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.”
Yes, some things gets summarized. It's not an exact quotation, but a summary, which is okay. Others are just common sayings, but are probably good advice.
Except that Satan actually was in the garden by extension of what Jesus claims in John 8:43-45 –
43 "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!"
Jesus further confirms this assertion in John 12:30-32 –
30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
And if all scripture truly is "God-breathed" according to 2 Timothy 3:16, then 1 Peter 5:8 confirms Satan actually does exist in the real world –
8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
What does any of that actually mean? Sounds like something was supposed to happen after he croaked, besides the start of a huge multi-millennial cult. The only thing that didn't die was the supersti.tion, which as far as I can see is truly immortality.
MarkinFL – You can actually take Jesus' words at face-value...there's not really anything cryptic about it. Thanks for allowing me to share some of God's word with you.
Concur – good Scripture. I agree with the article in principle, even the comment about how the "spare the rod..." finds its roots in another Scripture though not a literal verse. But I find myself wondering which "scholars" led the author here to this conclusion about the Genesis account? I also found myself at odds with the scholar that complained about people studying Scripture w/o the benefit of their scholarly wisdom, First of all scholars do not all agree on every passage, as this view from Genesis 2 makes quite clear, but also it drives against the grain of what God was doing through the disciples. Why, for instance, is the New Testament written in Greek? The answer is that it was the common language of the people of that day, everyone in the Church hearing a letter of Paul, for instance, could understand it. Paul knew Aramaic but wrote in Greek for his audience to understand without the need of a scholar to instruct them. This is not to say that pouring thru the opinions of scholars on a passage is not useful but for the lay person to read and study, I believe, is what God desired or intended. I tend to believe that one of the reasons the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus happened at "just the right time" is because of this very reason – most of the Middle East and Europe knew Greek and the Gospel could spread through a common language to all people.
So, what you're saying is, when the Authorized (King James) Bible started declining about 50 years ago, the country started declining. Psalms 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.
The most biggest goof up has to be most Christians believing that 'Thou Shalt not kill" is part of the Ten Commandments. It is not. It was originally, but those commandments were destroyed by Moses. When he went back to get them again, he received a different set that does not speak against murder or adultery. Either God had alzheimers, or he wanted to play a cruel trick on Moses. Your choice.
Thats a lie! God says that fornication (also adultery) and murder is wrong. I dont care what you say, Satan has you blinded to the truth.
How do you know? Were you there when Moses received the new ones?
What in the world are you talking about? Who told you that? This world needs something larger than a handbasket. LOL
Actually it's Thou Shall not MURDER and we have no idea what was on the original tablets given to Moses by God because they were destroyed.
do we think Coach and others took the idea that this too shall pass from Revelations? It does say that the former things will pass away and there will no more crying or mourning or pain. Rev 21:4
That's what I believe too. He either misquoted or deliberately revised it, which a lot of people do.
Depends on which version of the Bible you read. That quote in the article above was taken from the King James Version. In the new world translation, it reads, "Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling". Obviously the wording is different but the idea is the same.
This is a frivolous article and should not have been printed. Mike Ditka never claimed that he quoted from the Bible, did he? As someone pointed out, many of the cited "quotes" maybe have been said in the spirit of the Bible but are not quotes from the Bible.
One other point: the Bible is just like old books in many old civilizations, e.g., like those thousand years-old Chinese Classics. The Chinese never claimed those books to be holy or the word of God.
Yes, but the Bible itself claims to be the word of God at 2 Tim 3:16. Since that's the case, it would not hurt to look into it...might help all of us out if we actually apply what it says.
I agree TJ.
Jesus (peace be upon him) was a Muslim. Islam by defintion means the submission to the will of the one and only God. A Muslim is one who submits to that will, fully and unequivocally. Jesus (pbuh) taught the pure message of Islam to guide mankind to wards the true and sincere worship of Allah or in Hebrew Elah.
