By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – NFL legend Mike Ditka was giving a news conference one day after being fired as the coach of the Chicago Bears when he decided to quote the Bible.
“Scripture tells you that all things shall pass,” a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to only five wins during the previous season. “This, too, shall pass.”
Ditka fumbled his biblical citation, though. The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Ditka was quoting a phantom scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it’s not there.
Ditka’s biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers. The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it’s also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches - all types of people - quote passages that actually have no place in the Bible, religious scholars say.
These phantom passages include:
“God helps those who help themselves.”
“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
And there is this often-cited paraphrase: Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden.
None of those passages appear in the Bible, and one is actually anti-biblical, scholars say.
But people rarely challenge them because biblical ignorance is so pervasive that it even reaches groups of people who should know better, says Steve Bouma-Prediger, a religion professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
“In my college religion classes, I sometimes quote 2 Hesitations 4:3 (‘There are no internal combustion engines in heaven’),” Bouma-Prediger says. “I wait to see if anyone realizes that there is no such book in the Bible and therefore no such verse.
“Only a few catch on.”
Few catch on because they don’t want to - people prefer knowing biblical passages that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, a Bible professor says.
“Most people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the book,” says Rabbi Rami Shapiro, who once had to persuade a student in his Bible class at Middle Tennessee State University that the saying “this dog won’t hunt” doesn’t appear in the Book of Proverbs.
“They have memorized parts of texts that they can string together to prove the biblical basis for whatever it is they believe in,” he says, “but they ignore the vast majority of the text."
Phantom biblical passages work in mysterious ways
Ignorance isn’t the only cause for phantom Bible verses. Confusion is another.
Some of the most popular faux verses are pithy paraphrases of biblical concepts or bits of folk wisdom.
Consider these two:
“God works in mysterious ways.”
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
Both sound as if they are taken from the Bible, but they’re not. The first is a paraphrase of a 19th century hymn by the English poet William Cowper (“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform).
The “cleanliness” passage was coined by John Wesley, the 18th century evangelist who founded Methodism, says Thomas Kidd, a history professor at Baylor University in Texas.
“No matter if John Wesley or someone else came up with a wise saying - if it sounds proverbish, people figure it must come from the Bible,” Kidd says.
Our fondness for the short and tweet-worthy may also explain our fondness for phantom biblical phrases. The pseudo-verses function like theological tweets: They’re pithy summarizations of biblical concepts.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child” falls into that category. It’s a popular verse - and painful for many kids. Could some enterprising kid avoid the rod by pointing out to his mother that it's not in the Bible?
It’s doubtful. Her possible retort: The popular saying is a distillation of Proverbs 13:24: “The one who withholds [or spares] the rod is one who hates his son.”
Another saying that sounds Bible-worthy: “Pride goes before a fall.” But its approximation, Proverbs 16:18, is actually written: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
There are some phantom biblical verses for which no excuse can be offered. The speaker goofed.
That’s what Bruce Wells, a theology professor, thinks happened to Ditka, the former NFL coach, when he strayed from the gridiron to biblical commentary during his 1993 press conference in Chicago.
Wells watched Ditka’s biblical blunder on local television when he lived in Chicago. After Ditka cited the mysterious passage, reporters scrambled unsuccessfully the next day to find the biblical source.
They should have consulted Wells, who is now director of the ancient studies program at Saint Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania. Wells says Ditka’s error probably came from a peculiar feature of the King James Bible.
“My hunch on the Ditka quote is that it comes from a quirk of the King James translation,” Wells says. “Ancient Hebrew had a particular way of saying things like, ‘and the next thing that happened was…’ The King James translators of the Old Testament consistently rendered this as ‘and it came to pass.’ ’’
When phantom Bible passages turn dangerous
People may get verses wrong, but they also mangle plenty of well-known biblical stories as well.
Two examples: The scripture never says a whale swallowed Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, nor did any New Testament passages say that three wise men visited baby Jesus, scholars say.
Those details may seem minor, but scholars say one popular phantom Bible story stands above the rest: The Genesis story about the fall of humanity.
Most people know the popular version - Satan in the guise of a serpent tempts Eve to pick the forbidden apple from the Tree of Life. It’s been downhill ever since.
But the story in the book of Genesis never places Satan in the Garden of Eden.
“Genesis mentions nothing but a serpent,” says Kevin Dunn, chair of the department of religion at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
“Not only does the text not mention Satan, the very idea of Satan as a devilish tempter postdates the composition of the Garden of Eden story by at least 500 years,” Dunn says.
Getting biblical scriptures and stories wrong may not seem significant, but it can become dangerous, one scholar says.
Most people have heard this one: “God helps those that help themselves.” It’s another phantom scripture that appears nowhere in the Bible, but many people think it does. It's actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the nation's founding fathers.
