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.”
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Jesus said that it was a whale.
Jeebus never wrote a book you asshat. All of your "christian" stories have been reworked from even older tales, mashed up with other local tales and fed thru the translation machine too many times to be considered much more than a few moral parables surrounded by gibberish and "look how much crap I had" lists.
Davison: Ever wonder why those tales were rehashed to fit other civilizations for thousands of years instead of just throwing them into your hat? Think your hat fill will last as long?
According to the Bible, Jesus also quoted from books that are not found in the Bible. I wonder why he would do that. Funny that after thousands of years they come back into the picture after others tried to ban them as well, 1600 plus years ago. Nothing ever really changes.
They get the interpretation wrong? What colossal, smug, elitist arrogance. Religious hierarchies have proven on the centuries that they interpret biblical passage to fit their politics. Does the king have a god-given right to his throne? Sure the bishop's on his payroll. Is charity required to get into heaven? Yes, especially giving to the church. Is god on your side in wartime? Obviously – the other side has Satan for a mascot.
Excellent points u have there.
The only necessary to get into heaven is surrender. Romans 5:8 says, for when we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Rom 5:9-12 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (10) For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (11) And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (12) Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Charity in the bible is love. God's love in us revealed to others. It is not a achievement for heaven, but a response to God's spirit.
i'm guessing you haven't read the bible. it's funny that the people who hate the bible are just as ignorant of it as those who blindly follow it. Reading a few passages online that support your view point doesn't make you an expert.
The bible is mostly fiction anyway...why not add some more rubbish?
You obviously don't know that for sure, or else you wouldn't be that interested in an article like this one. Besides what is the harm in believing in the Bible when it teaches valuable lessons that makes people better to themselves and other people. Sure its not a quick solution to all your problems, and it only works when you really apply its principles; but even if it were wrong- which it's not- there are millions of people worldwide who have had their lives change for the better, because of the Bible.
Actually my very limited interest in this article is only because of the absolute misery religion and specifically christianity, has brought to billions of people through the ages, up to today. And I know for a fact that the bible is fiction, because no god has ever shown his/her/it's face, or have been heard from...ever! If you claim to have seen or heard god 'speak' to you, you're schizophrenic and need help, which sounds like the case already.
Who created God?
Who created the energy that the big-bang theorists believe was all that existed, if it wasn't a Creator?
Who created the universe, energy, matter, time, space, love, etc?
Either the universe created itself from nothing or a creator created itself from nothing. But to think that a God chose HUMANS on a tiny planet revolving around a less than spectacular star located in a small galaxy ... but somehow humans are so special to the creator? It's comical.
Who says there has to be a "who" involved at all? In any of it? At any level?
There is no compelling reason to assume any "entlty" being involved at any point, so all you creationists need to produce some compelling and logical argument why anyone should assume facts without support.
@drahcir61: I find it infinitely more comical to think that everything we see around us - as extremely complex as it is, down to the way that cells are manufactured in living organisms - could have possibly come from a big cosmic explosion that somehow brought order to one planet out of chaos.
Who/what created energy matter? Gravity. It's in Stephen Hawking's new book and well worth a read if you really do have interest in these types of questions.
If this god individual has "always been", what the heck did he do to keep himself entertained before he created man? Or are we all just a whim of his?
god is a POS! :)
@ChristineF: Many believe that God created angels before He created man. Angels, also, are created beings.
Two one celled animals that bumped butts in a a huge void that was created by the big bang that was created by chance that was created by nothing................therefore we are all imagined and do not exist...........if you see a door knob it is not really there................you just think it is................and when you grab it and turn it to open a door..........your mind tells you that it is real and you just opened a door when it fact none of this happened..................
From a probability standpoint, when you consider the zillions & zillions of planets that exist in the universe it's quite conceivable that biology would develop somewhere & that evolution would create complex organisms. There may be a creator that created the universe, but I find it hard to believe that HUMANS were made in the creator's image.
@drahcir61: Looking at humanity today, I, too, don't see God in us in some ways. But, that's our fault. Still, we were created in His likeness in a number of ways.
As for evolution, no one has yet explained - or admitted it's possible - how non-living matter could create living matter, or how organisms having many times more complex DNA structures could have come from something with less genetic code.
Creation and destruction go on eternally. The Hindu texts have it more scientifically correct. For anyone who gets all excited about how the big bang has to prove God's creation, google big bang and read the theories about the what happened before the big bang and the other related theories. Scientists have their far out beliefs that they haven't and probably never will be able to prove as well. All is one, forever and ever, without beginning or end. God is All........ahhhh........or many other names, but all way beyond human ego's ability to fully define. Keep working at it though. The more we know, the better off we all are. Ignorance is the root of all evil.