It is very disturbing to see people on this post who criticize people for not reading the Bible but are so readily willing to quote passges out of context and without scholarship. The same applies to those here that want to demonize Islam and quote passages out of the Holy Quran that suits their own twisted agenda. There is no place in the Quran that condemns the killing of innocents be they Muslim or non-Muslim. Period. I challenge anyone here to show me any passage based on the entire context wherein it was revealed (don't just quote me a passgage that you just googled or pulled out without knowledge).
Religion and spirituality is not a joke for the discerning ones amonst you. It is an age old practice to denigrate the message of God by looking at the actions of a select few illiterates and extremists. True sincere belivers are always a small silent minority. The Messengers were a mercy to mankind and their lives and message should be respected and understood with true scholarship, not just quoted by charlatans who only give it 30 seconds worth of attention to support their twisted logic.
May God guide those who are sincere.
Seeing as Jesus existed several hundred years before the invention of Islam, your statement is incorrect right from the start.
Muslims are a wacky bunch.
Regardless of whether or not the koran says innocent people should be murdered or not, many of it's followers believe that. You can't claim islam is nonviolent or not oppressive just because a silly little book omits that text. It's followers are. Actions speak louder than words.
Sweetheart, Jesus was Jewish. I'm not quite sure how where you received your information and who misled you, but if people who read the Holy Scriptures for themselves it wouldn't take all this guess work. Jesus' family tree is written the first chapter of Matthew.
From the Christian perspective, Jesus submitted to the will of the Heavenly Father, with whom he shared the fullness of divinity, while also being human at the same time. Not so much a person submitting to God, but God working out His plan of salvation, with the Father, the Son, and the Spirit active in different ways. But, that's just a matter of religious difference, on which we can agree to disagree. Otherwise, I 100% echo your points regarding the various posters on this board.
&GreenieinPA – how's this for a witty retort – shut it with the stupidity and ignorance. When you have something constructive to contribute, then feel free to write. Wait a minute, I'm talking about an internet comments board here. Let me guess, you're just another troll, right?
While I would disagree with you about Jesus being a Muslem, I do think the rest of your thoughts were well taken. There needs to be more understanding of the true message of faith in general. There needs to be more pursuit of the true scholarship of ancient texts in our society. Misinterpretations of the beliefs of Muslems, Christiams, and Judism abound in today's society.
Thanks for briinging this up Ali. I'm a Christian, and I'm with you on this one.
Wiz – just cause you don't have a sense of humor and I think your Jesus wasn't real, don't get all bent out of shape. Crack a cold one and relax. Oh wait, you probably don't drink because of your stupid religion. So sad.
@GreenieinPA – My sense of humor is just fine, it's just that, unlike you, I don't think generalizing all Muslims (or adherents of any other religion, or even atheists, as much as I disagree with it) as "wacky" is particularly funny. Nor do I find most adolescent toilet humor, of which you seem so very fond, very amusing (that being said, Monty Python and a fair bit of South Park is comedy gold). Just cut it with the ignorant & insulting generalizations already. You obviously didn't bother reading, or taking seriously, most of Ali's post.
Wiz – it's not potty humor; it's bangin' humor, and that is ALWAYS funny. And, fyi, I did read Ali's post, I just thought it was stupid. And, if you'd take your pc head out of your behind, you'd agree that Muslims have a screw loose. Just sayin'.
@GreenieinPA – "I just thought it was stupid". Once again, such a logical and eloquent dissection of someone's comments defies rebuttal. So, I shall not even bother responding to your immense display of intelligence and discernment, not to mention your open-mindedness and tolerance. Ironic how so many atheists such as yourself describe yourselves as "free-thinkers", and as bastions of openness, and are so ready to decry people of faith as closed-minded and bigoted, and yet, it is comments such as these that show what is so often the case. And that is the last comment to which I shall lend your idiotic comments any semblance of dignity.
Wiz – so much for not rebutting.
Wow. I really shouldn't respond, but I can't let this slide. There is nothing in this article saying anything about the Qu'ran but you're using it to stir Christians up who are reading this article. Jesus claimed he was God so there is no way he was ever submissive to Allah. That would be sacrilege to Islam.