The passage is popular in part because it is a reflection of cherished American values: individual liberty and self-reliance, says Sidnie White Crawford, a religious studies scholar at the University of Nebraska.
Yet that passage contradicts the biblical definition of goodness: defining one’s worth by what one does for others, like the poor and the outcast, Crawford says.
Crawford cites a scripture from Leviticus that tells people that when they harvest the land, they should leave some “for the poor and the alien” (Leviticus 19:9-10), and another passage from Deuteronomy that declares that people should not be “tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor.”
“We often infect the Bible with our own values and morals, not asking what the Bible’s values and morals really are,” Crawford says.
Where do these phantom passages come from?
It’s easy to blame the spread of phantom biblical passages on pervasive biblical illiteracy. But the causes are varied and go back centuries.
Some of the guilty parties are anonymous, lost to history. They are artists and storytellers who over the years embellished biblical stories and passages with their own twists.
If, say, you were an anonymous artist painting the Garden of Eden during the Renaissance, why not portray the serpent as the devil to give some punch to your creation? And if you’re a preacher telling a story about Jonah, doesn’t it just sound better to say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, not a “great fish”?
Others blame the spread of phantom Bible passages on King James, or more specifically the declining popularity of the King James translation of the Bible.
That translation, which marks 400 years of existence this year, had a near monopoly on the Bible market as recently as 50 years ago, says Douglas Jacobsen, a professor of church history and theology at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.
“If you quoted the Bible and got it wrong then, people were more likely to notice because there was only one text,” he says. “Today, so many different translations are used that almost no one can tell for sure if something supposedly from the Bible is being quoted accurately or not.”
Others blame the spread of phantom biblical verses on Martin Luther, the German monk who ignited the Protestant Reformation, the massive “protest” against the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church that led to the formation of Protestant church denominations.
“It is a great Protestant tradition for anyone - milkmaid, cobbler, or innkeeper - to be able to pick up the Bible and read for herself. No need for a highly trained scholar or cleric to walk a lay person through the text,” says Craig Hazen, director of the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University in Southern California.
But often the milkmaid, the cobbler - and the NFL coach - start creating biblical passages without the guidance of biblical experts, he says.
“You can see this manifest today in living room Bible studies across North America where lovely Christian people, with no training whatsoever, drink decaf, eat brownies and ask each other, ‘What does this text mean to you?’’’ Hazen says.
“Not only do they get the interpretation wrong, but very often end up quoting verses that really aren’t there.”
The bible is just a tool to control society. People who proclaim to be religious know the least about the bible whereas people who are agnostic know more about the bible. Read the article http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/09/28/dont-know-much-about-religion-youre-not-alone-study-finds/?hpt=C1
youre a tool, everyone forms groups
every group forms a power structure.
Don't anger the sky fairy or he will cause floods and earthquakes and other stuff when he feels like it.
@RobertFTL: Sadly, there's some truth to the notion that non-Christians know more about the Bible than many Christians. I am a Christian, and I see some of that, too. I believe some of it, though, has to do with the fact that in some denominations (I won't name the one I am thinking of, in particular), people aren't encouraged to read the Bible - and, in some instances, aren't told that the Bible is their only source of truth. People then rely solely on leaders in their church to "teach" them, or the church ends up supplementing Scripture with other writings that they hold in as much regard as the Bible.
Rev 12:19 and 20:2 puts a name to the serpent.
yeah, and those passages were written over 500 years later...
so if i start adding on extra pages to Shakespeare's Hamlet that identify his fathers ghost as the alien Xenu, doest that make Shakespeare a Scientologist?
And then there are things that should not be in the bible:
Saving Christians from the Resurrection Myth:
From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.
From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:
"Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.
Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.
Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.
The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.
Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "
"In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:
o An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
o "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."
o p.168. by Ted Peters:
Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "
o So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.
Not really all that shocking as you have to be a real moron, dimwit, or weak person to still be believing in these fairy tales. It's 2011, we have telescopes that can see the universe when it was only 700 million years old, and yet some still believe in magical invisible man in the sky. Here is a good "biblical" saying: Some people are just born farking stupid.
What do you believe created the energy that fueled your "big bang" that you believe created the universe, and everything we see around us? You choose to believe in an energy source that has existed eternally. I believe in a God that has existed eternally, and created your energy and everything we see around us.
As evidenced by you, yes – many are just born stupid. The weakest of people, such as yourself, only believe by what they can see. Only a fool looks for signs as proof. You aren't able to see the molecules which hold us together, but you believe they're there.
You equate to someone who only has had a semester of physics, then approaches Einstein and challenges him to prove all his theories you believe wrong – or outright accuses him of not knowing what he's teaching. A pupil doesn't know more than the master.
The bible is just a tool to control society. People who proclaim to be religious know the least about the bible whereas people who are agnostic know more about the bible.
