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.”
I am quite offended by this entire conversation, I DO believe in the Word of God and dont make light of the text, as a
Christian who in fact, does read it. It is a personal decision to believe that is a book of made up stories or not, but if you would actually open it up and take the time to try and get some type of understanding from it, you will see that it is not, as far as the article, I find it a joke... you should try reading it sometime and stop listening to "scholars", whom themselves obviously dont read it either.
I have READ teh Bible (cover to cover), it talks of historical times of when the authors lived and YES it is nothing more than FAIRY TALES. It IS NOT the word from any deity, but from man and man's attempt to control other men. Please believe, as that is your right, but it stops at trying to make it real or sound real.
“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
Are you offended by this article? Or by the ignorant people here who I am sure making fun of the Bible?
I am not Christian, though I read the Bible often. It is an important book. It is not the word of God, which is why I think so many who profess to read the book do not. If people actually read it, and used rationality, it is obvious that in all its imperfections it is impossible to have been written by God.
But just because it is not the word of God does not mean it is important. It is a book that was written over hundreds, if not a that incorporates myths that are even older, and describes men and women and their actions in many different situations.
To take every single word as literal is foolishness, but to dismiss the book as being untruthful is plain ignorance.
Which version of the Bible are you reading though?
Whichever one it is, it's almost certainly a mistranslation from the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. It will probably have been manipulated and heavily edited for political and personal reasons over time from the original versions which were necessarily transcribed from oral traditions several centuries after the events they describe.
This quote from the article is very revealing –
"Few catch on because they don’t want to – people prefer knowing biblical passages that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, a Bible professor says."
That is a pretty neat synopsis of religion in general. God did not create Man in his image. It was the other way around.
If you read the bible, you'll find that it is really messed up. Most christians don't know what's in it. For example, were you aware that the bible says gays should be put to death?
Were you aware that there are only a couple of books in the bible exempt from change and that the rest of the bible (according to the bible) can be altered as people see fit (how do you think the catholic corporation gets away with existing)?
People claim that the old testament is the "old law" that should not be followed. Yet jesus chastised people for not following it. He also stated that every letter of the law would be followed. christians are in love with the ten commandments, which is old testament but they'll quote it and in the same breath tell you you don't have to follow the old testament. Irony! Yay!
The bible is chock full of contradictions and lies. jesus wasn't the first "savior" to be crucified. I highly recommend reading some Greek mythology. You might be shocked to find that the bible actually copied it (big difference is monotheism which was easier for people to grasp as a new idea).
It's not so surprising, after all the new testament was written in Greek.
Seriously, do some reading. Stop glancing at what you want to read and actually READ the whole thing. Once you do, you'll never call yourself a christian again. I promise.
Obviously this writer is not a protestant. He relies on interpretation of others for his knowledge because he finds the Bible above his understanding. That's his loss if you ask me!
Um... What, exactly, are you saying? He's pointing out that most of our American proverbs are not in the Bible. Futhermore, he's not ACCUSING people, but simply explaining a MIGHT-BE reason as to why our deviations aren't said by Jesus or His disciples. Did Jesus not warn us to NOT take away or add to what He said? John Blake is reminding us that we have... and that we should not do such a thing..
Where does jesus say not to change the bible? Bwahahahaha
Seriously, you're doing what this article warns against. Actually, revelations and one other book says not to add or take away from the book. THE BOOK. Not the bible. You see, the bible was pieced together. Each book was written separately and instructions for those books were inclusive only of those books.
The bible actually states that scripture can be revised. I highly recommend you do some research on this before giving people more incorrect information.
Those of you who hate the bible and don't believe in the bible should keep your views to yourself and those who do believe in the bible and love the bible should keep your views to yourself...............religion is a very difficult subject....what is good for one is not good for another....what you are witnessing right now in these comments is why differences in religions start wars all over the globe................there are people here calling other people nasty names and all of the comments are causing friction...........if you can't see that then you certainly cannot see life very clearly......there are other subjects to discuss that are important right now and not as volatile......................maybe we should all try to just zip up our lips and simply listen and not attack......................listening does not create enemies............attacking comments do...............
Sorry Nacho it doesn't work that way. I will never keep the Bible to myself. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58. 18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:18-20
You make a good point, but PLEASE, ease up on the elipsis (...), not only are they being used incorrectly (there should only be three periods, and should be used to condense quotations or indicate a pause in speech), they are being used too often. It might start undermining your points if they're difficult to read.
Sure, when the fools stop making claims gods are real. But to give you a chance to prove to the rest of world your deity is real: Go outside and get a rock (any rock will do) and in the privacy of your own house, pray to what-ever deity you choose to make this rock move (without human intervention please) and if it moves...publish your results and MAYBE you will have believers. Else it is wat it is: a false belief
"Those of you who hate the bible and don't believe in the bible should keep your views to yourself and those who do believe in the bible and love the bible should keep your views to yourself....."
