story that everyone knows. Now if some one later came along, and said Batmanwasreally The Joker all along, which one would be the accepted story?
One time as I was walking on the street a preacher extended his hand to give me christian literature and he said "Jesus saves". And I responded, "Since you have a bible in your hands, can you read to me that text, I want to know where does it say that in the bible?
His response, "I don't know, just believe and you will be saved". I started laughing and walked away.
That is a theme throughout the entire New Testament, Bible Expert. If you want to be that hard to talk to then go ahead, but don't laugh at people because you can't understand what they already do. Take some time a read the New testament, you will find that to be true. Your preacher guy was 100% correct. Read Acts 16:31 "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. "
The bible was made by early Christians... Orthodox Christians do not believe the Bible is enough.
To "Bible Expert" Mark 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved."
Funny how most atheists I know (including myself) have thoroughly read religious texts such as the Bible, while many of the devout religious have NOT, and do not understand the principles and morals of their own faith. It says a lot about the logic and competence of both groups.
Well said, I have read many religious text's, and most of those such as the bible at least twice. I've never believed, and unless I get brain damage I never will.
Excellent point, Alyssa.
My advice to anyone who reads articles telling them what to beleve and what not to believe, as if the person writing them has all the facts and the low down on the truth; read the scriptures for yourself, and ask God to reveal the truth to you as you read. You will be decieved into believing anyone if you don't check for yourself.
You will have no excuse for being led astray if you don't read for yourself. There is a promise from God himself regarding His word and knowing the truth.
John 8:23, Jesus talking
23And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. 25Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning. 26I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. 27They understood not that he spake to them of the Father. 28Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. 29And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. 30As he spake these words, many believed on him.
31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32
Donna – please go read a REAL book.
"John" (and whoever all wrote under that name) could say *anything* to further their cause of establishing and promoting their new religion.
Here is a huge PS to my opinion on this article by John Blake.
John Blake subtly bashes protestants, offends Martin Luther and the reformation and then makes fun of believers meeting in their homes to read and learn scripture as follows:
"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.
Funny, I've never heard anyone say these things and quote them as scripture.... Implied in scripture definitely, but to say people are quoting scripture? come on. This is a reach. These are sayings that sum up commonly held ideas and beliefs based on interpretations of scripture.
No, these are sayings that make people feel like they're being pious.
"Anyone in the field of this study knows that the evidence for Jesus EXISTENCE is overwhelming. Roman historians and non-roman sources including Josephus provide an account extremely similar to that in the new testament."
No they don't. This is a lie.
I agree that it is a lie. There are very few extra-Biblical references to JC. About four, I believe, and none say much about him at all, they are focused on his followers.
For one claimed to be all-knowing and all-powerful, this "God" left very, very poor doc.umentation of its existence.
'God helps those who help themselves" haha they forgot that one!
"""""hawaiiduude 'God helps those who help themselves" haha they forgot that one!
Hmm you would seem to add credence to the fact that most people can't comprehend what they read, this is from the article
""Getting biblical scriptures and stories wrong may not seem significant, but it can become dangerous, one scholar says.
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. """"
Let me guess, athiest have to reply to biblical statements on the web because it bothers them. Why does it bother you, if you don't belive in God. The truth is you don't want to be held accountable for your life. They believe in the big bang, all I have to say is where did all the matter come from to create the big bang. Only God can create matter.
We read about this and other subjects because we like to LEARN. You can blindly follow whatever you like, but criticizing others for reading about and trying to fully understand concepts they don't actually support is worthless. It shows how anti-education the religious fanatics really are.
"The truth is you don't want to be held accountable for your life."
Non-believers are accountable for their lives every single day. Transgressions are followed by natural, logical consequences - there is no evidence that they are logged and punished or forgiven in any other dimension.
Uhm if you have to guess then you should probably keep quiet. Religious types don't seem to get it so I will quote on of my favorite sayings " Don't Pray in my schools and I will not Think in your churches""
This is a great article! I get so tired of people making up stuff about the Bible. I'm convinced that many Christians don't read it either.