Read the article/survey:
Those of you who believe in religion are making the world a worse place by teaching your children to believe in hobgoblins and witches, by whatever name. I know that you're incapable of comprehending it, but morality and ethics are not dependent upon religion. Or maybe I should give in and start my own religion: The Church of Live By The Golden Rule And Shut Up About It. Think of the tax breaks!
By not believing in a Creator (in God), you have to, then, find some logical explanation for the presence of morality in human beings - which is a trait not seen anywhere else in nature, and conflicts with the "survival of the fittest" idea. If humans miraculously evolved from something less complex, then morality should never have entered into the equation. But, yet we have a morale conscience.
It's amazing how many people confuse these words. The Bible, as written above, the most revered book in America is also the most commonly mis-quoted. As I deal in the teenage/College student realm I find each generation a bit more aloof when it comes to actually knowing the book. (and these are supposedly devoted Christian people) I wonder, why people know so little about it, if indeed it's a book people say they live their life by?
The Coran is the ultimate revelation from God the Almithty, it confirms some of the true Bible Old and New testaments and denies that which doesn't exist in the original revaltion to Jesus Peace be Upon him.and the Coran has never been changed since its revelation for those who witnessed its revelation learned by heart and wrote it as well.Their followers did the same
Rev_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.
Rev_20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
A short pop quiz.......................name one GOOD thing that God has done for you recently and name me one BAD thing that Satan has done to you recently............if your answer is none and none you have an A+
RE: "The Bible does not say that Eve ate an apple from the tree – only that she ate fruit. That's a bigger error in thought than equating the serpent with Satan.":
Exactly! Right on. This summarizes what I said earlier:
"You fail to mention another fallacious aspect of the popular version of the Genesis story about the fall of humanity: the Bible never says the forbidden fruit is an apple.
You point out that the Bible mentions that Jonah was swallowed by a "great fish" and not necessarily a "whale" but you neglect the Biblical fact that the fruit was not necessarily an apple."
Can you re-read the article?
At age 10 I began reading the Bible in a sincere effort to improve my life. I started at Genesis 1,1 but stopped abruptly when I got to Numbers 31. That was nearly 70 years ago, and I have yet to see any reference to that verse by anyone.
I just read Numbers 31 online (I am an atheist, by the way). Holy crap, that chapter was DISGUSTING!
Numbers 31....................the holy war against Midian.....................sounds familiar today does it not?..................also makes Moses and his armies look like terrorists................does it not?....................maybe it is a prophecy of the present and the future................may it not?
The midians destroyed and stole the crops of the israelites, and did unspeakable things to their women and children. They were basically killing off the israelites. They worshipped a 'God' and did blasphemous rituals to him including burning infants alive, and man vs man 'stuff' that CNN censors. God had moses tell the israelites to make war because if they didn't they would surely die. It would be the equivilent of a war of attrition and mass genocide against a country of people in today's standards. So yes, they were told to fight.
. Bro, anything can bemoce an obsession, whether religion or politics. I see guys like JD as being passengers in a lifeboat. The lifeboat is leaking badly and everyone is bailing the water out, except JD. He is just sitting there, reading the Bible.That reminds me of a story about a zealot Christian whose boat sank and he began to pray to God to be saved. Three boats came by offering assistance, but he refused, saying God would preserve him. He finally drowns and goes to Heaven where he confronts God: "I prayed and prayed, why didn't you save me?" he asks. God replies, "You moron, I sent three boats, why did you refuse their help?"Politics is power and control, and yes, that is vanity, but it can be a deadly vanity and we need to resist evil in all its forms, especially political evil.
According to the premise of the article, can a translation legitimately be considered a quote? Sometimes removal of context is a greater injustice to what is acually being said.
The article also helps serve the purpose of influencing people who do care about such a topic as biblical scripture, to go out on their own and research the original words to the best of their ability. And after having done this for years, and still doing and learning so much from doing it, my respect for the actual scripture has grown immensely, while my respect for organized religion has diminished greatly. If looked at upon in the proper and open minded way, the concept of this article can bring about an extremely positive outcome, but if looked at upon in the ignorant way, can provide neutrality in the negative sense.
I wish I had time to read all the posts, I'm amazed at how many there are. A couple of thoughts; Eve was tempted by the serpent in the garden, the temptation was that she could become like God by eating the fruit. Gen 3:5.
Jonah 1:17 and Matt. 12:40 confirms Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Even authors of articles like these can make mistakes.
2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Esword is an amazing free online bible you can download to your computer.
