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.”
Where does the New Testament tell us to kill Muslims and fight endless wars?
Where does the New Testament endorse torture?
All over the place on both of them, evilbible.com points them out
It is in the Catholic Bible. Spread you religion means kill others who doesn't belive in it. The Pope has been doing it for centuries through Crusades and now it is fighting terrorism and spreading freedom.
It doesn't. But the Quran DOES tell Muslims to kill non-Muslims.
When will stupid people stop posting stupid things. We dont have the book that says to kill all Christians and too destroy Israel. You need to think sometimes. You must be a Liberal. Never can make sense of anything.
I've never read the muslim scripture but in countries where it prevails non-muslims are treated differently and pay special taxes.
@john, you DO realize that liberals are typically the ones who want to embrace, protect and excuse other cultures (misguided or not) and conservatives are typically the ones who think every Muslim is out to kill every Christian at every opportunity... right?
Why do you limit it to the New testament? “Satan get behind me”
Jesus said to follow the law of the old testament ALL OF IT
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:17-19
Hans- Newton was a Christian. I don't know about the other two.
You're all nuts! Back in those days everyone wrote their own "books". The bible is just a bunch that were put together and named "the bible". That does not mean that they came from God.
Complete ignorance as to how the Bible as we know it was compiled. It was much more involved, messy, controversial and, yes, democratic (believe it or not) than that.
I shouldn't get so mad at you reprobate unbelievers for it is purely prophecy coming to fruition I should actually be very please and comforted to see this, have a good day.
I prophecize your only friends are Adam and Eve action figures. With Kung Fu grip and removable fig leaves.
All major religion prophesize “The End of Day’s”, that has been going on longer than Christianity itself. But Christianity is using the end of the world to control it minions. I could prophecies anything if I wanted too and more so 2000 years ago. Hell the Jehovah Witness have in the past 125 years declared the world was going to end. To date the score is 0 on the ending of the world and 7 misses for the Witnesses. It doesn’t take rocket science to see that the Bible is full of hope written stories in order to create a better society, only man has corrupted it intention for power. The Bible stories were written in a time when early Christian had to compete for “Prime Time” with other major Religion of the period. No “Erik” that s all they are embellished stories and retelling of stories that were written long before the Bible was. Erik GOD is whatever you wish him to be, so believe. But in that belief, there are those that follow a different path and they are not wrong, nor are they going to suffer some sort of damnation, because YOUR belief say’s he/she will.
“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.”
Hey, I tell you what is. Big city, hmm? Live, work, huh? But not city only. Only peoples. Peoples is peoples. No is buildings. Is tomatoes, huh? Is peoples, is dancing, is music, is potatoes. So, peoples is peoples. Okay?
Not sure what your message is, bro, but I like it! Long live tomatoes!
.................Modern Societies believing in an ancient god , its always been the oppressed who cling to this dilusion .
it's always been the powerful who've forced the dilusion on the oppressed .
Says someone named "LillyWhite". The African slaves were inspired to strive for freedom by the stories of Moses from Exodus. Many of those who have striven to change the human condition for the better have been inspired by faith (Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Tommy Douglas, William Wilberforce, John Newton, Harriet Tubman, Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi, to name only a Very few). Where they all deluded? In some cases, these were very privileged people indeed. What is more, to simply dismiss the faith of oppressed people as ignorant delusion is chauvinism of the highest order.
Because he said "Scripture tells us" the assumption is a quote from the Bible. Of course scripture could be from anywhere right.
The bible most certainly does say that the serpent was Satan. But not in Genesis. It's in Revelation 12:9."So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan who is misleading the entire inhabited earth"
The author does not say the Bible, he says Genesis. This is exactly the issue the author is describing; incomplete reading of the text.
In the book called either Apocalypse or the Revelation of St. John the Divine, the fall of Lucifer is described, which occurred before the fall of Adam and Eve. There was no evil before Lucifer decided to reject God through his own pride; in the Garden of Eden, the snake also chose evil.
