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.”
It just goes to prove, how ignorant and lazy, most of the population is. Most people, especially those who quote it the most, are those that haven't even read through Genesis, or for that matter, don't understand why the bible was written, and what the author of any particular book in the bible was trying to convey. People intrepret these books how they want, not how the author intended them to be intrepreted.
Actually most Christians simpy rely on their pastor to tell them what it says and what to believe to make them feel special and what it takes to be a real True Christian®.
Amazing to me how an article about the errors of humans relating the an Almighty, All-knowing God can generate so many comments from people who actually believe they are right. IF the Bible is true, what is your fate?
Depends. Are we talking about the Old Testament god or the New Testament god? Cuz I'm sure my fate would differ based on the god du jour.
Amazing to me how an article about the errors of humans relating the an Almight, All-knowing God can generate so many comments from people who actually believe they are right. IF the Bible is true, what is your fate?
Are you talking the Abrahamic God..... God of the Jew/Christian/Mooslim?
Bibleboy, What is *your* fate if Islam is true? Jainism? Toaism? Your best hope is Hinduism, as you might get reincarnated as a frog, an ostrich or maybe a catfish. Who knows?
Biola University? They're making THAT up!
If these are the best misquotes than I'm pleasantly surprised. And it doesn't take a scholar o realize that many of those quotes are backed by ongoin principles in the bible, even if not direct. Humans will always over simplify. I agree that many who say they love the bible don't know it, but at least some of our churches actually read from the bible every week.
Actually proverb "[if you] spare the rod, [you will] spoil the child" IS in the Bible, though it is a thought translation so it is not word for word...
Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness [is] bound in the heart of a child; [but] the rod of correction shall drive it far from him...
Proverbs 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die...
and once again...
Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left [to himself] bringeth his mother to shame.
The sum of these verses is exactly that, if you spare the rod you will spoil the child.
Thank you for setting that straight scripturally. The author of this article is clearly against using common sense to apply bible principles. Just because the bible doesnt say something verbatim, doesnt mean that it isnt implied. God Bless, and Peace in the MiddleEast
Good points. Read the Bible or not. Either way, feel free to interpret it anyway you like to suit yourself.
okay Christians, for the last time: YES, JESUS is God.... And Jesus kills. 2nd kings.
Jesus killed 42 children with bears.... Jesus/God/Spirit... three in one.... you know the concept...
Jesus was in the Old Testament.... 'cause why...... he is God.....and spirit.... Whatever God does/Jesus does...
God kills children.... and the correct translation, the Hewbrew is CHILDREN.... some say, "youths"..... word games... They were 13 and under according to the Hewbrew....
Jesus killed children for making fun o a bald headed prophet..... REALLY? Even the Wicked Witch has more compassion as she used poppies to try to kill Dot and the animals.....
You fundamentally misunderstand – the question seems to be "why does God allow murder and even seem to command it in the Bible" – when the question should be, why doesn't God just stomp out this vile, wicked and perverse thing we call the human race, with it's hate filled heart and it's desire to rule over all things.
Wow. I guess you are a logic scholar, then. How about this: You are human. Stalin was human. The human race killed millions in Russia. You represent the human race. Therefore, you killed millions! Someone call the police!
So Jesus is only God in the New Testament????????????? Okeee Dokey.... hahahaha.....
You know you worship the Abrahamic God.... God of Jew/Christian/Muslim....
The pope even came out in the late '90s and said, "Yes.... we worship the same God."
Religious nuts..... to the core..... only take what they want.... and kill with it.
...and the point continues to be made. I do not claim to be holier than thou, in fact I know my sins make me deserving of death. This is why I cling to the forgiveness God offers to any who will believe in the saving work of Christ.
Let me get this straight, Mike Ditka was fired for being a Christian? Whos is discriminating against who now? What about religious freedom, freedom of speech, is it now written in contracts that no one is to mention God or quote the bible or even speak of anything relating to christian values – where has the world become. I bet that if someone is fired for quoting the Koran or speaking words of wisdom from Mohamed that the whole world would bring the US to their knees and bow to them.
PS. read the King James version of the Biblle to get your facts straight.
"read the King James version of the Biblle to get your facts straight."?
Read a version that no serious scholar today believes is an accurate translation? Read a version that we *know* contains things that were not in the original? Surely you jest!
Seriously? A version of the Bible that was specifically distorted to meet King James' desires and goals is you source for the "truth"? Research the history of the King James Bible and learn some truths yourself.
Seriously? A version of the Bible that was specifically distorted to meet King James' desires and goals is your source for the "truth"? Research the history of the King James Bible and learn some truths yourself.