Studies repeatedly show that atheists know more about the bible than any Christian denomination. Google it if you don't believe me. Another was just published recently.
That is why we are atheists – we read it and saw how childish and silly it is.
I will admit, that most christians don't read the bible enough. I have a hard time remembering every thing I read. The truth about christianity isn't remembering everything you read about the bible. It is based on a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Colin – your problem is that you are trying to put belief in God, belief in the christian Bible, and belief in religion all in the same boat, when in fact they are three separate ideas. You think because you've dismissed one you can dismiss them all. I don't believe in religion, I do believe the bible is a useful book however I agree it has been perverted through time like a game of telephone. But from personal experience as well as research into the workings of science and religion I have no choice but to believe in God, or some form of intelligent universal consciousness, even if that means nothing more than our own collective consciousness of energy. IMO, science and religion are both sorely lacking in answers, and science has been just as inconsistent in truth, if not more so, than religion. I imagine atheists cling to science because they believe it is searching for truth. In fact, science does just as much to squash truth as it does to forward it. Ignorance is what causes members from both sides to completely discredit each other, when in fact, a reasoning person would conclude that there is truth in both and bridging that gap is what will truly give us the most enlightenment. I think atheists are actually refusing idiots, not God, and we all know religion is full of idiots because they like to follow and those who are corrupt find it an easy tool to lead with. But don't be a follower on the other extreme, and don't shut your mind down on the other extreme. Extremes are very rarely correct, truth is usually found in the middle. True mental cognizance come from being open and understanding that truth is often stranger than fiction and science and religion will both claim to know everything, but neither can deliver.
"... a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ."
A relationship with Jesus, whoever he was, is as possible as a relationship with Julius Caesar, Tutankhamen, or Ernest Hemingway. They are dead men.
Ha! This proves that the Bible has been edited and corrupted from all over the years! I don't blame you all Christians, but you should blame the first Christians in Europe or the Romans for twisting their pagan religion with the almost-true religion. And there should be only ONE Gospel, not like "The King James Bible" or "The Book of Mormon" or "Gospel of Matt, Luke, Mark...etc.".
This article doesn't "prove" that the Bible has been edited - the proof for that is elsewhere. This article only proves that even the most passionate Christians either misinterpret what they read in the Bible, or they don't read the Bible at all.
If you want proof that the Bible has been edited, there are dozens of other reliable historical and scholarly sources that demonstrate that. The "belief blog," with its PC agenda not to criticize religions themselves, would never go there.
In the future we will cite Twitter passages instead.
Leonid – whether you are right or not is an entirely different discussion. However, you appear to have no ability to back up your baseless statements. I would suggest knowing what an argument is and how to use it before you go getting into one. You're not exactly making a case for science, the scientific method, or your own ability to reason successfully by just putting out controversial statements with no real merit behind them.
Every time I read comments on CNN, I get discouraged. The amount of misinformation, along with the modes of argument, are appalling. The author of this article (indirectly) highlights the misinformationists by noting their lack of factual accuracy; he charges the self-deceiving-apologists with "they can string together to prove the biblical basis for whatever it is they believe in" – so many posts are guilty of this in some form (not necessarily biblicalal). Yet, even the author who notices these is not immune from these posters. Why? He mentions religion, the irresistible topic for the misinformed-self-deceiving-apologists.
it bothers me when people go on here and bash Christianity and say its "ridiculous". yes the bible says jonah was swallowed by a whale and that jesus rose from the dead and that a snake talked to eve. Of course those things didnt literally happen. the bible tells those stories so we can get the lessons out of them. sure you can be nit picky and take them literally and call christians stupid for believing that happened. or you can just live and let live and stop trying to shove you modernistic, attention whoring, hypocritical atheist beliefs down everyones throats
The problem is, Tyler, they were taught as literally true for thousands of years, until science showed them to be utter nonsense. Only then did Christians claim "we knew that all along, they are just parables". Why did not one christian say that before Darwin? Hmm, sounds to me a lot like you are being an apologist for a discreditied load of myths.
Cognitive dissonance has you a little touchy this morning, huh?
