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.”
Religion is make believe. Like magic, but without the magic. Folklore and nothing more. Dogmatic Abrahamic religions in order of appearance: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Okay, and that comment had what to do with the article?
Guess science is man-made too huh? Lol I love stupid comments like yours
If you're going to do something half ass, don't do it at all! Incidently, that is not a Bible quote.
There are many problems with this article, several of which have already been pointed out. But this one has not yet.
From a philosophical or artistic point of view, you cannot "get an interpretation wrong". Your interpretation IS your interpretation. It's like an opinion. Everyone has one, but they don't all agree. Unfortunately, our interpretation reflects our reality.
But I do agree that most religious people, or perhaps just christians, are ignorant hypocrites. They neither really know their religion, nor follow what it teaches them to do. (Disclaimer: Emphasis on most. There obviously do exist people that know the detailed ins and outs or their religion, and even people who practice it. But these people are a very minute minority. < 1%)
Just because you interpret something a certain way doesn't make it the correct interpretation. I can interpret a speed limit sign to mean that I have to go at least 35mph rather than seeing it as a cap on speed.
People getting the 'interpretation wrong' when it comes to religious books is not as insignificant as you may think. There are a lot of radical Muslims that are getting the interpretation wrong, in my opinion. What about the Westboro Baptist Church? Are you going to defend these 'interpretations'?
Interpretations are opinion/belief but they are not necessarily correct. If someone has researched a book or piece of art and understands where the author/artist is coming from and the symbology/metaphors utilized their opinion is often more correct or true than a highschool student that just read a book or looked at a piece of art since they do not know much or anything about the arrtist/authors perspective, background or the meaning behind the symbols/metaphors/allegories utilized within the work. So some interpretations and opinions can be wrong or incorrect.
Unbelievers ignore the Bible and true believers check up on uncertain passages...so what's the issue?
What about the one part in the bible that says rub the bible like a magic lamp and god will make your wish com true.( find my car keys.)lol
People believe it comes tru.To bad for the kids killed.molested beaten. god ignored there preye'rs If there is a god he would be very evil to ignore the cryies of children.go watch the casey anthony trial.
I'll I'm sayin' is we need a DIS-BELIEF Blog.
Actually, the spare the rod, spoil the child passage is basically just a paraphrased version of Proverbs 13:24, see here:
"Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. "
It's essentially the same thing, this person did NOT do their research. I've read this book ONCE and I remembered where it was.
From the article:
“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?
You just didn't read far enough.
The article quotes that very passage you are accusing them of not having researched. Perhaps you should read the entire article before commenting.
You obviously didn't read the entire article b/c it is in there in the paragraph immediately following that quote.
Actually, he did. Right beneath the paragrapg where he says it is not in the bibile he points out it is an altered form of proverbs.
Another thing that is NOT in the bible: rapture. Not only does the word never appear in the bible, but the whole notion doesn't either. Rapture was invented by Fundamentalist Christians in the 1950s and sold to the ignorant masses.
In the larger sense, this is how all religion is infused into society. All religion is fraud in one form or another, perpetrated by some charlatan of one form or another, and sold off to non-thinking, non-questioning, ever-credulous sheep, who will then defend it to the death – theirs or that of the non-believers – without ever knowing or questioning why.
Rapture, the concept and the word, are very much in the bible. The word rapture comes from the Greek harpazo which means to be "caught away, plucked up, taken" and is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which is followed by Paul's description of the end days. It is normally translated to be "caught up together..."
1Th 5:1-2 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. (2) For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
The question in a literal read of Matthew, Thessalonians and Revelation is not if there will be a rapture, but when.
You're right, the word 'rapture' is not in the bible. Christians didn't have a word for what happened to Enoch who "was not, for God took him." Genesis 5:24. Or, for the changing of the body "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump." 1 Corinthians 15:51. Or when Elijah was carried up to heaven in a whirlwind. Or when Jesus was carried up to heaven 40 days after his resurrection.
It is – 1 Thessalonians 4
And from that you get "rapture" in its modern sense and the way it is fed to the sheep today? Even if one were to believe the fiction depicted in the bible (a giant blind leap of faith in itself), it is an account of things that have happened. Where do you get all the stuff about Jesus coming down, taking some select few with him and flying them to heaven, and all the calamity that will come down on everyone else? You're stuffing an awful lot in between phrases that were themselves made up with no basis to begin with. Using your approach I can come up with all kinds of interpolations, based on the bible, that will be equally (non-) plausible. As did one of your comrades, who was proven wrong a couple of weeks ago. Big surprise.
it looks like we have a bunch of people who again are judging entire cultures based on books they havent read. If you disagree with this article then it pretty much confirms you haven't read the Bible at length. Books like the Bible and Koran don't call for violence and such but when they are taken out of context they can be used to justify anything. The holy books aren't at fault, man is.