"PS. read the King James version of the Biblle to get your facts straight." Facts straight? Ha, ha. Very good.
i'll let you get it straight, since you haven't yet. you're in such a rush to stand on a soapbox you failed to read and understand the first sentence of this article. it does not say he was fired for quoting the bible. it says he was fired, the was a press conference held because he was fired, and at that press conference he quoted the bible.
ditka was fired for his team doing poorly several seasons in a row. go ahead and read the next sentence up there, "a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to ONLY FIVE WINS during the previous season."
"Let me get this straight, Mike Ditka was fired for being a Christian? Whos is discriminating against who now? "
You have failed to get it straight. Ditka was not fired for quoting the Bible. What the author was trying to say was when Ditka was giving his farewell speech after being fired, he decided to quote the Bible, but he got it wrong.
Christian in this country just LOVE to imagine they are beset upon at all sides, don't they? Oh, woe are the Christians, who are so reviled that the only way anybody can get elected to office is to swear up, down, left, right, and orthogonally TO BE A CHRISTIAN.
That the book written by the creator of the universe would have "version" in its name should clue in even the most delirious of Christians but it's amazing to see them gloss right over it and promote myth as fact.
"Let me get this straight, Mike Ditka was fired for being a Christian?" No, and it's not in the Bible that way either. FIRED for being CHRISTIAN? Let me get this straight: do you KNOW you're crazy?
Oh my God I haven't seen such blatant ignorance of the scriptures in my life please CNN You err having not know the scriptures. If you want to understand Mike Diitka interpretation try Mat 24:24 Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away. Tell me what does this mean to you.
The bible says fruit of evil. In Latin both apple and evil are "malum." So the tradition grew up that the fruit was an apple. In the east, however, the fruit came to be pictured as a peach–a more sinful fruit to my mind...
'Cause a peach totally looks like a booty. Inspires sinful thoughts, and all that sort of thing.
Peaches; ripe and firm, and smooth and sweet, but inside there's a hard, poisonous heart. Kind of an analogy for women themselves. Do I dare to eat a peach?
Grace- is God giving you what you do not deserve. Mercy- is God not giving you what you do deserve.
I thought Grace and Mercy were those two ladies who owned the minit mart on the corner.
Misquotes are rampant everywhere. You connect billions of people who transfer information on scales beyond exponential in comparison to even 50 years ago you are going to get some misquotes as matter of fact you will probably hear less of fact and more of human fiction than anything. Chalk it up to man wrote the bible anyway and it should have been dynamic, not absolute to begin with, then right or wrong is up to interpertation. We rule this world with our judgements, be it on ourselves on others. Prisons are real, personal prisons in our consciousness where we torture ourselves in judgement, be it our own judgement or that imposed on our psyche and the steel bars and concrete walls of the common prisons of material things. Atleast religion got something right, we have a choice to be happy with who we are or not. We shouldn't base that on what others think about us, find out who you are and decide for yourself. It is a choice, live in heaven or hell, its all in your consciousness(mind).
Proverbs 22:15 does lend to the idea of spare the rod spoil the child:
"Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him."
Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a youth, The rod of chastisement putteth it far from him.
This is from Young's literal translation of the original Hebrew. The writer was saying to chastise them for foolishness, not hit them with a stick. This is a terribly misunderstood passage.
Here's another one for you, often quoted from Pulp Fiction.
The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.
But that's incorrect. In Andrew Young's literal translation of the original Hebrew in the book of Ezekiel 25:17 is the second half of a statement regarding God's retribution against two enemies. It starts with 25:16
Therefore, thus said the Lord Jehovah: Lo, I am stretching out My hand against the Philistines, And I have cut off the Cherethim, And destroyed the remnant of the haven of the sea,
17 And done upon them great vengeance with furious reproofs, And they have known that I [am] Jehovah, In My giving out My vengeance on them!
It is a cool speech though.
Or it could have meant to guide them with the rod of discipline which is what it says. This was written by shepherds so it could just as easily mean to guide them like a shepherd guides his flock with a rod. This is a rounded rod they place around the neck of the animals and guide them in the right direction. With this interpretation you avoid the idea that you should beat your child physically, which seems to me to be entirely ungodly.
This happens in every religion....aren't all those Islam extremists misinterpreting the Koran???
No – Actually, fundamental, orthodox Muslims are supposed to forcefully convert or kill infidels, period. This is the teaching of Muhammad.
Soon flase religion will be attacked by the world political powers. Rev 16
Biblical prophesy not hearsay will conclude the present way of life.
The common denominator is visible to all.
The living true GOD whose name is Jehovah will reveal his arm to the unbelievers.
Satan is a master of camaflouge and hides behind Politics, religion, commerce and the ordinary common pleasures humans persue.
Man cannot govern himself, our free will is a gift from the most high. Choose wisely whom you want to serve.
Intelligence in design throughout creation is living proof of a loving creator.