The entire content of the Bible is phantom. Instead of persisting in wishful delusion, however satisfying or reassuring, why don't you believers try grasping the universe as it truly is? Evolution wasn't about the "ascent" of man. We're nothing more than one of millions species that has evolved and we exist in a faction of time and space that is literally in the billionths of one percent.
A mere mortal like yourself, confined to a small planet for a finite period of time is going to inform everyone on the true nature of the universe? Truly presumptuous isn't it. I would just as soon get the answer from my pet dog as you, but to get a better understanding I appeal to God. He is able to reveal it to me more precisely and clearly than you or any mortal could.
Science is just a series of lies with each successive theory more closely approximating the truth. Even so science does not delve into the question of why. That is strictly the realm of religion, but until you answer the question of why, life has very little meaning.
Geez, it's like playing whack-a-mole – lots of scientists who are theists, and scientific discoveries made by theists. Once again, genetics, which goes hand in hand with evolutionary theory, discovered by Gregor Mendel. There is no conflict between science and religion. They are concerned with two different things entirely. It is only the fundamentalists on both sides that believe there is any kind of disagreement. On the contrary, it's apples and oranges. Science is about the "how, what, when, where". Religion is concerned with the "why" (in terms of meaning, not mechanics).
I was raised up knowing that those quotes were just old sayings and not actual quotes in the Bible. So, excluded AFRO Americans from thinking that these quotes comes from the Bible. Well let me say, I don't know any Afro Americans that thinks those quotes are in the Bible.
who believed those things to be from the bible? next you will think the video of the pope hat in the air was from the bible also...
I agree with you ! Who think or thought that ?
Im glad god isnt real good thing the bible is ancient mythology that formed from a currrupt start of an ancient government because according to the bible god is a terrorist who has started more war and conflict and killed more people than anything else on top of all the natural disaster's he love's to torture the men weomen and children with , just another controlling dictator that burn's his people for not bowing down to his terrorist activitie's im nobodies puppet on a string .
Why do so many people argue over this. Believe what you want to. We will all find the answer one day whether we are right or wrong. Truthfull i belive there are no gods. I believe the gods described throughout ancient text were the way people then could descibe Aliens. Read the bible again but this time imaging alien being coming from outerspacer in space ships and mating with women, Destroying their creations because they screwed up and Restarting again. It all adds up. But like i said we will all find out the truth someday. Just stop shoving it in everyones face.
Wasn't that an episode of Stargate!
I dont watch stargate so i dont know. But I have watched Ancient Aliens.
Actually, the ironic thing is that if theists are wrong, they'll never know it. If atheists are wrong, they will know it. Not saying anything about the potential state of anyone's soul. Just saying that's how it will be in terms of knowledge.
"..., the ironic thing is that if theists are wrong, they'll never know it. If atheists are wrong, they will know it." - Actually, a majority of the theists will also react as the atheists. The question is: Is it better to be an atheist or to be the right theist (believe in the right God), bearing in mind that many theists are sworn enemies of other theists? Or just chalk that up as "God works in mysterious ways"?
The Bible this and the Bible that, sounds more like a long fictional novel that people want to believe is true. There's no proof that it is real or not. Have all the beliefs you want to have but stop pushing them on others please.
This article is horible! People assume that because it is on CNN, that it is true. This article is predicated on someone's liberal interpretation of the bible, then it says that if you dont agree with that that you are wrong. For example, Most conservative bible scholors believe the snake is a figure of Satan, and yet the author says that everyone who believes that is in the Bible is wrong. Same issue with Jonan and the Whale. I expect CNN to do a better job of handling matters of faith. If it is someone's opinion, then say so. But to report someone's opinion as fact and then say that everyone we holds a different opinion is bad journalism.
But they are reporting the facts. It is a fact that the bible does not say the snake was satan and it does not say the "big fish" was a whale. The ariticle is just pointing that out to the reader. The whale could have been a shark for all we know.
The people in the article are religeous scholars, which makes it more than just their opinion. The trouble is that there are many interpretations of the bible, and who is to say which ones are true and correct? There is no one alive who was there when the bible was written, who can accurately translate the exact meaning of the text. Just because these interpretations don't agree with those you've heard does not mean they are any less correct or "just opinions".