"If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives." (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)
Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15 NAB)
perfect example of someone taking the bible out of context and using it to support their hatred.
Ezekiel 28 says that the covering Cherub, (Satan) was in the garden of Eden. This author needs to do some research or at least ask a bible scholar!
Ez 28 reflects the "invisible power over mankind" that has been in existence for over 6000 yrs now. As 13-19 shows God allowed him to carry on this position..that was given him.. As a result of his own desire to be like God he turned in opposition of The Most High of the Universe...Adam followed... Leading ALL mankind ... See the results of This Ancient Historyh ToDAY!
You proved the authors point, you quoted that it said "covered cherub", but then added your own interpretation in parenthesis (satan). Where in the bible does it say that "the covered cherub is satan"? Word for word. Letter for letter. In essence, you have changed the words...once it starts, it can become out of control. I offer you to look into the prophecy about the King of Tyre and how this passage applies. Truth bless.
or in other word, Spare the rod, Spoil the child"
sabki maa ka lund.
Lonely? R_ape any hot virgin and get a WIFE!
(Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT)
if a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.
congrats, you took a singular bible passage out of context and used it to support your viewpoints. you're just as guilty as the priests you despise.
How did I take it out of context? or does it not say what it says?
If you take a single quote out of an entire book and use it to represent an entire religion it's quoting out of context, it's a fallacy. Do your research.
Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread DUNG upon your faces, [even] the DUNG of your solemn feasts; and [one] shall take you away with it.
Is this what they mean by getting dung faced?
Wasn't there a prophet who was made to spread dung upon his naked body and go spreading the word through out the town and another who was "told" to marry a prosti-tute.
If a movie was made of the entire Bible, would it not have to get an X rating? And yet there are still some gems to be mined from it just like life itself.
You haven't read the bible, I'm guessing you're getting all of your quotes from atheist websites and such that don't care about context, but rather they remove quotes that SEEM mean/disgusting/evil and post them for people like you to find and further your hatred of the bible. If I pick and chose individual quotations from anywhere in a series like Harry Potter, you could adjust the plot and characters as you saw fit. You chose a quote that seems evil that has absolutely no context in order to facilitate your hatred. What you're really demonstrating is ignorance. You're just as guilty as the equivocating priests you so despise.
I'm guessing you don't know the meaning of "context" and you are actually embarrassed and can't defend these passages! Out of context my foot. Look it up and just try to understand the meaning of "out of context". Word for word quotes are context!
Mashoenima on June 13, 2011 They talking about how I like fried hkeccin, even though, THEY are black and probably have fried hkeccin for breakfast.
Doyourresearch; I would contend that you do YOUR research. The author is correct. The ORIGINAL Bible contained NO references to Satan or the devil whatsoever. It wasn't until several centuries passed after Jesus's return to heaven that theologians began trying to rectify the bad things that happened in their world with an all loving, all forgiving God. They decided to review the Old Testament and to Jewish scripture and discovered 'demons' who plagued the righteous. It was THEN that the Bible was edited to include references to Satan. The Serpent represented nothing more than wisdom from the time of Jesus' resurrection and ascension into heaven until theologians revised the bible. And it's been revised thousands of time since! The 'word of God' has been amended so frequently, one has to wonder what He REALLY said! I would suggest that you study theology before you presume to take issue with an author!
If you do not believe the bible is God's Word, why are you arguing over it? If you do believe it's God's Word, then it refers to a fallen angel named Lucifer or Satan. He is named in the old testament and the new testament.
Truth, I did an entire research paper on this and people would be surprised to know that the demon they view as the devil is hardly referenced and never said to be a singular being.
Actually, I believe "this too shall pass" is from a Jewish midrash. King Solomon asked for a ring to be made which would both lift him from depression in bad times, and protect him from overconfidence in good times. The goldsmith came back with a ring engraved "Gam zeh ya'avor" – also this will pass.
I use "and this too shall pass" all the time but I never thought it was from the Bible. It's from a Western movie!
" 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”?" THIS GUY IS A NOVICE AT BEST..SMH...DOES HE EVEN OWN A BIBLE???? SMH!!!...Actually whoever wrote this blog needs to read their bible ALSO because the bible DOES say a great fish in Jonah 1:17,HOWEVER in Matt. 12:40 it confirms Jonah was swallowed by a WHALE. smh!!!!
