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.”
Your article is not a part of bible too !! Let the people say what they want, shy should it be a part of bible? Did the guy who said "this shall pass too" claimed that it was a part of bible ? Just because he used that line, next to one appearing in bible, YOU INTERPRETED THAT HE ASSUMED this line is from bible too – means it is YOUR THINKING – and you made a news of it. CNN has nothing else to write ? And if CNN pays for writing such stupid articles, HIRE me !! I will make a truck load of money !!
You are correct, ksmani.
If CNN paid people to write stupid articles, you would be a millionaire in a month.
You are hired!
CNN, Hire me.
I'm a bulldawg.
Matthew 24:6-8 (King James) 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. (New International Version) You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Great Comment! The author didn't actually mention any quote that isn't at least similar to verses in the Bible.
The quote about a "great fish" is just ridiculous....Don't most cultures classify whales as fish? What other "fish" could actually swallow a human being?
, ...And!, ...Just what is the point of this!!??, ... What a waste of time!!, ...Ridiculous writing!!, ...Fraustrating.
Wasn't it also a waste of time to read and then comment on an article you thought was a waste of time?
It's frustrating for some due to the fact that their spiritual eyes aren't wide open.
Don't laugh. I'm not asking anyone to drink kool aid here.
I choose to believe that we didn't originate from primordial slime and that an all-knowing, loving Creator has a purpose for each one of us.
Sounds a bit too much to take in? I had the same problem with believing in anything most of my life. Nothing made sense, nothing rang true. I did what I did by rote, to be good, to prove to him and her and everyone else that I was good.
It doesn't matter. When we break the bonds on our minds, our human way of thinking, we are free, we are broken so that we can actually let God guide us. It takes much humility for this. It may embarass some. I know that we can not experience any pain greater than what Jesus went through while He was here.. We must be like Him.
I am very involved in Stonecroft Ministries for Women. It's a nice brunch where curious people can come and learn about it all. Those who wouldn't normally go to a church service. It's our thinking that some must feel like they "belong" somewhere–like having someone walk alongside them, discuss everything rationally, and give place to their feelings and ideas-– before they believe. Your life is your greatest example.
"God helps those who help themselves" is actually from one of Aesop's fables. Just sayin'
Yes, and the interesting thing is many supposed "Christians" use this phrase to justify their feelings of not being obligated to help the poor, unfortunately.
Hmm.. in the BhagvadGita, one of the holy books the Hindus follow, God says "I will give you result at my discretion... AFTER YOU FULFILL THE REQUIRED ACTION WITH NECESSARY INTENSITY." So the point is, if any one sits on couch and thinks God will help them accomplish a certain thing, that aint happening, as made clear from the above line. I am sure, a similar line should be hidden somewhere in other religious books as well. Aesop just simplified the whole language of it so that it could be used easily.
misinterpretation. It doesn't necessarily mean you help other people, but help yourself "intensely".
All these non-sense people are putting out there tells me people have no ideas of what is going on. Although the Bible was written by men but they were chosen men by God Himself, not any ordinary men. The Bible is true and it doesn’t have any lie on it. Over many years people have misinterpreting the Bible and the Lord Himself warned us of that very same problem because He knows it was going to happen.
You will only understand the Bible as the Lord meant it to be only if you know Him and except Him as your personal Savior, and then your eyes will be open to the truth of what the Lord is saying. You will have a better understanding of the Word in the Bible after you acknowledge your sin to the Lord and except the fact that you can save yourself, until then all the non-sense that are written above is how you will interpreted the Bible. The Bible is no ordinary book written by psychologist, the Bible is the manual written by God Himself letting us know how we should live until He returns to the this earth.
What a coincidence that the maker of this earth will sit somewhere and ignore the earth and His people. I know it is hard to believe someone you can’t see, unfortunately He is still very much alive and in control of men destroying of the earth.