The serpent is Satan and Revelations confirms it.
Revelations 12:9 "The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him."
Can you cite your sources for MOST in "For example, Most conservative bible scholors believe the snake is a figure of Satan..." It seems your rebuttal is just as poor as you say this article is.
So facts you don't agree with are opinions, Sally? That's pretty shocking.
First of all this is under the "Belief Blog" section. So by no means is it reported as fact. Second of all you take the word of the bible as literal even though is is completely factless. I think you've been thumped in the head with that bible to many times.
You miss the point – many people believe that the actual Genesis story of the temptation of Eve actually literally mentions Satan instead of a serpent, and that the story of Jonah actually literally mentions a whale instead of a great fish. Nowhere has he said that later commentators have not extrapolated meaning into these stories (that the serpent is Satan, and so on). However, the Creation account, and the account of Adam and Eve in the garden are all parables, not history or scientific fact, so there is no harm in equating the serpent with the devil. Milton did it, after all.
he should have stopped BEFORE "others blame phantom verses on Martin Luther . . ." that is an absurd argument. seminary trained clergy can light up the heresy board just like laity. and Luther's 95 was a response to the extrabiblical crap of the church of his day. at least when it's in a living room it's a small crowd – not like infecting hundreds or thousands under a trained pastor or priest.
I couldn't agree more, up until that point (where they blame ML) I was moderately ok with this article. But to say that we all need to be "GUIDED" through the bible and that till today laity still aren't educated enough to comprehend the biblical text is just ridiculous.
Comment to FREE............you are correct that religion would not have spread as readily as it has over the centuries but also there would have been fewer wars and fewer deaths related to religion..........you have a good point but my point is simply it is easier to love and show charity than to fight and cause death and disagreements.......................I think we all should simply face present issues that realistically affect each of us and discontinue this religious arguing.............we have so many things we need to fix.....in our own country because of the economy we have children who go to school without first properly having been fed.............we have politicians who are lining their own pockets at our expense...and we are spending money we don't have to try and correct other people philosophies such as in the middle east........we have people in the streets without a home and we have the elderly without proper care..............we have a lot to talk about than is far more important than arguing about religious differences or arguing over who interprets the bible differently...........we need to take care of our present problems and not create more through negative discourse.................
There was more than just the Torah. There was the story of Solamon, the book of the Isrealites, etc.
You claim to be a biblical scholar that denounces the bible? Quite an odd person you are? Jesus would not know what today's Bible is if he picked it up. Really, do you know who Jesus is? I pretty sure he would know what it is, and tell us what needs to be corrected. Do I think he would be happy with it, no. Do I think he would burn it, no.
Would be a bit difficult for Jesus to recognize the bible since a lot of it was written about him after his death. Just sayin'
@Rob, Of course there are more ancient texts other than the Bible. I do not "denounce" the Bible. It is a tool for study to some and a book of inpiration and spirituality to most. If you read my posts, I NEVER denounce the Bible. I am simply shedding light upon it's traits.
And, people also told Jesus he was an "odd" person too.
Go to FACEBOOK
The handwriting on the wall
As for the serpent being Satan in the book of Genesis. This is just a peak into biblical prophecy. In the same book, the Bible goes on to say. That Eve's son's will stomp on the serpents head and the serpent shall strike His heal. The stomping of heads is again elaborated on in the book of Revelations as being the fatal head wound that Satan recovers from. And the striking of the heal refers to the Crucifixion of Christ. There are many passages throughout the Bible, that gradually illustrate who the characters are. Satan is not actually written about (by name) until the book of Job, which is probably the oldest book in the Bible. (The bible is not placed in chronological sequence) But that is one of the mystery's of this book – each part of it points to another – to further illustrate the story. (fascinating book – whatever your beliefs maybe – a very interesting study)
"The stomping of heads is again elaborated on in the book of Revelations as being the fatal head wound that Satan recovers from. And the striking of the heal refers to the Crucifixion of Christ."
And all this is just your personal interpretation, right? It came as an idea that popped into head and you as.sume that the Spirit placed it there, I suppose? Have you considered that it may just be your idea alone?
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.