If believers had kept their views to themselves instead of proselytizing everyone they encountered, often forcibly, Christianity wouldn't have spread much further than Jesus' original stomping grounds, would it?
I would also ask that those that DO believe in the bible keep their views to themselves. But then that won't happen, will it? They've been spouting it for the past 2000 years. Some are pretty tired of it.
I agree, More listening would be a good start. Yet the tone of your message is troubling. You use the word Hate twice early in your text and go on to lecture others as to how we need to listen. War, as you correctly state, is the result of "fundamentalism"
The hardening of the heart around what I KNOW to be THE truth. In each of us there is this Fundamentalist, This is the danger, this is where war begins. Thank you for your comment, I will work to be a better listener and keep my own fundamentalist in check.
Most ultra religious people are hypocrites anyway. There is no god get over it and learn how to lead your life without relying on some 2000 year old book.
But how will we know right from wrong!?! jk Dumba– fools!
Speak for yourself, if you can't act like a decent human being without a divine mandate.
Misread your sarcasm. Apologies.
Whew! I was about to call out the straightjacket for you, Gawd. lol
I do not know what happened to my last comment; nothing offensive was posted by me. All I said was that complete biblical inerracy is impossible. The Bible has been significantly tampered with, and there are several verses that were added in due to the KJV translation. Also, you must objectively see that the Bible has lost cultural relevance, and Christianity is slipping away into becoming a political and social platform............politics should stay away from the pulpit.
Pat Robertson probably had it deleted.
No problem. We don't need to read your post to quote from it.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 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.’” Genesis 3:1-3
Where were they? In the garden. Only garden mentioned to this point in the bible is the garden watered by the river of Eden. Gee, I wonder which garden the book is referring to?
Reading all the comments, its amazing that those who try to prove the author wrong miss the point of what the author was trying to say. Irony–its funny when you see it.
Well said. The only "cliche" I see here is everyone's jump to throw in their two cents to criticize the author and/or Bible. Too busy trying to find fault with what the author said to understand his point.
Well the bible was a collection of made up stories, so if other people want to make up stuff, feel free.
bahahaha! nice one.
And you are a lost liar who is of the devil. You will see what time it is when you die
Imma quakin' in ma boots! Bring on the hell party.
"And you are a lost liar who is of the devil. " – This stuff cracks me up, if you don't telepathically accept their god you will recieve a punishment, the only punishment I get is hearing these kooks rant and rave on about everyone who isn't a christian is going to get their due justice while they smile big at the thought of violence towards others.
So much for Jesus' compassion, right!?!
The blunder isn't in misinterpretation; it is in giving a fig about the dumb book in the first place.
You are another lost fool who is so caught up in this life that you obviously haven't taken your soul into consideration when your body is dead and rotting in the grave.
I somehow doubt that Jesus would be proud of you for your lofty "I told you so's." Silly sheep.
lol @ erik
Don't know if anyone commented yet on this, but this article actually misquotes the Bible in saying Satan tempted Eve with forbidden apple when the Bible never says apple, just fruit. just found that kind of funny.
The article isn't misquoting the bible at all–it's saying that others misquote the bible as saying Satan tempted Adam and Eve with an apple because that doesn't appear in the bible.
Actually, he didn't necessarily call the fruit an apple. He said "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." And this is how most people know the story...the fruit is an apple. So I don't see him as misquoting here or getting anything wrong. He doesn't mention it as an apple except when stating how others view it.
I know somewhere in the Good Book it says something about a chicken.
Tevye! You have really made my day and it's not yet 8:00 a.m.
Yeah, it says that Eve was "tight like a chicken." bahahaha!
This article was written about people like yourself.
Hey! Leave me out of this!
Actually, the idea that "cleanliness is next to godliness" stems from the fact that throughout the bible, "clean" animals, or animals without blemish were used as a sacrifice. The fact of the matter is, that people don't read their bibles like they should and that's where the error comes in. This article is pretty ridiculous; A bit tired/cliche.
Definitely right about the cleanliness thing, it stems from seperation. That is its truth, but we don't just seperate animals, we do it to people and seperate ourselves from our own gods. All we have is our thoughts and intuition to lead us to reason. We choose our heaven and hell in our minds because that is where they are played out.
The entire Bible is a bit tired/cliche.
Isn't that the point? That people don't read the Bible or often translate it to how they understand it?
Even your article misquotes the bible. Eve was not tempted by the serpent to eat from the Tree of Life, she was tempted to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God then cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life.
And then Bambi and the Easter Bunny eloped to Pluto and the Great Groundhog ate its shadow, and Snow White ate all seven dwarves and Gandalf too, and that chatty snake just kept on talking. It's all there in the bible; you just have to read it the right way.