Okay, now I'm confused. Elizabeth, are saying that the Bible says that Lucifer went down on Eve and that was evil? He must not have been very good at it then.
GreenieInPa – aren't you supposed to be cleaning your room?
"Cleaning your room" – is that another metaphor? I don't know if I should be turned on or not.
I wish many people would get this out in person, but I guess the internet is fine. I see many comments as being hating Christians or God hating. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I evangelize on a street ministry and come across many folk like yourself. I see what is real, many do not believe because of what they hear, or of lack they know. Truth be told this is a faith walk many will not choose because of the fact you cannot see many things promised in the Bible. From a human stand point I understand, but from a man of faith I urge you see for yourself not judge off of bad people. There are bad people in the business of religion and are leading people astray (Harold Camping, Westboro Church, Carlton Pearson) These people are examples of false hood. The Bible speaks about false people coming about (Matt 24, 2 Timothy 3, I John) I tell you no lie the Bible is truth if you read these scriptures and tell me that Jesus is not real then, you are mistaken. This stuff is happening today. There is alot more to us than people think and many will never understand. There is alot to Jesus that ppl will never know nor will they ever understand.
How can anyone hate something that's non-existant? We just don't believe in an invisible supernatural being in the sky. We don't hate it. But we do pity the ignorant people that are sucked in by that nonsense.
Seen Elvis on your refrigator lately?
Having studied the bible extensively, and studying the history of its creation and the history of the Christian faith, what I learned led me to believe that while the bible may contain some good tidbits, and such it is neither historically accurate nor true in the strictest sense of the word.
To be clear, I believed when I started my study. It was my study that led me to believe that the bible is a collection of stories that tells the faith journey of a time and place and people that is so far removed from me that it is foreign.
Although it is a good idea for people to read Scripture, most will not understand, even if they want to. More and more, it seem to be beyond human understanding, which worries me. Even for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, there is a spiritual urging in their souls, but they cannot reach to it, because their cravings for material wealth or power snuff it out. Without spirituality, people will not grow; they may become smarter, but not to support each other, and eventually civilization will either destroy itself, or humanity will be as limited as a hive or termites, without any greater goals. For those who want to read and understand Scripture, it is still best to find guides who have spent years studying it in some kind of historical or church context; therefore it will not be either foreign or opaque to them. If it is foreign in one context, try the context of Liturgics, where there is a place of prayer (literally the "work of the people") in Scripture: it is the reaching out of us from a limited place to the infinity that we cannot comprehend.
I've got an urge all right, but I don't think that's my soul.
@Luis Wu – sigh – so you pity Isaac Newton, John Milton, Augustine, Mendel, most of the great artists and writers of western civilization, Thomas Jefferson, Tommy Douglas, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, William Wilberforce, Harriet Tubman, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, etc. etc. etc. Poor, deluded, ignorant stupid fools, the bunch. Not saying that because intelligent people believe that necessarily makes things true, but your generalizations are not just ignorant, they are plain insulting to some of the most important people who have ever made your life as you know it possible. Once again, to say such things makes you akin to the fundamentalist weirdos you hold in such contempt.
It would have been better if this writer did a little more bible research before publishing this article. I am not sure what his true intentions are. Is he a believer or not? Well well. The quotation about 'not sparing the rod and spoiling this child' is not an exact quotation but implies the same thing. It comes from the Proverbs of Solomon, and others and is recorded in Proverbs 13:24 (NKJV) "He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly."
I am bothered by this. The casual and maybe uninformed reader would read this article and walk away with the wrong impression that this verse is nowhere in the bible, WRONG WRONG WRONG!
If he included where the verse came from and the context in which it was written, then his article would not be as dramatic, would it?
Mr Blake, beware of your deception! May God open your eyes before it is too late.
