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 same goes with the story about Jesus and the adulterous women who the Jews wanted to stone to death and Jesus said that whoever was without sin can throw the first stone. This entire story of the adulterous woman never existed in the earliest Bibles. Even a footnote in your Bible will point that out.
You people suck.
I believe the disputed portion of that story is the part where Jesus is said to have written something in the dirt as he spoke. Aside from that detail (which was found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls) the rest is not in dispute.
Anyone want to tell me where I can find the RED SEA in the original Hebrew text of the Bible.
Just another bad translation in the King James version
Also another faux pas in the King James version as mistranslated from the original Hebrew "It was evening and it was morning, the first day"
Check out what the accurate translation is from the Hebrew.
The KJV is noted both for the fanatical following it has (by those whose false doctrines its supports) and for the number of blatant mistranslated verses and even 'added' verses. http://www.biblestudy.org/basicart/what-are-the-errors-in-king-james-version-bible.html
Interesting article. For the athetist to say he/she understands the bible more then others is inaccurate. The athetist knows where to find scripture like someone can look up a word in a dictionary. True understanding of the bible is the acknowledgment that God is who He says He is and that His Son Jesus is a perfect physical representation of Him. Christianity is not supposed to be a "religion" but a relationship with God thru His Son Jesus. Like a marriage there are public and private aspects of that relationship which are rooted first in God's love for us and then our love returned to Him. Like a marriage there is a public declaration of that relationship (ceremony, wedding ring, etc) or profession (a public comentment to God thru Jesus. The private aspects may be how God individually deals with those in right relationship to Him on what they are called to do, etc. Religion is what Islam or other world religions are – man's ever failing attempt to appease some "god" with the hope that he'll find pleasure in there outward performance and ultimately reward them for a "job" well done. In majority of cases man gets to decide what is acceptable and often gets ticked when they read the bible denoting no one is good enough in and of themselves to deserve the gift that Jesus paid the price for. As to the serpent in the garden – yes it was a serpent but the "influence" or spirit behind actions of the serpent was obviously the devil. The devil wanted man's authority which God had given him prior to this. Why do you think God said all that he did to the serpent? Not to mention even Jesus referred to Satan as "that serpent" or even called him "the old fox". When Jesus said to Peter – "get thee behind me Satan" had Peter suddenly turned into the devil? Uh no but at that particular point Satan was influencing Peter's actions and words and Jesus dealt with the true issue. That is why the bible tells Christians that we don't "war" against flesh and blood. People are being influenced either by good or bad and we are to remember that and address that first and foremost. The athetist may be able to quote some scripture but until saved has zero capacity to find their way out of the dark. Many came before them professing that God didn't exist yet this to is simply demonic in nature. Man ever since the fall has been trying to be independent but man was never created that – althought not in the scripture – it does highlight a very true scriptural principle when Dylan sang- "you gonna serve somebody – God or the devil" and I know I'm probably not quoting that exactly right but the context of his words held that meaning. Each of us has to make a decision on where we stand with Jesus – for me He is my Lord and Savior. I'm not confused and see quite clearly why so many object to Him; primarily because man has wanted to do it his own way for so long. All the comments about God causes evil etc have no scriptural basis either. Never once say Jesus tell someone – the reason your son died was God needed another angel in heaven or the reason for this horrific trial in your life is because God is teaching you a lesson. Bible says don't even say that evil comes from God or that He tempts with evil (James). Yet folk run around blaming God for this or that because we've got plenty of "religious" people but very few "relational" folks. So the athetist is no more an expert on the bible just because he/she can find a scripture than it makes one a scholar because they can pick up a dictionary and find a word and its definition.
Why don't you just say they comprehend what they read.
You say that the Bible say not to attribute evil to God? But in Isaiah 45:7, God himself says that he created evil.
You should really read the whole book.