Great catch David. CNN has an "expert" wagging their finger about how the unwashed masses don't know the bible, and the the expert gets one of the most commonly know Bible stories wrong. lol
David – Good eye in catching Blake's blunder. I don't think he reads the Bible much because if he did he would see from the rest of God's Word that it was Satan who tempted Eve in the garden unless he believes that all of the animals God created in Genesis actually talked and could converse with humans. There is no mention of Satan in John 10:10 either but Bible students know who Jesus was talking about when he used the word "thief."
Tony – I am cracking up at your "superiority" in christo mythology. Thanks for the laugh.
They are still way better off than the person that has to wait tand speak to a priest! This is also way to general a statement. How many of these groups did you interview? None I suspect. How do you know they are not taking the time to get it right?
Perhaps this article was written by a priest who hasn't met his quota for molestations this month.
Mythology about mythology is no sin.
How long do you think it will be before these sheep realize they are just as silly as the ones three thousand years ago that believed in Zeus and his posse?
I thought this article would at least be an interesting read. Complete waste of time, it doesn't even say anything I didn't already know. Heck, I haven't met anyone yet who thinks what this guy is saying isn't completely obvious. What is the point of this?
And for the people who think this assists in debunking Christianity, I have seen nothing in this article that provides a viable arguement.
I totally agree with Sublime... there are a lot of really interesting misconceptions about the Bible, not one of them is listed here. Nobody I know thinks any of this stuff is in the Bible.
'Nobody I know thinks any of this stuff is in the Bible.'
Really? no one you know thinks 'spare the rod, spoil the child', 'god works in mysterious ways' or 'god helps those that helps themselves' is in the bible?
Correct, nobody I know thinks those expressions are direct translations of Bible versus. In fact, if you ask them about the expressions, they even say it's a 'Biblical principle that is not a direct translation'. We've actually had this discussion before. So yes, I stand by my statement.
I like the Ben Franklin quote..."God helps those who help themselves". But the entire quote is "God helps those who help themselves, the Government helps those who won't"
THAT'S FUNNY (no just kidding, not really you corporate butt licker)
It's also not true...but thanks for playing, he is your parting gift...a $6 per hour job from corporate america!
Don't let the old fart get to you goldenrod. He's just tired of flippin' burgers.
before you start quoting Ben Franklin you need to google your phrase! just goes to prove how the bible is not the only misquoted source. There's a sucker born every minute! (author unknown).
People use the bible/religion as a security blanket so that they don’t have to be critically thinkers. They dont really care what that blanket looks like on the outside.
The Bible also makes no metion of the rapture or the end of days. Thoise passages refer to the end of the Roman empire. The bible also never mentiones hell. Hell is a mistranslation of the King James Bible and it actually refers to a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem. Mary was not a Virgin either – she had 7 children and Jesus was not born on Decmeber 25th. We made that up. The bible also says that you should be stoned to death if you work on a Sabath (Saturday) but no one seems to care because we have all done it. I could go on and on. Most branches of Christianity are aware of this but the Evangelicals have their own version of Christianity whcih givis it a bad name.
Very true. Christ himself in the Bible said that 'Some of you who are standing here will not face death until the kingdom of heaven comes.' Well... they all faced death cause it never came. Some will say that He meant a 'spiritual death' but that is obviously not what He meant.
Yeah, someone who has understanding of the Bible!
for the part about revelations/rapture – THANK YOU. you have got to be the only person i've seen write this and you saved me the time!
You have not read Revelation.
read the book of Mark 9:42 -48, Jesus is surely not talking about heaven
Oh, please! Dispensationalism (idea of rapture and tribulation) is not even 200 years old. Evangelicals act like Jesus himself taught it. Thought up by some backwoods, doilie-headed nutjobs in the 1800's.
@Texan & Nadine
You are misled about the Kingdom of God/heaven...
"But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you...."- Matt.12:28
Matt. 13:10 The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" 11He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.
"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
31But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
20Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21nor will people say, `Here it is,' or `There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst."
Though every expression used is not word for word in the Bible text,many apply to Bible principles. Satan did tempt Eve to take of the forbidden fruit, not apple. However before one goes off on some tangent about ones statement like this too shall pass they ought the to see if the principle is taught in scripture and it is. The word Trinitys not in the Bible eithier but the doctrine of the Trinity is taught by comparing scripture to scripture. The same is true that to spare the rod will spoil the child . Though this isn't in the bible the principle most certanly is. I find that most critics of Bible data are those who choose not to believe, The Bible can only be understood by those who are born again by faith in Jesus Christ. For the scriptue does say But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness unto him: neither can he
know them, because they arespirtually discerned. I Corinthians 2:14 also read vs11-13
'However before one goes off on some tangent about ones statement like this too shall pass they ought the to see if the principle is taught in scripture and it is.'
Except, if i remember correctly, the term 'this too shall pass' originally comes from a persian story, regardless of whether you can decern it from reading scripture or not.
People don't "choose not to believe" in the Bible any more than they choose not to believe two plus two is seven.
Thank you, Jim. I couldn't put it any better.
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