The problem is that there are millions who do take it literally. There are millions of literalists (Pat Roberson, Jerry Falwell, etc.) who actually believe that fathers should make their daughters marry those who assaulted them (as the bible commands) or that people rode dinosaurs like horses. There are also millions of reasonable atheists and christians who just want to live their lives in peace and respect each other, but their voices get lost in the shuffle or are drowned out by wacky extremists on both "sides."
religious morons like you are reversing our progress. How about you brainwashed jesus freaks create your own island or something....i wish the raptures really does come just to take ignorants like you away....what a waste of sperm
You know what's really ridiculous? People who can't believe in anything supernaturally happening from God, yet probably believe in ghosts and aliens!
What exactly in the Bible has been disproven by science? you mention Darwin, I was not aware that bio-genesis had been recreated in a lab (which is necessary according to the scientific method) to prove that hole-filled theory was factual. Can you point me to that article? There are idiots who misquote, contort, and misdirect followers I know, and they are easy to dismiss as they should be. But the Bible itself, I haven't found any mistruths in it. What are you referring to specifically?
BKGO – We have not yet fully created life in the lab, but I expect it will happen. We have created some very interesting coagulates that will spontaneously assemble nucleotides, assemble a lipid cell wall and even use basic enzyems, but this is not yet life. I expect it will happen though. BUT, it is totally beside the point. Even if we never do, the DNA mapping we can do and the fossil record prove (independently) beyond any sane doubt, that Adam and eve is silly nonsense.
Tyler says, "it bothers me when people go on here and bash Christianity and say its "ridiculous". yes the bible says jonah was swallowed by a whale and that jesus rose from the dead and that a snake talked to eve. Of course those things didnt literally happen."
Of course Jesus Christ did indeed rise from the dead and this is the 'Faith' that many of many who believed this died for: burned at the stake, cut in pieces, sawed in half, crucified upside down, boiled in hot oil and I can go on and on. Think about it, no one would die for a lie!!!
Are you an unbeliever Tyler? (a so called atheist?) just asking . . .
I was amused to see that the depictions of Adam and Eve at the top of this page showed both with navels - even though neither of them reputedly ever spent time in anyone's womb.
LOL- this is so true, especially in the Bible belt. My great-grandfather was fond of often quoting, "Every tub stands on its own bottom, as it says in the Bible." For real?!?
why be an idiot and plant links to videos.. sheesh.. get a life.
Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.
Revelation 12:9 "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world:"
You are correct, Proverbs has the idea, but the actual phrase, "spare the rod and spoil the child" was crafted by Samuel Butler
I love how these types of articles bring out every atheist, like roaches from the behind the fridge. Its pretty much the same as G ay people, I dont care if youre G ay, but I dont wanna hear about it.
Just like atheists are sick of hearing about your imaginary friend. Are you really so dense that you complain about the 1.5% of the U.S. population that identifies as atheist while not realizing that the approximately 80% of the population is Christian is the group that actually forces everyone else to deal with THEIR bs? Grow a brain.
Then don't read the article!
Well said – 2 thumbs up way up. Let's face it they don't have much of substance to do on the weekends anyway. Just like any parasite likes to feed off the healthy host with their own agendas.
“Keep thy religion to thyself…” George Carlin
and you pithymcgee....forced BS....really? I am sure we don't see you in any building of worship or participating in anything sacred. So, what is it all those Christmas lights that get you all upset?
@spirit, parasites? You're a moron.
then turn off the computer
What do you call a person who has actually read the bible? (long pause) An atheist.
I would be really surprised if the majority of atheists have actually read the bible cover to cover. Even so, religion, the bible, and God are three separate ideas and only fools compile them all into one lump
Actually I am (still) surprised that most every atheist I have ever met never took the time to read the Bible through. The few that do are generally convinced it is true.
I have read it cover to cover. I do not believe in this god. You comment is from ignorance.
Amen to that one Uli. And in case anyone questions my use of Amen it originally called any prayer to the attention of the god most involved in the lives of the people as in " Hear my plea Amun Ra" . After a few thousand years the RA was dropped but the Amun or Amen stayed. It always cracks me up when the christians end their prayers with Amen.
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.