I have to agree with comments regarding the transcription of the bible that what we're reading is man's interpretation of what was supposedly written by a higher power and I'm willing to bet the transcribers put their own little spin on things as far as what they wanted people to believe. Maybe it was some kind of attempt to control people's behavior who knows. I consider myself a christian but I don't blindly believe in things like some and I'm not afraid to question something f I don't think it sounds like something Jesus would do.
You think about the story of Jesus, a man that did no harm to others, and yet people enjoy despising him. – you cimprehend that ?
I don't dislike Jesus. On the contrary, I think he was a fine guy, if a little delusional about who he was. It's his followers I can't stand.
God's judgement is right. Everything in the Holy Bible is authentic and true. God desires people believe what is right, according to what he presents to them written in the Holy Bible. Seeking signs from God, to confirm his existence, is not God's way. God's way is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He that believes and is baptised will be saved, but he that believes not, shall be damned. God is very clear on this. God is Judge, he is the creator, he is not a respect of persons, he is righteous, all powerful, all knowing, soverign, loving, and merciful. God is slow to wrath, and of great kindness. God is not quick to condemn anyone, but is patient towards mankind, however God does require repentence. If people do not repent, the will in fact perish, Jesus clear said this. God knows our frame. God knows we were made from the dust of the earth. God stretches his arms out to people, and offers his gracious hand of mercy. God is very compassionate. He loved the world so much he game something that no person can even bear to do, offer up their precious child for the sake of people like us. There is no greater love. The sacrifce God made, was from his heart, and as Jesus cried out on that cross, as they were putting him to death, he said " Father forgive them, they know not what they do. " Jesus asked for our forgiveness as it was our sins that put him there. It is what it took to save those of us who believe, and recieve Jesus. I don't know anyone that could face the scourging Jesus endured, and then bearing a heavy cross afterwards, be crucified, then have God his Father turn his back on him, and forsake him. You see that was the thing he dreaded so much, as his sweat became as great drops of blood. It was the seperation from God. Jesus said; " My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me ?" God had to forsake Jesus, because he became sin for us. Jesus became our sacifice for our sins. Where sin is, there has to be a sacrifice made in exhange to offer life, for life. Jesus beared the entire sin of the world. So don't think for one second Hell is not real. Jesus was not obligated my no means, other than his own desire to offer up himself for us, because he was without sin, while we all have sinned. The thing that ment the most to God, God endured for oursake, so God's judgement is very serious, and his love is very real. Will you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord, and Saviour today ? The invitation is still available.
Is this scripture true? Happy [shall he be], that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. - Psalm 137:9, King James.
An invitation in believing in an imaginary man in the sky, zombie jesus rising from the grave on easter sunday, and a book that was written by a bunch of dellusional men? OF COURSE...........NOTTTT.
You presume to know a lot about God for a mere mortal. Good luck with that. You need to try some more punctuation and spell-checking in your ramblings. Try to organize your thoughts, as you sound like someone that is in a cult or drugged out of their minds. Have you considered that perhaps... just maybe.... that everything in the Bible is fiction? Just open your mind for one second and consider that you are brainwashed.
Yes, yes, a good way to show off your supposed knowledge of the bible is to copy and paste some text from another website. There's no need to assert your silly beliefs on those that do not care.
The author missed a good one: "His judgement cometh and that right soon". HA! It's remarkable how many people think that's from the Bible. (If you don't know it's from The Shawshank Redemption, you really ought to see the movie – it's great!
Greetings J Alaska: Revelations
3-11 in the King james Version says: Hasten I come quickly, Hold thou fast, what thou
hast, that no man take thy crown.
The Bible Bashers and anti Christian types are still trying to justify there lifestyle and the here after.
The Christians however know where we will be going when the final trumpet sounds.
Your welcome to join us and hope you do. You just need to be prepare for the final day.
Islamist is not a word. It's just Islam.
You also can not write about A-dolf H-itler, g-as ch-ambers, or system-atic exterm-ination. CNN is like Wal-Mart, I hate it but I can't get enough!
