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.”
Who really cares. Nothing in the "bible" is actually true but only interpretations of man to control the people. It is all attributed to a god but really is all made up stuff except possibly some of the battles and historical information in the old testatment. The new testament is certainly all made up by a crazed reject of the Sanhedrin, Saul or Paul.People want to believe this information as it is easier than saying there is nothing and you can't be "saved" by believing in some mythical god who can "save" youIt is too bad that the human mind is not able to think for itself and lets this mythical text control lives, cause wars, and wreck civilizations. The bible is fiction in most parts and only history in some parts.The god of the text is created by man ust like every other mythical story of religion of all cultures. This one is no different. Jeez grow up and accept what is reality and stp living in a wished for salvation.
I challenge you to prove your point with empirical evidence as opposed to your belief.
Dina–what is 'reality'?
I think it's very easy to make sweeping generalizations about things you've never really investigated, and to thereby build barriers between people. It's much harder to break down barriers by attempting to understand something that doesn't affirm what you already think you understand...kind of like the article is pointing out. What difference is there between you, and a fundamentalist of any religion who never questions his or her beliefs?
This article reminds me of a conversation I had a number of years ago with a workmate who said: ". . . well, it's like the Bible says, 'neither a borrower nor a lender be.' " At the time I was a doctoral candidate working on my first doctoral research project and politely tried to point out to the workmate that what she quoted was from Hamlet. The lady responded to me by saying: "Yeah, all you intellectual wannabees won't have a choice but to shut your mouths when you're burning in Hell for spreading lies about the Bible." I am not kidding! I could not tell this poor woman a damn thing because she refused to consider even listening. Yet, she considered herself to be a "fine Christian woman" who had read the Bible "twenty -two times" since she was twelve years old– sad!
Yeah, if she really said those things - that is too bad. I'm a Christian, and seek nothing but truth. But, it's too easy for us to cross the line.
That's stupid reply. Nothing to do with the topic.
I agree that the video is a waste of space on a comment board, especially when it isn't accompanied by an explanation (only music). However, butterflies have always been, to me, one of the greatest evidences that God is real. Nothing that intricate, delicate and stunningly beautiful could possibly have been an accident. They had to have been designed. The whole idea of morphing from an clumsy, unattractive state of being into one of great beauty and freedom is the very picture of what coming to Jesus does for a person.
"intricate, delicate and stunningly beautiful" does not = goddidit. It's biology, pure and simple. Your statement: "The whole idea of morphing from an clumsy, unattractive state of being into one of great beauty and freedom is the very picture of what coming to Jesus does for a person." ...is nothing but idealistic, anecdotal emotionalism.
... because of your awful video. Next time I'm out driving, my monster truck will NOT be slowing down for butterflies!
cupcake8million Posted on congrats- your linvig my dream since you won't see your family/ friends for a long tie you could go cheesy- wish you were here or on the trail again or Where in the world is (your name)? Best of luck!
The bible itself urges us to examine the scriptures carefully. 1 John 4:1 says: “Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.” This coincides with 2 Timothy 3:16 "All scripture is inspired of God......"
Yeah, and "The Bridges of Madison County" starts out by saying, "This is a true story..." (hint: it is not).
Mr. Dunn needs to read Revelation 12:9 – "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
Serpent....devil.....satan...........all the same.
That's from Revelations not Genesis.
Christians don't know the Bible. Next up in our ground breaking report, the Earth isn't flat!
Humorously (or depressingly) enough, I saw something recently that said something like 25% of americans (mostly if not all religious) still think the earth is the center of the solar system, possibly the universe. Wonder what the percentage is for the earth being flat.
(if that percentage is widely off, blame poor memory, but it was definitely >1%, of which we, as a nation, should be ashamed. )
Don't know which study you cite, but there is also one which shows that 51% of American's can't answer :
"Around which celestial object does the earth rotate ?"
It IS depressing.
JamieI'm very moved by your efforts in Peru and wish you ctionnued progress toward building God's kingdom.My daughter, Julia, is currently living in Lima, Peru, studying Spanish through the Rotary Youth Exchange. She will be there until early July next year. She is currently living with a wonderful family and attending Collegio America High School in Callao.Julia has some skills in Spanish and music (piano) that she may be able to help with in your mission efforts.Is there a way to get the two of you in contact?God's blessings.Cheryl BehmlanderMidland, Michigan
This is very poor journalism. I've never known anybody to directly attribute these sayings to the bible... Which is exactly what they are, sayings. And the Ditka quote? "The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t appear in the Bible." So something Ditka said doesn't appear in the bible? What's your point? That's him talking, not him quoting the Bible... "That's him talking, not him quoting the Bible" also does not appear in the Bible. The author of this article is as guilty of misrepresenting something to support their case as anyone. Geeze.
God has a great job, I want that job...you get all the credit when things go right and none of the blame when they don't
Sorry, Obama already has that job. Actually, politicians in general, both Democrats and Republicans, have that job. Democrats just have the majority share-holding privileges of it.
WOW. 48 pages and counting of comments about what the BIBLE doesn't say! You have got to be kidding!