Allowing yourself to be blinded by the enemy (hordes of demons influence this world) is to deny reality not .
From Eden to the present human imperfection has presented its abundant fruitage.
Whose way is superior Man hurting man or God's Rule ?
Please read Zephaniah 2:3
It is your choice
where did you learn what the bible really teaches?
"The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity"
— Abraham Lincoln
"Everybody always agrees with Joe, including Joe" – Joe DiMaggio
The athiests are saying that christians are forcing thier religion on them. Guess we are gonna have to take down all the crosses off the schools in america
I would hope that was already done ages ago...
if its public schools, haven't they already been removed and if they are private Catholic schools (since the Church does run the largest private schooling system in the US), then why should they be removed? What exactly are you saying?
If it weren't for atheists and others who care about liberty there would sitll be coerced prayer in all our public schools and the teaching of scientific facts that threaten your delusion/faith would also be banned. You Taliban Christians would have us living under a theocracy already.
If it is a public school funded by tax dollars then you absolutely should take it down. Do whatever you want in your private school, but if my tax dollars are funding it then you should not have any religious icons or texts. Why is that so difficult to understand?
wasnt being serious about the crosses. public schools dont force religion, they just teach theories as fact.
Get back to us when you figure out the scientific definition of theory, Trewth. Obviously, you think it means the same thing as "hypothesis". It doesn't. Get a cluestick and smack yourself.
want a definition?
1: the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another
2: abstract thought : speculation
It is hilarious that you think it would be perfectly fine to teach religious belief as "fact". You can't provide an iota of evidence that creationism is fact.
"public schools dont force religion" – nor, do private Catholic schools, though they do insist on teaching from a Catholic perspective.
No, honey. Not "a" definition. The scientific meaning of "theory". Get right on that, why don't you?
I never said that but thanks for misquoting, you are very good at it. I said teaching theories as fact
"they just teach theories as fact", NO they teach theories as theories, MOST Americans are so illiterate in science terminology that they do noy understand what the word THEORY means in scientific literature.
That's so adorable....
And you're very good at avoiding an answer. Why is that? Scientific theory isn't the same as a hypothesis, but your little Bible college didn't teach you that, did it?
"they do insist on teaching from a Catholic perspective." Science should have no perspective. It should be unbiased analysis of data.
Add to the Bible the Koran and the taw-rat . bur I don't see why not quote these propaganda books freely; It make more sense to add more BS to all of them just to keep up with time.
I'd be happy to take down the cross and put my children in private school. As soon as I am exempt from paying public school taxes for being discriminated against for our beliefs.
try http://www.creationevidence.org if you want to waste some time linking creationism and science together....:-) be warned, you evolutionists may have a confusing day.
"being discriminated against for our beliefs."
Are you high? It's a public school. The students there have all different manners of beliefs. If Christianity is taught, then all the other religious viewpoints will feel discriminated against.
But I guess that's OK, as long as the Christians get their way, right?
That is absurd. I guess you should also throw your money away being that in God we Trust is on it. The funny thing is this country was started on the fact of religious freedom not absence of religion. People who get offended when they see a religious symbol should move to a communistic country where it is true religious seperation. This way when someone puts a ten commandment plaque on a wall it wont offend.
Oh, horsehockey. No one is "offended" by religious symbols, as long as you're going to teach about them as part of a well-rounded education and as long as you're going to teach about ALL of them, not just Christian ones. But that's not what you thumpers are intent on doing.
If you want your kid in public school to be forced to worship Buddha along with Jesus, fine. Otherwise, stick it.
Oh, and Mike? Just a little suggestion: it's a good idea to spell "separation" correctly before you start yammering at someone about education.
I would be content "sticking it" if I could keep my tax money rather than being forced to pay for something that I do not agree with.
Then you should move to another country. That isn't the way our laws work. Never have. You have representation for which you can vote. You don't get a line-item veto, bozo. I don't want to pay for wars I disagree with. So what? Get another brain cell and maybe that one little guy inside your skull won't be so lonely.
Satan not in the garden of Eden?-–Ezekiel 28:13. Revelation 12:9. (kjv)
Garden of Eden story is in Genesis. The other stories were written hundreds if not thousands of years later and changed the facts.
Concerning Bruce Wells, he spoke of satan not being in the garden as the serpent. Here is a verse in the bible answering his wrong assumption.
Rev 20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil , and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
Wrong end of the Bible. Antoher "interpretation" written thousands of years later.
That verse makes absolutely no reference to the garden. Your assuming because the Serpent deceived someone and because the Devil deceives they must be the same person/consciousness. This is similar to saying since John is a liar and Tom is a liar, they must be the same person.
Well, as Pope Alexander said, "To Err is Human, To Forgive, Divine."
I hope you're joking and you meant to put Pope Alexander, and not Alexander Pope...
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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.