Reading the Bible is one thing but knowing the Lord has your personal Savior and reading the Bible is another thing. Not knowing the Lord and read the Bible will only confuse someone even with these plain English texts. This is the reason why we have many cults and make me feel good churches everywhere you go. The Lord warned us about that, there will be a time when this will happen. The world is confused without the Lord’s knowledge being present. The Bible is very clear to someone who knows the Lord. All these problems occurring in the world right now which no one seem to understand, only the Bible explanations of what is to come seems to be true explanations of the chaos in the this world and it only take someone who knows the Lord to see it. Yes Adam and Eve are in the Bible and you can’t miss it from Genesis.
Is this not a lie?
"You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee. However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
And those without the right comprehension and understanding of God will miss every point the bible was meant to convey. Guess what, i would say about 99.99% of the human population are this category. Which is why we are still living in misery and despair, just as they did in history...nothing has changed, cause we are lost and have always been, hence why many prophets and Son of God came to try and save many times, with no success...Of course, some of you will disagree with me, and I expect that. But I guess you won't really look at yourself and admit that your not Godly! Your just delusional!
So the only way to understand the bible is by coming to know god; but, the only place to learn about god is in the bible.
There are a few contradictions too. Here are a very few of them
1. God is satisfied with his works
God is dissatisfied with his works.
2. God dwells in chosen temples
2 Chron 7:12,16
God dwells not in temples
3. God dwells in light
God dwells in darkness
1 Kings 8:12/ Ps 18:11/ Ps 97:2
4. God is seen and heard
Ex 33:23/ Ex 33:11/ Gen 3:9,10/ Gen 32:30/ Is 6:1/
God is invisible and cannot be heard
John 1:18/ John 5:37/ Ex 33:20/ 1 Tim 6:16
Read Quran. The muslim book. The only one.
Why discuss these petty phrases and not bring up the much more serious items attributed to the bible that are not in it? For starters, the bible never said Jesus was the product of virgin birth. At least not until it was mistranslated into Greek around 300 AD. The bible also makes no mention of hell as a place of eternal punishment. There's no reason to pick apart these silly little proverbs when it's so easy to debunk the very foundation of Christianity. Jesus was not the son of god born to a virgin mother. That pretty much ends the argument..
John, you need to actually READ THE BIBLE before making these ignorant responses. The Bible does state that Mary was a virgin with child, and that child was named EMMANUEL (meaning: God with us.) That child was born, and was called Jesus, the Messiah. And, is described in the Bible, as the SON OF MAN (GOD). Take the time to read the BOOK, before posting nonsense.
I'm 54 years old, growing up I didn't know anyone who didn't believe in the bible. When I read the hatred toward religon and the misunderstanding between Old testament and New testament teachings, it saddens me. Times have certainly changed for the worst.
I'm sure Muslims have it a lot worse
The award for the most ignorant and irrelevant comment goes to Jean! Congratulations Jean!
@Mike, yes things are much worse. It use to be Christians could burn people alive for even questioning the bible, never mind hating it.
Ah the good ol' days when people tried to force people to believe whatever benefited themselves.
What's worse is what is in the Bible:
Leviticus 20:9, 13, 18 25:44
Deuteronomy 7:1-2 25:11,12 22:20
You mean stuff like this
When the LORD your God delivers it[city] into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies.
However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them
At the end of the day, all religions are built on a personal choice: to believe or not to believe. From there, all else follows their respective doctrine. I can always hope that living a good life will be enough, regardless of my choice. Maybe if I choose wrong, I would still be okay. If there is nothing left after this world, at least I know I choose a path that has allowed me to live a good life and contribute to society in a positive way. Over the years, through reading and research I have found solace in the choice I have made. The real question is, have you?
Well said, every word.
Well, my plan it to leave the world a better place for my having been in it. So far, so good
Religion is for infantile fools. ALL religions are CULTS.
And what do you believe?
I feel very sad for you. Doesn't your have a sense of emptiness? God loves no matter what and is there for you, if you let Him.