This is one reason why I love the Catholic Church. There is one authority and thus interpretation when it comes to Scripture. There is also Sacred Tradition, which is cherished by the Church and acknowledges stories that have been passed down through the ages (not blindly, of course, but through careful consideration and research).
Who cares... the whole book is a waste of time.
Why is it a waste of time ? because it teach you how to love and live your life in a decent way ?
Issa – you don't need the Bible to know that killing and stealing are bad, or that you should treat people the way you want to be treated.
There are some guidelines for beneficial human behavior in the Bible... as there are in many other writings over the centuries. It is the supernatural fantasies and supersti.tions which are the issue.
"This too shall pass" probably is a riff on:
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all [these things] must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Abraham Lincoln used the phrase in an address once, also.
2Co 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
I think the "bible scholar" who interpreted "God helps those who help themselves" is wrong. The saying does not mean "be selfish", as he seems to suggest. It means be proactive. Do not wait for God to give you what you want, do not just sit and pray. God will help you if you act. In fact, it's a kind of truism, since anything that happens you could attribute to God, so in helping yourself, God has already helped you. Ben Franklin probably found this funny.
This "expert" doesn't seem qualified to interpret anything. As for the point of this article, I think it is quite silly. "Many religious people don't consult facts". Is this news to anyone?
"God helps those who help themselves" is the same as saying god doesn't do anything since you already did it yourself. That seems to be the closest thing to truth in religion I have ever heard, which is probably why it never came from the bible.
The Bible sounds like an interesting read, I'll have to put it under my list of must read fictions...
"Just because it didn't happen doesn't mean it isn't True"
No, that's not from the bible, but it was the theme of a Christmas study my church did a few years ago.
"FAITH" is the answer, it is like the "black hole" the scientist say it is there but cannot see or prove it.
If everyone lived by the ten commandments we would live in a better world.
Black holes have been proven, and their effect on nearby objects is how we observe them. You are a fool.
Fego, they can see black holes indirectly due to the effects they have on light and matter. There is no faith in science. You put up evidence or shut up. If religion followed this rule, it would disappear in a generation.
Hebrew 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Tell a cancer survivor that Faith does not work when all the science (doctors) have written them off and yet they are healed.
You people clearly aren't knowledgeable in the field
You Said: "FAITH" is the answer, it is like the "black hole" the scientist say it is there but cannot see or prove it.
If everyone lived by the (ten commandments) we would live in a better world."
The posters above me, IMO, adequately addressed your attempted comparison of 'faith and black holes' I don't feel the need to comment any further at this point.
However, I am interested in the notion of if everyone lived by the 10 Commandments, etc...
I'm curious, because as I see it, 1 through 4 (the first 4 of the 10 commandments) seemingly have 'nothing' to do with making a better world. What do you think I am missing here, if anything on that...?
Second, 6 through 10 (the last 6 of the 10 commandments) to me just seem to be 'common sense.'
And I would agree that at least 6-10 if 'everyone' basically lived by these guidelines, we would be doing a lot better.
So, not sure what your *point* here is to your statement...?
you are absolutely correct but black holes have been proven if god is to be proven then religion is a false because who would not believe if he/she saw ? your faith stand strong when you don't see and believe.
Great example of what the author is talking about. Do you even know what the Ten Commandments say? Half of it is God reminding us how great he is, and Don't You Forget It. The other half is obvious moral advice, like don't murder or steal. Which, if you really need a list to follow, you're a true psychopath.
You Said: "Tell a cancer survivor that Faith does not work when all the science (doctors) have written them off and yet they are healed."
Interesting... So, what makes you think 'faith'='healing'...? And, what about the millions of others that 'don't' survive cancer that 'prayed' and had 'faith'...?
Also, something else I would suggest is that 'science'(doctors) are continuing to 'evolve' their discoveries/techniques/medicines, etc... which 'do' lead to even more healings as time marches on, yes...?
I feel sorry for some of the people that are anti Religion post on here. I think deep down you believe, but your heart's are so full of hate, and this is your way relieving your self. Go out, and do "something good" or "help someone" you will feel better.
Who cares?? I wish CNN would stop posting religeous propaganda. The Bible is a story book full of contradictions and things that science has obviously disproven. It's a joke.
The author of this article is hoist his own petard. Take for example his summary of Ben Franklin's quote "God helps those that help themselves." Clearly, not in the Bible. But then our author, John Blake, goes onto quote a scholar who argues that the Bible says that we should help eachother as if to negate the American value of self-reliance as somehow unbiblical. Of course, Mr. Blake doesn't ask any scholars whether 2 Thessalonians 3:10 has anything to with self-reliance and whether we actually are reading in our values and morals into that scripture. It's pretty straightforward and the context is applicable to our American values..."this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat."
I'm an atheist. I can tell you, I cannot stand it when fools like Blake write pieces like this and present a completely one-sided argument in favor of how he wishes people would read scripture.
Finally an atheist who doesn't just comment about how he/she thinks religion is stupid. Thank you. You're as rare a breed on the CNN forums as religious people who don't want to preach to you.
