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.”
Well – there is ONE thing at least The Book has correctly identified which is very much reflected in the comments on this article – the parable Jesus told about a field where the wheat was over-sowed by God's adversary with the seeds of weeds.
They were to grow together until harvest time (Mt 13:24-30).
As anyone knows who has observed waving fields of wheat, when the wheat is fully matured its "head" is bowed over by the weight of its bounty (with grain) whereas the weeds, being empty, without any ability to provide nourishment stand upright and are easily identified so as not to be harvested with the wheat.
So it will be – and as Jesus concluded his teaching, "Let the one who has ears – hear"
No, it's CORN that has ears.
Eve was tempted to take fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God never restricted Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of the other tree planted in the middle of the garden – the Tree of Life.
And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." Genesis 3:22
So, they probably were allowed to be immortal until Eve started listening to animals and, yes, the snake was just a snake. Remember that God cursed it to crawl upon it's belly and to be enemies with humans forever. If this were so, the all snakes today are still Satan, right, and Christians ought to get out their whacking sticks a la The Simpsons.
o the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." Genesis 3:14-15
talk about a writer not knowing their subject, there was no "forbidden apple", people incorrectly assume this.
uhhhh the whole story was what the author was saying was fudged. Including the apple. The bible only says 'fruit'
this is comedic.
I love when the ignorant layman quotes the bible, trying to sound holy, righteous, or noble.
religion is full of sheep, imposters, hypocrites, and con artists.
Living room bible studies are the most laughable.
Only in america do you have ignorant hacks who pretend to be knowledgeable.
Matthew 18:69 says – "if you don't know your crap, just be quiet, and stop spewing nonsense."
And then there are things that should not be in the bible:
Saving Christians from the Resurrection Myth:
From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.
From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:
"Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.
Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.
Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.
The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.
Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "
"In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:
o An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
o "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."
o p.168. by Ted Peters:
Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "
o So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.
"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."
It actually comes from ancient Greek "ΣΥΝ ΑΘΗΝΑ ΚΑΙ ΧΕΙΡΑ ΚΕΙΝΕΙ". In free translation: Along with praying to Athena you should move your hand (help yourself).
I agree that some people quote the "bible" out of ignorance – but do read it sometime it is quite good and enlightening :
"Pro 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."
so in other words it does actually say, spare the rod and spoil the child, but if you spare the rod you are bad and you spoil(hate) your child. mmmm
"Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
Gen 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
Gen 3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
Gen 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
Gen 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Gen 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat."
Satan did tempt Eve, she did not take out of her own only after Satan tempted her , you will not die and you will be as a god, did she take the fruit.
New Torah For Modern Minds
"Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.
Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument. "
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
People have been trying to explain away God since the dawn of man. Has it worked yet?
Using the bible to prove the bible...no thanks. Actually the responsibility is on those who believe in God to prove that he exists not the other way around. Does someone who believes in santa clause have to wait to be disproven to not believe. NO! He must prove to himself atleast the santa clause is real.
The bible has proven itself for thousands of years and continues today. If it were a hoax, we wouldnt even be talking about it today. The fact that we are still talking about it is proof of its relevance.
Im afraid that the fact that the human race has believed in the Bible (and all the other religions too) for so long is a testament to how ignorant we have been. "When a blind man leads a blind man..." Its time to open our eyes.
And then consider how many differnt bilbles there are on the shelves at the book stores. And how many times the bible has been translated? Two more reasons for God to have other writings that will come forth. The Book of Mormon being one of them, but many more to come.
Just get, and then read, a KJV. Also, don't test NIV positive.
The book of Mormon is the equivalent of the Satanic Bible, gibberish written by a liar and pedophile.
Who cares if a fairy tale is mis-quoted?
Are you kidding? Haven't you ever seen a couple of Comic Book Geeks arguing endlessly about whether Batman or Superman would win in a fight? People are very emotionally attached to their make believe invisible friends, deities and Superheroes.
If you are an expert on the bible does that make you an authority on fiction? The "bible," as it has come down through the centuries, has been so manipulated by people, mostly men, interested in controling other people that it bears little resemblance to its original text or context. Most of it was oral history and legend, with a good smattering of lyric poetry thrown in, that was written down at different times and in different places until it was finally codified (again, by men) into the "bible" we know today. It is no more an authority on morality, ethics, sin or virtue than any other socio-cultural guide book (Baghavad Gita, Koran, etc.). If you really want directions in life, get a Garmin or try the Yellow Pages. The "followers" of the bible have led humanity into the worst wars, most degenerate genocides, and most oppressive political regimes in history. Find another book.
@ Bill Graham of Jacksonville, FL
I came to the same conclusions my self a few years ago. Studying at a seminary i realized that to understand the creation account, we needed to understand how the Hebrews interpreted it first. I had a hard time to letting go of a literal interpretation of the account but i did. Then i followed my logic through. There is just to much evidence for evolution, does denying a literal interpretation of the creation account in Genisis allow for a match between evolution and the Bible. Short answer is no. I dont believe anymore at all cause i realized that evolution and the Bible just cannot fit together. Survival of the fittest, its just way too dark of a process (that doesnt require guidence) for a loving God to allow.
e.l Posted on For one thing unless they're plihbsued you mean writers'.Only you can decide when, as it needs to fit round you and your members' schedules.