Man of God, beware of your deception. May Zeus open your eyes before it's too late.
The bible is just a history book, with some outrageous adjectives. Nobody should take it seriously.
Who cares! It's all a load of rubbish.
Didn't you read the article. The verse is explained prettym much the same way you just explained it.
Well said. It's sad, but not unexpected when those who write for the mass media don't properly understand what they are writing about. The serpent was the Devil as it clearly states in Revelation 12:9.
Wallow in your delusionary fantasy world if you want, but don't expect anyone with more than 3 working brain cells to fall for that ignorant nonsense.
You pick on this one verse, which was paraphrased. But what is your interpretation of the misquote, "God helps those who help themselves"? Are you saying that the child should apply the rod to themselves? Or are you saying that we should not love thy neighbor as thyself? That is the most dangerous interpretation, and you are falling for it yourself.
Childoftheking- Then why is it that Jesus Christ don't know the Day and Hour the World will end.
I had a bible once. And I found a great use for it. But then I realized that Charmin was much softer.
This particular article talks about Charmin, please read till the end. http://bit.ly/hYQUGm
You just **** on a great deal of western civilization, culture, and art too. Think next time.
Oh, and Luis Wu, you saying completely uninformed and insulting stuff like this makes you no better than the literalist & fundamentalist ignoramae who declare that the world was created in six 24 hour periods, and that it's not even 6000 years old or some such thing. You cannot simply dismiss as complete fabrication on a par with fairy tales something that is the record of the spiritual experiences and ideas of untold numbers of people, from a variety of walks of life, compiled over thousands of years, and which has inspired the majority of western thought, art, and culture. Talking like you do makes you no better than Fred Phelps. So wise up
@GreenieinPA – oh the intelligence of the retort – my intellectual capacity can't handle such logical truth so eloquently spoken. Grow up, jerk.
The easiest way to turn my children into Athiets is to hand them the Bible and have them actually read it from cover to cover.
That's what did it for me!
Worked fo me.
soooo much hatred, violence, death, hate of women, i felt as tho my life was more pious without it.
Many of my friends who had ultra religious families grew up to be atheists.
That's why the Christian Church (at least in the catholic – not necessarily Roman – tradition) has never read the Bible in individual isolation. Proper reading of the Bible is a communal activity. We look at how it has been interpreted over the centuries; we look at the context in which it was written; and we use our own human reason. One cannot begin to get a true understanding of what Scripture is actually saying, beyond the surface, literal meaning without that kind of work. Any such reading would indeed lead many people away from faith – especially as they peruse the OT.
TheWiz is right! You cannot hope to understand the Bible! Only your leaders can explain it to you! For a donation.
The King James Version of the Bible is NOT a good source of reference. It is a translation MANY years before the Dead Sea Scroll were discovered. The Dead Sea Scrolls gave a lot of information and filled in voids in the KJV.
So, if you must, please quote a more reliable translation of The Bible.
But, the Baptists swear by it. You must be mistaken. jk
Why would anyone quote from a book of ancient mythology? And why would anyone care if it's an accurate quote or not. Just archaic mumbo jumbo blah blah blah nonsense.
There's a couple good love and inpirational quotes, however.
Confused by your sense of chonology. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written 1500 year (or so) before the KJV was compiled, so how could it fill in the blanks of the latter? Also, the Dead Sea scrolls have nothing to do with the Bible. They due illuminate the broader cultural and religious context of the NT era, and thereby shed some light on sections of the New Testament, but the two are not directly related.
94 pages of comments about a book that nobody is forced to read and which is read mostly by Christians who are faithful to the Our Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot believe the h*te that is expressed here (and tolerated by the publisher) and the same h*te could cause one to be arrested and convicted if it were expressed against other racial and religious groups. So clearly the publisher intends to have this h*te expressed for endless pages. We see it and we feel it. Early Christians experienced the same from the Romans
Stop believing in fairtytales, and you'll be all right.
