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.”
just in case someone tries to make the situation more complicated by saying God created created satan [ Revelation 12:9 as previously mentioned by several people ] you might want to read Ezekiel 28:11-17. although addressed to "the king of tyre", it obviously primarily refers to the one who became satan. also note John 8:44.
Where are the snake's limbs?
interesting article about the fact truth, which may change the real threats of trade and many more of evils and god creature....................
This was a great article. I actually wrote something with a similar concept just a few weeks ago. http://www.everydaycitizen.com/2011/05/the_bible_and_the_average_pers.html
A book written by people back in the day when they didn't understand rain or the fact that this planet isn't flat. Religion is a farce, about the lamest 'grasping at straws' bit this species could come up with. Grow up, as far as the Universe is concerned, we aren't a bump in the road..
That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.
Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
Carl Sagan's 'The Pale Blue Dot'...
Those are good words.
And what you know and understand is of man. What Christians know is of God, which is the living word that He has given to us so that we might understand His will. Everyday, you and so many other millions of people are at a crossroads in your existence with your God, and every second of every day Christ is calling out to you to believe on Him so that you might be free from sin to approach the Father. My prayer for you is that someday God opens your eyes, so that you'll see the real reason you were put on this "dot." I'll take my belief in the Lord Almighty's power to create the earth and the heavens any day over man's diminutive thinking of a happenstance existence.
Yet you can't prove anything about your god to literally save your life. You put your life and "soul" in the hands of nasty people without questioning the simplest things. You accept lies without question. You don't seem to care that your "soul" is on the line, but instead worship the words of human beings at the risk of your "immortal soul".
Who is being stupid here?
Not me. I gave that nonsense up when I started studying the Bible and found it to be the worst guide for living I have ever seen beyond the Koran.
No lies needed here. I guess my soul is valued more than yours, for I am not giving it to a wino with an agenda.
I like those words. Are they all by Carl Sagan? He was a genius with words then. Awesome stuff.
Spare the rod spoil the child in not in there bible.
I agree that the writer was rather sloppy with this article. But I must contribute a true phantom biblical quote uttered by a man during a Bible class I was attending: He commented with great seriousness during the discussion that "....as the Bible says, 'water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink...'"
He was actually quoting Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Amazingly, nobody laughed or corrected him. I admit I quickly covered my mouth to hide my grin.
Great song by Iron Maiden, by the way.
The Bible was written by PEOPLE. Fools think it's holy because other PEOPLE who told them it was. You should read The Mission of the Sacred Heart instead. It has a better ending.
its funny how it was the tree of KNOWLEDGE they wernt supposed to eat.
This article says "Satan in the guise of a serpent tempts Eve to pick the forbidden apple from the Tree of life"
IF WE WOULDA ATE THE TREE OF LIFE WE WOULDA LIVED FOREVER! BUT INSTEAD WE WANTED TO DO IT ON OUR OWN WHEN WE COULDA JUST LET THE CREATOR TAKE CARE OF US. THE BIBLE WAS FOR PEOPLE WHO WERE MORE PRIMITIVE IN THERE THINKING. JESUS IS THE TRUE WORD OF GOD NOT THE BIBLE. COME ONE HUMAN BEINGS WE ARE SMARTER THAN THIS!!!!!
If you're so smart, why don't you turn off caps lock?
It's when they rant and the spittle drips onto their keyboards that the CapsLock key gets shorted out, I think.
FAR BEYOND SMART THROUGH JESUS MY FRIEND :)
I believe that Jesus died for my sins and rose again. If I didn't believe, I would still endorse Christianity. I realize that Christianity is a good force in the world today, as it greatly deters believers from breaking commandments and engaging in various perversions that spread aids and other Earthly problems. I wish there were less people breaking commandments (you know...killing, lying, stealing), swearing, and acting perverse in the this world that children have to grow up in.
Without a belief in Christianity or a care for goodness, someone could at least enjoy ravishing mankind to the extreme. Who could possibly be less intelligent than a poor atheist?
most of those people you refer to lying, cheating, stealing, killing, "sinning" are the same ones that call themselves Christians. Oh and I would consider a person that believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, two of the same animals living on a boat for 40 days, a whale that ate someone, a talking bush, and a WHITE middle eastern guy that died for us, and a jealous, hating, higher being that apparently "loves" us even though he doesn't show it (every trajedy to ever happen to anyone) to be less intelligent. The funny this is when you read this you will instantly think you're better than me cause I don't believe in fairy tales.