The consequences of sin are rarely immediate, but they eventually come.
It's called the justice system.
So your saying the punishment came before the sin? Just think of the millions of years of creatures bein killed by a stronger opponent and try to see how that is a punishment. This is Madness!
Reporters misquote too. We all do. I don't get the significance of this article. Are you sugggesting people are deliberately misquoting the Bible? Perhaps this is your way of encouraging people to read the Bible. If so, then I applaud you.
I can't believe people take the Bible seriously. This article reinforces the fact that people are always changing information, whether it be on purpose or not is besides the point. A book the has been translated from one language to another ( esp ancient languages) is never going to have a 100% accuracy in meaning. @ David, There is cold hard, tangible evidence supporting evolution. Religious people are so blind to the truth it makes me sick!
it takes more faith to believe that your ancestors were apes/animals than it does to believe in an intelligent creator.
it takes blind faith to believe in evolution. If man evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?
If nothingness is the end story of all life acording to evolution, why should it make you sick. If evolution were true, you would not care and would never care if someone believed in God. It would not matter. So why are you concerned?
"it takes blind faith to believe in evolution. If man evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" – believer
*Chris rams head against wall*
Evolution does not claim humans descended from apes, but that apes and humans have a common ancestor. Just another scientific fact for you to ignore.
Come on now Creationist people, you argue points and ideas that aren't the issue. We didn't descend from apes, we came from a common ancestor. There is no 'faith' involved in the science there, it's the scientific method, hypothesis, theory and an examination of that theory with facts and evidence. That's definitely not 'faith' based, it's 'scientific' based. You know, science – the reason you have a computer to type into, a tv to watch, a car to drive. Science has given you actual improvements in your lives, technology is applied science, applied scientific method brings you everything that is good in your life, your imaginary friend only brings misery, pain, fear and hatred and violence in an unending cycle and has never brought you one thing of worth in your life.
Because you are an uneducated fool – Evolution never says man came from monkeys! Please educate yourself about this information before posting again.
What the athiests dont understand is that all thier hate spewing isnt gonna change any christians faith on the matter. The fact is that a great deal of these athiests are gonna change to christianity when they mature at some point in thier life. Life without God is like fumbling around in the dark looking for the light switch.
Wow.... Another example of religious ignorance..... Hey, but maybe someday you'll mature enough to find out that you've been praying to the wrong god all this time! Sure glad I don't have that problem!
and what trewth doesn't understand is that we athiests aren't the least bit interested in "chang[ing] any christians faith on the matter". as long as I don't have to listen to christian proselytizing, chase people off my front porch, and remove unwanted tracts from my windshield, and can live my life according to my own moral code (it WOULD be a great help if Christians at least acknowledged that athiests can live moral lives, though I hold scant hope of this happening in my life time), I'm quite content to let others live their own lives according to which ever mythology they choose.
Just don't expect me to throw away scientific evidence in favor of your particular brand of folklore.
I don't want to change your faith; I just want you to see that we're not all gullible.
It is funny that you would claim that atheists are hateful. Neither I, nor any of the atheists I know, are hateful. And we certainly are nowhere near the levels of hatred possessed by christians. Christians (not all, of course) are amongst the most hateful people I've ever met, and the 'loving, peaceful god' that they worship appears to be about the most evil, hate-filled creature in the universe. Try reading the bible a few times, and really pay attention to all the passages when god orders so-and-so to destroy a population (men, women, children, even animals) just because... well, just because he says so... (Some starting points – Saul, David and Solomon in the book of Samuel. Lots of love there).
My hope is that those who want to know the Truth, and walk in the perfect Torah of Liberty will go read the Bible for what it says. Sadly, those who want to disregard what the Bible says will take what this article says and disregard the Scriptures. The entire context of the text, revealed by the Spirit who is the Living Torah will lead us into all Truth and cause us to walk in His Torah Statutes and Commandments, by faith (believing what HE said) through grace (the divine influence on the heart with the reflection seen in the life). Men argued their versions from the garden to Noah. YHWH intervened, re-establishing His Truth. From Noah to Abraham men propagated their version. YHWH intervened and Abram came out. From Abram to Moses men spoke their own words and sought their own pleasure, and went their own way, not YHWH's Way. YHWH intervened and spoke to Moses who wrote it down so that we are without excuse. From Moses to Yeshua men had a lot to say that was not what HE said. YHWH intervened. Yeshua came and said, "You've heard it said, but I say to you...." They killed HIM, but HE proved to be the Living Torah who was raised from the dead. Will you believe HIM? Or will you believe men, who still propagate their version over HIS Version? We all must choose. Check out HIS Version before you decide. The wrong choice results in death.
you still live in far west, we're in 21th century
i still believe in the book it has power top chnage lifes of those who believe and those who dont marvel and cll it foolishness.my life will forever be guided by this book
You should try reading the dictionary and a grammar book at some point too
Dang it, Rich – you beat me to it!
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.