Three words: Thank you CNN.
Toss out a few more.
If things are going good believers say "God is great! It was meant to be.."
If things are going bad... they say "It must be God's plan."
These 'fall-backs' are far too common and plain irritating BS.
I hate hearing this junk at funerals - as if that person saying that it was God's plan has the inside scoop on things.
The bible has been translatted and rewritten so many ways and so many times that it's nothing close to a pure text.
Frankly, we can't remember everything that WE did last week in every waking moment.
We put people on trial for months or years - because we can't get the story straight.
How can we get straight what men and women did THOUSANDS of years ago??
I laught to see archeologists digging up things and speculating what that person's life was like. And they have no TRUE idea what that person was like or what they did with every waking moment.
It would be the same as someone coming along centuries from now and finding a pair of reading glasses in my house and archeologists of that time stating... "And this person had trouble reading.." but - the glasses were left at my house by a friend...or a stranger.
Yep. It gets misquoted all the time.
The "blind faith" aspect should only go so far - then read the blasted thing for yourself.
I'll bet there are truly very few that have actually read and studied a bible from front cover to back.
They only get taught a few main stories and the rest is woven on in.
I mean... who wants to really teach one of the first stories in the bible is about incest. (Don't go into shock - If it was just Adam and Eve in the beginning.....and their children.... who propigated with whom ?? ).
The author of this article obviously doesn't know the bible because many of those phrases mentioned aren't found in the bible word for word. But they're message is there. Also, the bible even refers to Satan as the original serpent as well as a deciever, so, it is heavily implied that he and the serpent mentioned in Genesis are one and the same.
I forgive you CNN
It is wonderful to see how strongly mythology flows through the American culture. In spite of science and knowledge the Christian myth persists. Amazing.
According to science / knowledge, 83% of the known universe is made up of particles of matter with no observable properties, no charge, are invisible and can occupy the same space as observable matter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter). When the universe was formed, it only made up two thirds of all matter. (By the way, this shoots down the quantum gravitational theory cited at the end of the article. There were no Galaxies in the beginning, therefore there was no scale) There is no actual evidence that this "dark matter" exists, it is presumed to exist because we need such matter to make our equations balance. Also, even though the 2nd law of thermodynamics tells us that the universe is moving inexorably toward a state of total entropy, that all order descends toward chaos, science / knowledge tells us that any weakness or defect in a complex system will eliminate itself because it doesn't promote growth and improvement. As long as you're talking about life, that is. This is not MY definition of blind faith against the obvious facts, this is what Webster's dictionary defines as blind faith against obvious facts. The universe is not contingent, it did not create itself out of cause and effect relationships that it created when it created itself. God created all things.
Broaden your mind, my friend. The more you actually read the Bible the more you see it possess zero conflicts with scientific fact. Now, scientific philosophy is another matter...
"...today we know that slavery and polygamy are both crimes. So does that mean the patriarchs were criminals?"
Slavery and polygamy have always been wrong, but they have not always been crimes. So, no, the patriarchs were not criminals because at that time there was no crime against either slavery or polygamy. They were only doing wrong. But they were doing no more wrong than was already part and parcel of the culture in which they lived and which most of the world accepted, so God did not require of them to live according to the higher standard that he now expects from human beings today.
"Solomon the Wise killed his own brother for wanting to marry one of the wives of his late father. Would we consider this justified today? Of course not. And yet it's in the Bible and the Bible considers Solomon a great, wise king."
And why do you think that is? According to the Law of Moses, a man cannot marry his father's wife - she is considered just as much the man's mother as if she were a blood relative. So Adonijah was asking Solomon to break the Law of Moses on his behalf, which would have made Solomon an unjust king and discredited him in the people's eyes, thus paving the way for Adonijah to make another play for the throne as he had done before. So Solomon, recognizing that Adonijah was irredeemable, had his brother killed - a sentence that Adonijah actually deserved already for his treason and which Solomon had held back only for David's sake.