Well, TJ, We could look at prison inmates; it seems that most of them are Christian. Less than 1% are atheists! It would seem then, that many Christians think it's ok to sin because God will forgive them. Atheists do the right thing the first time around because it's right. I would recommend talking to some atheists before rushing to judgment. I've met my fair share of Christians. Most of them are pretty nice, if misguided people, but every atheist I've met is a compassionate and honest human being. You give Christianity too much credit.
Teach me how to troll like you.
Mr. or Ms. Henry,
With all due respect, you are very wrong. How can you say that Christian beliefs prevent people from breaking the commandments? Have you not heard of all the extra marital affairs or priests abusing children, just to name a couple of things. I am not Christian but I am probably more Christian in my behavior towards others than many Christians. I do believe in a God, just not the same one as you and that does not make me an animal or a freak ravishing mankind. It makes me different from you. I respect the beliefs of all people, even if I disagree with them and I do not believe I am any better than they are because they are different from me. They are just different. You should take a look at what good "Christian" behavior is and then practice it. It might do you some good.
Another one I hear all the time is that there were two of each animal on the ark. If you look at the actual account, there were many more of each, but they entered into the ark in pairs. Depending on the translation you read, there were either 7 of each clean animal and 2 of each unclean animal, or 7 pairs of clean and 2 pairs of unclean animals. So, potentially, there were up to 14 of many animals on the ark. See Genesis 7:1-3.
I found that, in at least one instance, modern Bibles have been sanitized to remove lewd references and obvious ancient astronaut references (e.g. in Ezekiel). So get a Bible at least 100 years old if you want to see the good stuff. Eric von Daniken can show you the way...
Something can be technically true, but false for all practical purposes. Such are some of the assertions in this article. For example, while it is technically true that the Bible does not say that a whale swallowed Jonah, Jesus did say in Matthew 12:40 (KJV) that Jonah was three days and nights "in the belly of the whale." Perhaps the author wishes to suggest Jonah got there by some methodology other than being swallowed? If not, his assertion is disproved. Likewise, the Genesis account does not identify the serpent as Satan. But Revelation 12:9 identifies Satan as "that old Serpent." It is not at all uncommon for one Bible passage to amplify or interpret another, so the assertion that "the Bible doesn't say that" is true only if you avoid looking at other passages that bear on the Genesis narrative.
If Mr. Blake wished to make the point that Christians should be better Bible students, and devote the time needed to become thoroughly familiar with the sacred text, I would agree wholeheartedly. But I see no obvious point to the article beyond "people make mistakes." I'm not sure that's news.
Rev. John F. Harrison, CFP
Someone should write a NEW bible and put all those fairy tale phrases in it– Call in The Bible- The Sequel. It's all just a bunch of BS anyway. MORONS RULE THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Revelation 12:9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."
It's ironic that the answer to the question of "Who is this serpent?", which is found in the first book of the Bible, is found in the very last book. Sure, Satan is not mentioned in the Book of Genesis, but the Bible does explain who the serpent is.
This is another attempt to call most Christians blind and dumb by using inaccurate information (ironically). While I think that can be the case with many, I don't think it's wise to publish a news article that is in itself ignorant.
Jesus talked in parables, hard learnt life lessons and scientific research has proven the accuracy of the Bible in many dimensions. I just don't see why people loose their peace of mind and try to test the faith of others, when the main message is very clear. I think the Bible has become a great obstacle and a stumbling block for some. It is a spiritual book and not an inferential pointer for logical deductions when you even simply fail to understand the overall purpose of it's existence. The heart of many seems to focus on discrediting it. Give me a better synopsis.
Concerned Reader, science has actually proven that the Bible is full of errors, lies, distortions, fraud, fakery, and logical impossibilities.
But I understand that you feel compelled to lie and so perhaps you just need some therapy or something like that.
You saved me the trouble of saying that. Thanks!
1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
WHAT? this is almost a heresy. JESUS tells us that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Yes, the story mentions a big fish, but when Jesus compares his death and resurrection to Jona's story, he says in Matthew 12:40 King James Version (KJV) that as Jonah was in the belly of the whale, the son of Man will be in the heart of earth for three days.
i'm in my 20s, been to hs and college and work in a large city – i have never heard anyone refer to any of these statements he makes as biblical verses. plus if you must judge a story, refer to all references to said story.