"dontnomuch" I believe meant to quote Revelation 12:9, not 12:19, as no such verse exists. Revelation 20:2 is correct. And the reference to the same serpent is in Genesis 3:1-4
(1) Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?"
(2) And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,
(3) but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'"
(4) But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die."
Lastly, it is often thought that the "fruit" in Genesis 3 was an apple, although there was no mention of an apple.
Read the hebrew. The serpent has no name, no "Controller" ... it's just a serpent.
The bible is history rewritten! Nothing more than a book that is twisted for the benefit of mankind. Our true history is decedent from extraterrestrials. We are hybrids of them.
So Gio, are we descended from Cardassians or Vulcans. Maybe from Betazoids because I always thought Deanna Troi was HOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And for the benefit of mankind is a bad thing???? And who created the extraterrestrials???? Just foolin'. Now where is that Stargate?
Read the 12th Planet by Zecharia Sitchen, the Sumerian text explains history in true detail. Many bible passages were written from the Sumerian text. We were genetically modified from the Annunaki, religion and science won't touch it. Who created the Annunaki? I don't know, maybe god. There is more to creation than the rewritten suedo history of the bible, and Deanna is still hot!
So what makes the Sumerian text more authentic than the Hebrew scriptures? And is Stichen any more believeable than van Daniken from back in the 70's? Who knows, maybe Joseph Smith was right! He never included a Death Star in his writings though.
Most of the concepts expressed in the "misquotes" in the article are there.
Acts: 20v29 "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock."
1st John: 2v18 "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time."
The world would be a much better place if everyone worried more about their own personal last time instead of always trying to scare everyone with an apocalyptic end time. That ship has sailed so many times no one in their right mind believes it any more. If we could just all focus on doing right and the rewards that brings today and stop worrying about the end times, it would be so much more effective. It's like the saying that I'm probably going to get wrong but you should still be smart enough to understand the meaning (hopefully): If you manage the pennies properly the dollars take care of themselves.
I appreciate the article but must take exception to his final statement that across the country many "very often end up quoting verses that really aren’t there.” I've been in many Bible studies and my experience has been that you will be challenged quickly by misquoting verses.
The point is more that people really only pick and choose what they want to follow. I mean, how many Christians have you seen with tattoos? That's a pretty big sin right there.
and how many eat ham or shellfish etc. etc.
Do your research next time; the Bible does indeed name the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and it is universally accepted in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Catholicism alike that Satan was the one controlling the serpent.
No, only the re-translated King James has added that. The original Hebrew doesn't name the serpent as Satan. It is only accepted these days because the King James that added that part is the most read version of the Christian bible.
Also, in the book of Revelation, Satan is described as the serpent (Rev. 12:9).
Except that the article is completely correct. Genesis never says the serpent is Satan or controlled by Satan. That concept came later. Check Genesis for yourself. if you don't have a bible, you can read it online.
You guys are missing the point. The original parable about the garden of eden didn't mention satan. Just because a different book that was written 300 years later says that it was satan doesn't mean anything. In fact, thinking that any of these stories are a history lesson is silly.
You know the old saying about to "ASSUME" don't you?
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on one of the many of us :) Who gets through a day without assuming things? What a silly overused statement. So cute and so stupid. Can you imagine how tiring every minute of every day would be if you had to think everything you did out in detail before doing it, instead of assuming things will happen based on past experience. Shewwww. Sorry for the rant, but I worked in the computer field and you couldn't get through a minute with out many assumptions. Guess that's why we all eventually ended up looking like donkeys to those on the business side or management.
I think we as a society have forgotten the real meaning of the Bible and other spiritual works, over time man has realized certain truths about ourselves, one being fear of masses equals control. The "scriptures" are in fact a compilation of stories written by many different people and those people were writers, and scholars. They meant to create stories that would challenge our ethics and lead us to lives more fulfilling for ourselves and those around us. They like our American forefathers sought to educate the world on certain rights and courtesies that should be true throughout humanity. Over the ages we've lost that notion, and turned all these books into absolute doctrine. They're merely fables and tales that we should study and enjoy.
It's beyond belief that anyone could believe the nonsensical Noah story. It says that a 600-year-old
man built a ship big enough to hold hundreds of thousands of animals, even though the ship was smaller than most current cruise ships. He then gathered a year's supply of food for the caged animals. After
being cooped up for a year in tiny cages, the animals were once again set free, except for those that
were immediately sacrificed to make God happy. Then Noah and his family repopulated the earth thru
incest. Great story.