Solomon was wise yes, buy was a womaniser and he later he fell and repented
this father David was called a good king but if we remember he killed his general and got his wife, God called him out and he repented.
Jacob or Israel tricked his own father and brother yet he was considered good. later he repented
PAUL was person who went places to capture Christians and led them to their deaths, later he changed his ways.
The Bible is about humans and how flawed they were, just like today's Christians never claim to be saints. we are all sinners,
that's why we ask for forgiveness daily for our mistake we make and continue to make
The only person who is perfect is Jesus who is also God
I agree with Fair Garden and Chuck. The Bible was written by God through the hands of scribes. It is a letter to us from God the Father on how we are to walk under the sun and please Him. Woe unto those who mock Him or His words. All things that were made were made by Him. It teaches us how to be alert in this generation and how to tell the deceivers from those that speak the truth. More importantly it teaches us not to fear what is going on in the world today because our Heavenly Father is in charge. It also tells us that our nation will be ruled by men who have minds of babes. "It is written have Ye not read."
You are sheep.
When the bible calls people sheep, its not a good thing.. It means they gunna sell you some BS and you guna buy it because you are sheep. SHEEP!.
What kind of God demands that you bow before him in order to receive rewards, and if you don't he will inflict upon you the most horrible, torturous punishment? That sounds like an awfully needy God to me. Sounds more like a dictator and tyrant, not a loving merciful God. Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, they all made the same demands too.
better to be a sheep than an ugly goat
@ CJ... if you dont like it you can worship the devil and see how that goes...all up to you though
If the bible is the word of god, how do you account for the thousands of contradictions it contains? You don't have to go through the whole book, the first two pages contain two stories of the creation of the world that differ from each other. Or take the book of Josua - Jesus would clearly have disagreed with its message.
If you make the same mistake that muslim fundamentalists make and regard your scripture as the Holy Word of God, as dictated by God word for word, you are in great danger of either losing your faith completely or losing your mind. If on the other hand you treat it as a work of man and disregard its quirks while reading it, it still can be a source of great inspiration. Compare it to buddhist writings or the koran and you will find the same basic concepts and ideas in their cores.
As there are laws of nature, there are laws of the spirit. Stand under a falling rock and you will get hurt. Sin, and your soul might get hurt in the same way without God having to make this happen in each and every case. (Replace "your soul" with "your well-being" if you're atheist.) Newton, Einstein and many others dealt with the laws of nature, the bible, the koran, the Pali canon and others try to grasp and explain the laws of the soul.
I do not think anyone can claim to know what in actuality is a verse from the Bible considering the original versions were written in a dead language that neither you nor I have any chance of understanding. What we have are loose translations. Once you accept that you are reading a loose translation, you will stop perceiving the Bible as an authority on anything, and begin to perceive it as a work of literature similar to works like Beowulf that we can try to take from and interpret to the best of our ability. The exact content and the intentions of its original authors we may never know or truly understand fully.
Another famous misquote of the bible is, Do not get tattooed but in reality the verse they are referring to is do not mark thy body for the dead which means do not dress in guise of the dead nor mutilate thy flesh. I love it when people tell me my tattoos are going to get me sent to hell.
here is food for thought. jesus wasnt christian. he was jewish, a rabbi (teacher) and christianity didnt form until about 300 years after his death.
Have all of you lost your quackers by believing in this childish fantasy and fairy tale stories of the bible?
Misquoting an old book is not news
The first half of the bible, (the old testament) which contains genesis, gives no mention of Satan. It was written as a guide to life for Jews. I don't believe that Jews believe in Satan, but I could be wrong though I have read the bible cover to cover... Begat and such... I don't feel the author is attacking anyone's spirituality, I think he just means to point out the misconceptions that arise from the understudy of very old book, over a very long period of time. But everyone already has their minds made up all ready, so we all must be right. God bless America people, look it up it's in the bible.
Job 1:6-7, old testament reference to Satan.
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.