Because most people would prefer to be ignorant rather than think for themselves. That is what the whole of organized religion is based on, especially Christianity and Catholicism. Organized religion has never done anything good for humanity in history.
You're calling others ignorant? Really? FYI: Catholicism (and Catholics) are Christian.
Really, Amanda? I would encourage you to try to prove your statement about no good ever coming from organized religion. I can think of a few well-known and recent organized religionists who have done quite a bit of good – Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandhi. I can also think of a few anti-religious people who have done a lot of bad – Stalin, Mao, Hitler. "Never" is a big word.
It is wrong to condemn something you do not fully understand. Its really not all that bad for people to have faith in something greater than themselves and try to live decent lives.
Oh, and you need to look up Catholic Relief Services. That organization works to aid the suffering worldwide. Once again, don't comment on things you don't understand.
Actually Stalin studied for the priesthood and Hitler was a Catholic. He had friends in the Vatican, you see. Mao was a devoted follower of the Buddhist religion. This is another example of you not knowing what you are talking about!
This article was tough to read and the comments are even harder. If you don't believe the bible that is fine. This article does little but butcher the bible. The words spare the rod and spoil the child are not in the bible: True. It says, Proverbs 13:24
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes... It says that the rod is for the back of the fool. i.e. spare the rod of correction and spoil, leave foolish the child. The Genesis account does not place Satan in the garden, but revelations ties the serpent to Satan as does 2 Corinthians. "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years."
You don't believe the bible, fair enough. There is no reason to write a straw man article like this. You have mixed "cleanliness is next to Godliness" with real passages that you have not researched. It is just lazy journalism.
Good post. I don't expect much more from irresponsible and biased journalism employed by the likes of CNN and others.
I Love your Response... And As Christians the World will Slander us and persecute us... But stay Strong and remember: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Mt. 5:10-12)
Thank you Mike. To say the Adam and Eve account is as erroneous as the "cleanliness" misquote just shows the authors own lack of biblical literacy.
This article isn't butchering the bible just saying that people misuse it, which is true. In the of entirety the bible The Devil as we know him doesn't exist. Satan is referenced but that is just an old hebrew word meaning adversary. In the bible anyone who opposes you is your opponent of your Satan. Jesus calls his apostle Satan, not because he's evil, but because he challenges him. The idea that there is a prince of lies controlling all the evil in the world is a fabrication. I'm extremely devout and articles like this are helpful, separate the fact from the fiction, entice people to read the book they so blindly follow or reject.
I have long lowered my expectations of CNN, and this one does seem a glaring example of why. Btw, that cleanliness next to godliness thing is actually (also?) one of prophet muhammad's famous sayings, in the middle east.
Mike, this is simple...
The writer of this article as well as any other individual commenter on this blog that could care less about the Bible is unregenerate. There are two types of people in this world according to the Bible. You have God's chosen Elect and you have everyone else, the reprobate. This works itself out very easily in the world today.
All those that hate the God of the Bible and stay hostile against Him all their life were destined to be this way and these people will spend an eternity in Hell.
Those people who find themselves in a saving relationship to God through Jesus Christ and Him alone will have eternal life.
There is a DISTINCT difference in the two natures of these two different groups of people.
Mike, it seems you and a few other of the remnant fit in the group that enjoys God and what He has provided freely for His elect, namely the Cross of Jesus Christ and all that goes along with that... reconciliation, forgiveness, etc...
On the other hand, the writer of this article and every other God hater that hangs out in droves on this website seeking to write their .02 that displays their outward hatred of God clearly show what camp they are part of. And sadly, their spiritual blindness that comes from being in bondage to the god of this world – who is Satan – produces virulent attack after attack of anti-Christian rhetoric from their fingertips. That is their nature though. They can't stand the fact that they will be held accountable by a just and holy God someday like the Bible says they will. So, what do they do? They reject it. (It allows temporary relief, although this just shows how deceived they are – yes, this is sad)
The Bible is clear on all of these things. Natural unregenerate man CAN NOT truly understand the Bible. You have to be born-again in order to discern what it is saying. 1 Cor 2:14
Jesus is the only way to God. You must be born-again to truly SEE that. This is impossible with man, but with God it is possible. Matthew 19:26
Seek solace from Hebrews 9:27 and Ecclesiastes 3:17. God will make everything right at that event... until then, we will always have injustice in this world and it will always manifest itself in ways like these blasphemous comments and articles etc... It's just part of life...
Horky: Yeah! Go to FOX for your faux news!
I've always wondered why Adam and Eve had belly buttons?
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.