I guess you haven't seen the Nasa Image of the Top of Mountain(aramat or Ararat) in Turkey. Visible in the froze ice for no telling how long. or at least Noah's time is the image of a large ship frozen in the ice.
I've seen and read about it. Very interesting. Still doesn't mean a 600 man fit over a million forms of animal life on a boat. Didn't happen.
"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."
Actually, that's not what others said. You paraphrased their words, just as Ditka paraphrased a message of the Bible. And just as those other phrases are representations of the Bible.
I would think any decent journalist would understand such a simple concept.
I am sure that spare the rod spoil the child refers to this scripture. I have Jesus as my personal saviour, and I will stand before him and be judged! Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.“ Another Proverb states, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”
You are counting on a translation. If so – which one? As the article states – there are few that are genuinely accurate. I also suppose you don't read Aramaic or Greek which are the original languages of the Gospel.
Who would follow this barbaric advice anyway? Beat your kids sayeth the lord? Please. This was written by men almost 2 millenia ago and we now know that it doesn't work. Quote dead priests all you want, but we've got things a little more figured out now, thank you.
"....Aramaic or Greek which are the original languages of the Gospel."
Pity that "God", with his 12,000,000,000 IQ, never learned how to communicate so that no mistranslation would occur.
@AustinTony: We "have things a little more figured out now"? Are you serious?
Just a little....unfortunately. Too bad we're too dumb to realize the "just a little part". There's a reason for everything, though it may not be exactly what you thought, when you first started looking. Many cultures have histories that contain global or massive floods. Just how well do we think ancient man could explain such things?
John Blake obviously has little understanding of the Scriptures. I thought you were supposed to write articles on things you know about? Eve tempted to eat fruit from the tree of life? Serpent is not Satan? jonah not in a whale? Get a clue John.
I think you missed the point of the article. Instead of just nit-picking you should read what the article is about. It makes some good points about the state of religion in this country.
You obviously did not read it in Hebrew. Simple as that. Contact a Rabbi who can read it in its original language and comment on what it says and how much later than Genesis the concepts you describe really appeared. You are dead wrong in your beliefs.
If anybody really thought any of those listed "non-verses" were actually in the Bible to begin with, I really don't know what to say.
If anyone actually believes that any of the stories in the bible actually happened – I don't even know what to say.
@Dano: But yet, you're open to believing every other historical book, as well as things you read or see in modern media, I bet?
THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD.......YOU FOOLS!
The one you are reading is the word of translators. Many of them had an agenda, or a bias or simply did not understand the language in which it was written in.
If this is important to you, learn Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic and then you can actually learn the word of God.
It's actually not; it's God's messages as interpreted by mankind.
The bible was written by men to control men. The bible is the word of power hungry priests.
The bible is a POS, you sheep!
The Bible is utter BS from start to finish with a few "begats" and such thrown in.
Your "god" has never said a single thing to anyone. All you have is echoes of your ego and your schizoid interpretations of everything.
You convince yourself that lies are true and assume that everyone must bow down to your lies.
What a sad indictment of our genetic heritage that people like you are born every minute.
The Logic of God is all around you. Word was translated from the Greek LOGOS which more appropriately should have been the LOGIC of God not The WORD.
I seem to recall the Bible condemning people for calling others fools:
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou FOOL, shall be in danger of hell fire.
But on the other hand there are four online pages of verses in the bible calling certain types of people fools. Go figure.
the serpent spoken of in the book of genesis was later qualified in the book of revelations as that old serpent called the devil...so the serpent in the garden was the devil.....u forgot to mention that in no part of the book of genesis for that matter the bible did it say the ate an apple...
So snakes are satan? I have a lot of satans in my bark yard do I need to do an exorcism? Will Jehovah come and kill them?
@1alan1: If a snake comes up to you and starts talking - and, on top of that, encourages you to disobey God - chances are, it's the Devil.
Oh come on now. What a cheap shot at a headline. Just because "Satan" is not named in the garden of eden fable, the serpent clearly represents him. Get over it!
Ok, then clearly explain how it represents or we know it is Satan and where you are getting that information.
No, not clearly. The serpent was never named. You only think it's clear because that's what you were told your entire life. When you realize this, you can apply it to the rest of the bible.
What makes you think that Satan is the bad guy?...........................What makes you think that God is the good guy?..............they both have been fighting it out for eons...........is ANYBODY ever going to win?
Prov 22:15: "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
Perhaps, but the bible didn't say that the rod of correction was grandpa's cane. While the elements of the article could be better, it is highlighting a major problem in that most people don't actually READ the Good Book... they just talk about it and think that they read it through consensus.
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.