Sofonda Cox: You have apparently been hurt by someone professing to be a religious person. You are not the only one. Condemning an entire group of people of any denomination is not the answer. Religion is designed, like psychology, for self-examination. Know yourself, and improve on your imperfection's as best you can. In addition, attemp to help improve others lives as well. You're comments can give the impression that you, yourself, are in a "cult." In advocating against any group of people, who are not all bad. We've all had the misfortune of meeting religious zealots, and people who pervert the prophesy, doctrine, and text of The Bible, Quron, Torah, etc. But, keep in mind that there are people in every denomination, and demographic, that have good hearts too..please. Take care.
The most heinous and the most cruel crimes of which history has record have been committed under the cover of religion or equally noble motives.
-Mohandas Gandhi (Young India, 1927)
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
-Blaise Pascal (Pensees, 1670)
Actually, the writer here is guilty of the very thing that he is warning the reader about. To state that the serpent in the Garden of Eden is not Satan is only correct if you stop reading the Bible at Genesis. The Old testament is understood best in the light of the New testament. A reading of Revelation 20:1-2 would clearly give the impression that if the serpent were not indeed Satan he was at the very least a tool used by him. Text, without context, is pretext.
You mean to say that if you read the new testament the old testament is more easily understood. Don't you think the folks who wrote the new read the old so it fits together? That's like saying another author who read the Harry potter series and continued to pick up where jk Rowling left off wrote a book that fits perfectly with the older series.
"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...Not only do they get the interpretation wrong, but very often end up quoting verses that really aren’t there"
Not every milkmaid, cobbler, or coach gets their quotations & interpretations wrong...and many "biblical experts" get so steeped in their own favorite theology that they can stray from biblical truth as well. The only way for people to be sure about what words or sayings are the bible is to read it & memorize key portions for themselves, in various translations. I would much rather encourage individual bible reading than emphasize an over-reliance on authority figures because when pastors or professors veer off the path they can take a whole lot of intelluctually stunted people with them. Defend your minds people, and learn from the Word yourselves :D
Too many religions that spew too many lies in the world...
Is Geddy Lee here too ???? I want to hear what he has to say . Where's Geddy eh ?
The "BIBLE" greatest work of ongoing fiction ever told.
Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again
The bible tells us the stories of how ancient people lived. When you think about it, it's full of the same kind of things people are doing today. The value of the bible lies in the guidance given to help us learn how to live a better life. The bible is also full of people who chose to follow the advice provided in the verses. In the end, it is still given to each of us the opportunity to live our lives as we choose.
ACTUALLY, LET'S JUST BURN THE BIBLE....
Science > religion
Only a fool would believe the two cannot coexist.
If you're N. Peart of Rush, I see Alex Lifeson is here too.................yez were GREAT a few weeks ago in Dublin. I this all a Rush fan joke perchance???
Non-Fiction and Fiction can coexist on the same library shelf.
If God would have just been patient and waited two thousand years he could have made a movie and we wouldn't be having this problem.
You're right. After all, "the Jews" do run Hollywood. And the world, too, apparently.
Actually, I'm pretty sure you're a tool.
Why do so many Xtians seem so angry at the author? There's nothing in this article that should challenge anyone's faith in anything other than popular cliches.
The author is misinterpreting the text of the Bible. The phrase, "cleanliness is next to Godliness," is speaking about the cleanliness of the spirit/soul, which is in fact "next to Godliness." The author of this story has looked past the true spirit of the prophesies of the Bible, and created his own story about the meaning. This story is a clear attemp by the writer, to distort the meaning of these popular phrases/sayings. Thats why people become aggrivated by senseless dribble in the form of a column, such as this.
that's like saying why do muslims decide to blow themselves up. not all christians are butt hurt about the article. only those who are easily butt hurt.
@p41: "cleanliness is next to Godliness," is speaking about the cleanliness of the spirit/soul. Please quote the chapter and verse where I can find this in the bible. Or are you just making up quotes too?
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.