I think you just [proved the point... No one ever said it was a whale. We made that up. Just like the apple in the Garden of Eden. The Bible never said what the fruit was.
I think you've done nothing but prove the writer correct. Didn't the writer actually say that the King James version is full of misquotes and bad translations (paraphrasing) and this is exactly where you turned to in order to provide some evidence?
Jesus lied. Sorry kid.
How does you living in a big city do with ANYTHING about this article? lol
Three wise men visited Jesus upon his birth (please read Matthew 2:11). Three gifts were given and each had a meaning. Please respect christians.
But, it doesn't appear in Mark Luke or John. Mark pre dates Matthew(according to scholars) and it is assumed the three wise men story is made up, or it was taken from Q, which we have no evidence of
I looked up Matthew 2 11 in my Bible and it does not say how many wise men there are. It does refer to gold, frankincense andmyrrh. I always thought there were 3 wise men. At Christmas in my church in pagents, there were always 3 wise men. But the Bible I have does not give any number, it just says "they"
I just checked Matthew 2:11, in the Greek, and the text does not in fact specify how many Magi came to see Jesus; although they did present him with three gifts.
"Please respect Christians"
Only if you respect my rights and quit trying to insert your religious doctrine into the laws of these United States of America.
Until I see a majority of Christians respecting others' rights ( probably never happen), I cannot in all honesty respect such a gabbling lot of busybodies unable to see past their noses!
And where do Christians get their motivations for oppressing non-Christians? The Bible, of course.
The Bible: A large collection of deliberate misinformation, fakery, nonsense, and lies.
Oh, wait, I forgot all those "begats" and little snippets of ancient cultures like that.
Yet I'd be wililng to bet money that some of those "begats" were illegitimate and hidden from the men.
I feel it is statistically likely that any "genealogies" have errors when you are talking of ancient cultures where certain people felt the need to make laws against adultery.
And of course the most glaring bit of misinformation concerning paternity is found in the New Testament.
John Blake; you had better go read your Bible again Genesis 3: 1-6 " Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the women, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
"You will not surely die, " the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. " When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desireble for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it."
If this is not being tempted by Satan, then Jesus was also not tempted by Satan on the Mountain, and we know that he was and that Jesus rejected him.
You can't even read your post. Satan is not mentioned in the passage you posted, you're making that assumption based on your personal opinion. Read it again.....it says the serpent is the most crafty of all the CREATURES God created......a fallen angel is not a creature.....
Dude, you fail.
This is exactly why religion is such a dangerous hoax. Where does the "story" tie together that the serpent in Satan?......in YOUR mind, that's where.
It still says serpent and not Satan so I can see where he is coming from. It does not have to be Satan to be tempting does it? It could have been a challenge from God made with a serpent and why not? God can do what ever God wishes to do and in the case God may have tempted Eve in the garden in the form of a serpent, I can buy that idea with no problem myself. Besides why would God ever let Satan into his garden, that would seem rather sloppy don’t you think, how could Satan ever find his way into paradise, that as far as I am concerned would turn paradise into nothing close to paradise at all!
Tim, you are assuming to know the will of God with your question "Why would God let Satan into His garden"? Just because YOU think that would be "sloppy" does not mean God also thought so.
You have no idea what God was "thinking" during that event. Trying to apply your feeble rationalization to the event only reveals your (and my) inability to comprehend God and His ways.
The article was correct. It said that "Satan" was not mention until 500 years after the Adam and Eve scripture was written. Adam and Eve are in the Old Testament. "Satan" appears in the New Testament. They were not written at the same time, far from it.
In answer to Really?– As a matter of fact angels are also "creatures", because they are beings created by God. That's what the word "creature" means, i.e. "created". However, the text (in the Hebrew or Greek) does not state that the serpent was a creature, but a "beast", i.e., a wild animal. On the other hand, as noted elsewhere in this blog, the serpent is explicitly identified with Satan in the Book of Revelation, so M.D. Martin is not just "making that assumption based on your personal opinion". The identification of the serpent with Satan is grounded in scripture, although not in the text where he first appears, in Genesis.
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.