And you fail to differentiate between those who choose not to work (sloth) and those who have fallen on hard times. They are all not one in the same.
Not working sound uncannily American..how quickly you forget and try to change history and try to act like you ARE God. The part about helping yourself is very American because you people tend to steal and exploit other people on the planet for your own gains. It isn't directed towards earning a salary through labor guy.
@matt I think he made the distinction just fine, since the quote says "would not work," which implies a choice, over something like "are not working."
Jorge, the verse is often quoted but not in context. It was not Jesus who said it but Paul who was trying to take over the early cult of Christ. His argument was that when he and his followers went to Thessalonia, they worked to cover the cost of their keep. He was just P.O.d that others were not doing the same.
However, the better verses are still from Matthew 25:31-46 concerning that whole "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" thing. Of course, those words that were reputed to have come from Jesus are totally ignored by certain groups who prefer to misquote both Paul and Ben Franklin to toss the poor onto the scrap heap.
All of you remind me of the saying(not from the Bible) You choke on a nat but swallow a camel. In other words you make a lot of noise over nothing. Large Fish = whale does it matter? Yes there are some parables in the Bible but the whole thing is not a parable. God did creat the heaven and earth in 7 literal days. Satan in the form of a serpent did deceive Eve and since she lived in the Garden of Eden it seems logical that that is where she was deceived. That is where sin came from and THAT IS NO PARABLE. Read the Bible to dicover God's wonderful mercy and love in giving His son to die for your sins and don't worry so much about the translation. If you truly believe in God, He will be sure you get the right message.
It sounds like you are interpreting what the bible literally says to fit you own view of theology. This is what everyone does. So to say that everything in the bible is 100% true and literal as it's written is ridiculous because EVERYONE interprets it – not to mention it was interpreted and re-interpreted many times during its history by everyone from Hebrew scholars to protestant reformers to the Roman Catholic Church, who basically chose which texts to be included, which texts to be omitted and which texts needed "adjusting" to fit the Roman Catholic view. What I'm saying is the bible as we know it today is the work of human writers and editors and revisionists. Not god.
Barb, you are delusional and your god is petty and abusive. I fled Christianity because it is an abusive relationship–no way will I go back, no matter how many veiled threats you and your felllow deluded psychopaths make against me. I would rather dine in your Hell with my honoured ancestors, than enter your heaven with a parcel of beggars.
in your opinion.
Well said Barb. Indeed, most conservative biblical scholars believe Genesis is a story (not literal) and is meant to understand in a simple way how original sin entered the world. Reading the Bible can help one open their heart to God and then, God can speak to us through His Word.
Actually, the phrase "This too, shall pass" has roots in Judaism going all the way back to King Solomon – and maybe further. A quick google points to the Wikipedia.
Jewish folklore often casts Solomon as either the king humbled by the proverb, or as the one who delivers it to another. Many versions of the folktale have been recorded by the Israel Folklore Archive at the University of Haifa. In some versions the phrase is simplified even further, appearing as only the Hebrew letters gimel, zayin, and yodh, which begin the words "Gam zeh ya'avor" (Hebrew: גם זה יעבור, gam zeh yaavor), "this too shall pass."
I could spend more time googling – but why bother? A proverb is a proverb, whether it was recorded in our own Bible or not. I won't even get started on those "Lost Books of the Bible". There is so much hogwash and trash thrown around regarding those, we could never have an intelligent discussion that included them.
If you are trying to determine if a commonly accepted belief is actually true or wrong, don't you think that wikipedia is actually the worst place to look for answers as, by nature, it represents the commonly accepted beliefs.
Wikipedia is not a reliable source for any information. If enough people believe something to be true, even if it is obviously false, Wikipedia will say it's true. It's an opinion-based source. You might as well start a quote from Wikipedia by saying, "Someone once said..."
It is dangerous for someone to just read out a phrase or verse from the Holy Bible and then interpret it out of the context. I, personally, was an atheist at one time, and then one day I decided to be so good in my arguments against Christians and point out to them how the Bible contradicts itself that I started to read and study the Bible from the beginning to the end on my own. As a result, I gradually started realizing that the verses, which seemed contradictions before, were not so at all. In the end I renewed my Catholic Faith.
You sir, deserve respect for your willingness to study, as well as your ability to change your mind. I always laugh at those who say the Bible contradicts itself. First the Jews, then the Christians, studied those books for millenia. If, indeed, the Bible were filled with contradictions, the Jews and the Christians would all be arguing about those contradictions. Instead – we have denominations who argue over the importance of various passages, rather than those supposed contradictions. After all these millenia, real contradictions would have been found by now!!
the contradictions, in my opinion, lie within the interpretations of man -who have, over hundreds of years, 'interpreted' the bible in ways to best suit themselves. i no longer go to church every sunday or subscribe to one faith or sect in particular, but there is great value in the text of the Bible, as there is in the Bhagavad gita and the other texts of other faiths. the message i have read from all of them is pretty much the same (again, in my opinion). it is definitely worthwhile to read these things for yourself. at the end of the day, though, i think we all believe in things differently no matter how much we're reading the same words. you see (or read into) what you want to.
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.