I don't see so much h-ate. I see dis-agreement and I see ni-tpi-cking and perhaps a lot of cavalier att-itudes. I also see a lot of defensiveness.
Of course, until all people on all sides stop knee-jerk reactions to every comment about the bible there will never be rational dialog about it.
I'll let you in on a little secret...I don't exist.
@RightturnClyde: News flash...me calling you batsh1t crazy is not hate speech. Sorry, you don't get to play the persecution card just because we're calling you out on the silly things you believe.
Agreed, RTC. It's fashionable to put down people of faith these days. They are depicted as old fashioned, simple-minded, intolerant, judgmental, or stupid. It's okay, though. If history tells us anything, it's that Christianity is at its best when it is persecuted.
Hope.Faith.Salvation.Eternal live and damnation.?
Read Newton Euler and Leibniz if you study Astronomy.
Read the Bible if you study Astrology.
As a theoretical physicist I've read Newton Euler Leibniz and you know what? I didn't make me think any less of Jesus.
Leibniz is always a good read.
Ok, trying to figure out the best deal in town:
2 Billion Muslims
4 Billion Other Religions
So The Other religions are the Hertz of the Religious world and MUslim we can call Avis delaers...well the Christian... Enterprise...or we try harder. going Wiccan...or maybe a Druid....
forgot the other part...damn posting
< 1 Billion Christian
< 7 million Jews
Or, 1 billion Christians, 5 billinon non-Christians.
"No amount of belife makes something a fact." – James randi
The bible is invented by man anyway, so if man wants to add a few lines here and there, I dont see what difference it makes. People will use it to justify themselves and their actions either way.
Yes, I have to agree with that ! Which is more likely: That God made man in his "own" image or That man made God in his "own" image. It is clear to me that man created the entire concept of "God" and gave this god human attributes! Ask yourself, why would a loving, all-knowing enlightened being be jealous of "other" gods? If you examine the 10 commandments you discover that the first four commandments deal with God's jealousy and anger over the supposed worship of "other" gods. Why would a truly enlightened being have such selfish man-like jealousy about being worshipped totally and exclusively? Those desires and sentiments are exactly what a selfish human would think and feel, not an enlighten spirit ! Wouldn't you agree?
The book of revelation calls the devil an ancient serpent. It's in chapter 20. Yes, it's not in Genesis, but Revelation mirrors Genesis in a lot of ways, so that the serpent in the garden was the devil is a valid interpretation.
I heard a woman on Bill O'Reily's show a few weeks ago who quoted Paul as saying "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for his life." It might be true, but it ain't Biblical!
Actually the Serpent is referenced in the Mesopotamian Religion as Tiamat (The worm)
I disagree with the author of this blog. When folks say things like:
"THE LORD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS..." etc.
They are not directly quoting from the Bible, but speaking of the common wisdom from which the Word is the source.
In fact scripture does teach that 'All things shall pass....' That 'The Lord works in mysterious ways.'
Both of these common sayings, and others, are wise in their nature; the author obviously doesn't realize that the Word of God extends far beyond the pages of the Bible.
'God is good...all the time.'
You will not find that saying in the pages of the Bible...but it clearly gives glory to our Father..and yes the Bible speaks of God being good, as well as His majesty extending beyond the written text.
'The Lord works in mysterious ways.' is only wise in the sense that it is cunning. It's a get-out-of-jail free card for any and all of the contradictory, inexplicable nonsense in the Bible when it fails to resonate in the real world.
Since the word GOD is of 6th century Germanic language origin, what was his name used prior….to the common usage…Let’s put this into prospective…YAHWEH or Jehovah, Hasheim..Sound about the same for ZUES, HADES or even TAIMAT
I find the atheist on this site amusing...
For an atheist, they seem attracted to biblical topics, like bees to honey. Yet they never stay on topic....& most of their responses do not make sense.
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.