Go to the Book of Job and you will see a miracle and a catastrophe all wrapped up in one story................it would seem that God is mean considering he allowed the destruction of all of Job's family and belongings only to restore them with a NEW family................is that a FAIR God or a God who is ego centric and wants to flex his muscles at the cost of Job? Some of the bibles stories and books are sick.................violence and hate and total destruction....is that not also a contradiction of God's 10 Commandments? Anyone who willingly and wantonly destroys others is a corrupt individual..........in my mind and according to the bible we are describing God as a powerful egomaniac who will kill and destroy if not obeyed...........is this love....is this fair..........what is good about it?
The Bible does not say that Eve ate an apple from the tree – only that she ate fruit. That's a bigger error in thought than equating the serpent with Satan.
Yes, the serpent in Genesis chapter 3 was Satan. Satan was either appearing as a serpent, possessing the serpent, or deceiving Adam and Eve into believing that it was the serpent who was talking to them. Serpents / snakes do not possess the ability to speak. Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 both describe Satan as a serpent. “He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:2). “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelation 12:9).
Jack. It's a parable. Christ spoke in parables and the old testament is full of them. If you know the original native hebrew the book of genesis was written in, man kind is literally what adam means. And eve is woman kind, literally. The garden of eden is what we would call today the animal kingdom. Also the solar earth year of 24 hours is not mentioned untill after mankind is kicked out of the animal kingdom, the creationary terms for days is a 'complete phase' as they spoke it back then. Basically there were 6 phases to the creation of existence.
The MOST misquoted scripture is Matthew 7:2-5. "Judge not lest ye be judged." It's misquoted by non-Christians but that's to be expected because scripture can't be fully understood without the Holy Spirit. So, for them to misuse it isn't a surprise, but normal. They don't know the context. Who said it? Who did they say it to? What's the context surrounding that command? And what is judging? The world takes it as speaking out against someone or something they believe in. That's usually when they use it.
But there's so much more to this verse for Christians to realize so they can obey it scripturally. Too many people calling themselves Christians get this verse wrong, too. Like I said, it's very likely THE most misquoted and misused scriptures ever.
Most Christians have never read the bible. It's obvious you're one of them. You feel that somehow by being Christian you have authority to quote from something you've never actually read. The distinction isn't between Christians and non-Christians. It's between those who know the contents of that vile pile of dog crap called the bible, and those who don't.
You sound pretty judgmental yourself. The world does not revolve around christians. There are other religions and people within the christian faith that have no idea what they believe-they just haplessly follow anyone that sounds halfway biblically educated. I turned away from the christian faith for many many reasons and am so happy now. And yes, non-christians can live good lives.
You fail to mention another fallacious aspect of the popular version of the Genesis story about the fall of humanity: the Bible never says the forbidden fruit is an apple.
You point out that the Bible mentions that Jonah was swallowed by a "great fish" and not necessarily a "whale" but you neglect the Biblical fact that the fruit was not necessarily an apple.
Aw, John, you beat me to it by one minute on the apple thing...
Em. Did you not read the article? Your point of the apple is exactly the point that is being made in the article.
Let's not forget that the Bible is a compilation of stories written by MANY people over MANY decades, most were written LONG after Jesus had died.
But we're constantly told the Bible is the "word of God or the word of Jesus" ... not only is that false but it's a blatant lie meant only to convince & scare people into "believing" ... & it's worked very well.
See? This person is the perfect example of the scripture that says non-believers can't understand the scriptures apart from the Holy Spirit. This person's comment could easily be explained away. (It's just hard to do it on a message board that is scrolling quickly.)
Hmm, the bible was made up before jesus was born. The new testament was made up after his death.
I agree completely!
This doesn't matter. The bible is just used to keep people down. Those doing the keeping down don't care what it actually says.
If you go to your local book store and look for relegious books i.e. BIBLE , you will notice how many different versions there are of the "bible" NIV and King james and many others all claiming to be the one true word of God. Or, the offer a dummied down version translated as to how someone else sees it. The bible has been rewritten how many freeken times by how many people for umpteen different beliefs. I myself am a christian and do believe in God. However I wonder about the validity of all these versions. Much less what some one else thinks a verse means .sheesh !
I totally agree. I rely only on the King James. Not nkjv, or any other because they worded the bible to their own definitions, their own beliefs and thus corrupted, changed and misrepresented the Word of God. The best ones are the study bibles with the alternate translation footnotes in the center from the Gideons, in my opinion.
"It came to pass in those days..." is a quote from the Bible, and, although not a direct quote, keeping yourself clean is akin to treating your body as though it is the Temple of God. Laying blame on the misquotes of the bible on Protestants sounds like a Catholic. You know, the ones that ask the Pope to forgive them, instead of asking God, or the person they've offended. The whole 'blame game' may well be as much of a reason to expel Adam and Eve because of their not taking responsibility for their own mistake. The serpent made me do it, or my wife gave it to me is 'passing the buck'.
Ditka was hurt and the pain will pass is all he meant. Trails come and they end; they come to pass.
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.