June 5th, 2011
01:00 AM ET
Actually, that's not in the Bible
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.”
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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.
!From a biblical perspective as Christmas & Easter are clearly of pagan origin (as any serious bible scholar would acknowledge) the celebration of such traditions amounts to idolatry & thus makes 99% of Christians worship invalid. Reminds me of how Jesus told the Pharisees of his day that they had made God’s word invalid by their tradition!
@Zion: "If you don't believe in God, try asking if he is there, in prayer."
I have done this, Zion. I realized that to ask a "God" a question, one must *already* be a believer. You are talking to yourself.
oops, wrong pew...
So much Ignorance....God lives...If you don't believe in God, try asking if he is there, in prayer. You will get your answer. Too many people rely on the 2% of their brain to figure this stuff out. Just pray and ask. What harm is there in that?
I look forward to the day we can live with him again. I don't believe....I know 🙂
God gonna wup your ass. Bad or good no matter. God is a nasty yo.
@Zion: "If you don't believe in God, try asking if he is there, in prayer."
I have done this, Zion. I realized that to ask a "God" a question, one must *already* be a believer. You are talking to yourself.
parts of the article highlight biblical illiteracy just fine. but what irks me most is that the writers themselves don't know enough of the Bible to realize when the people they're interviewing are themselves biblically illiterate. the serpent wasn't satan? really? they ought to check out revelation 12:9 – "the great dragon was hurled down, that ancient serpent called the devil, or satan, who leads the whole world astray." sometimes the Bible answers questions for itself; i wish people would become more aware of that, too. did you know that Jesus believed in Jonah? (and yes it was a big fish – it doesn't say whale anywhere. it was also a Sea of Reeds, not the Red Sea.) there is much lore and handed-down tradition that surrounds Christianity, which is why it's imperative that you study the Word for yourself in a fellowship of believers to know what's there. Believers: don't let the lore rattle your faith. it's just the wind and the waves. keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and continue seeking Him earnestly in prayer, relationship, and the study of His Word. Anyone who reads the Bible: always be careful not to read into the text what's not there. and be sure also to read the whole text. finally, ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit – He will guide you into all truth (john 16:13)
Man wrote the bible, and the catholic church perverted it for the perverts it protects... it's a great big unknown universe... we don't need stone age beliefs Fred Flintstone!
Most everyone knows what the bible sez. The bible and god be real nasty. Nuther tornado comin your way. Bad or good, it gonna get you. God is a nasty ho yo.
the bible and god be really bad writers! god is a ho, yo, bring him to Arizona and it'll sweat his dumb a$$, just like yo!
Where does it say, exactly, that the snake in the Garden was the same one mentioned by John? Isn't it just inferred backwards that the two are the same?
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Revelation 12:9
One of the keys to unlocking the bible is to look for the meaning of symbols, types and anti-types
Problem isn't the bible. It's the preachers. No one really knows what the bible teaches because the preachers tell you what they want you to believe. #1 reason that religion is to keep the sheep controlled and void of free will. You go religious people of the world!
its all a bunch of crap anyway so who cares what exactly was said in it?
sheep do. It's how they 'try to' justify their existence and moral superiority but no worries, they all touch themselves! 🙂
From a biblical perspective as Christmas & Easter are clearly of pagan origin (as any serious bible scholar would acknowledge) the celebration of such traditions amounts to idolatry & thus makes 99% of Christians worship invalid. Reminds me of how Jesus told the Pharisees of his day that they had made God’s word invalid by their tradition!
Just because certain officials decided centuries ago that the dates of the remembrance of the birth and resurrection of Christ would coincide with pagan holidays, 99% of Christian worship is invalid? A Christian worships God DAILY, not just 2 days of the year.
Not 99% Holly, 100% is invalid – there is no 1% left to cling to, it's either right or wrong, and sorry... it's all total nonsense.
Hard to believe bible school is not mentioned as the root cause of so many "paraphrased quotes". Many of us grew up going to church via bible school and grew out of church as we aged. The bible stories told to children for easier consumption are all many of us remember and last I checked they are still teaching kids the bible in the same way today. I am not saying it is wrong. Obviously one hast to make the bible digestible to children if one is going to try and relay its teachings. I personally think that is where the majority of pithy quotes and orphaned phrasings come from in biblical lore. Lets all just remember that in the end it is just a book written by man and subject from the very beginning to misinterpretation, paraphrasing, dramatizing, author privileged and probably quite a bit of spelling error.
Children's ministry has undergone dramatic change over the last decade. Sunday school is quickly becoming a thing of the past as more and more churches embrace a "children's church" model with a more dynamic curriculum geared towards working around children's naturally shortened attention spans and making it an experience that is far more memorable and feels like school. I am willing to bet that by "last time I checked", you really meant back when you were a child. Either that, or you attended an old fashioned church that is stagnant and not up to date on the latest advances.
Nevertheless, even using the old Sunday School model, I don't see what it has to do with these phantom verses and misquotes. Lesson plans are prepared by people who researched the topic to be discussed and actually looked at the verses, thus they don't tend to include any phantom verses or misquotes.
Actually in Matt 12: 40, Jesus Himself says that Jonah was swallowed by a whale.
Matt 12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
So why does he think a whale a fish?
Why did he lie and say he would be dead three days and three nights?
This is a great indication that they smoked pot then! 🙂
Well since He created them I think that He knows what is what.
"The scripture never says a whale swallowed Jonah"..... the King James version of Mathew 12:40 reads "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Most other versions say great fish, but at least one says whale and it was written 400 years ago.
Wow, that's weird, we were posting the same thing at almost the exact same time. The Lord sure does work in mysterious ways.
It's funny how sheep sing the same tune! 🙂
But a fish isn't a whale and son of man, according to his own biography says he was in the heart of the earth three days and two nights.
Just because in your book a fish and a whale are different doesn't mean anything; it's not your book that counts, It's His.
So you don't know the difference between a mammal and a fish? This is why congregations are so ignorant. They have half-wits telling them how to live their lives.
Let's see, it swims, it has fins and lives in the water, sounds like a fish to me. The Bible doesn't use the word mammal at all, maybe so us half-wits would be able to understand it better.
So why did he lie and say he'd be dead three days and three nights?
Don't you guys ever read your Bibles or at least history books?
First of it is good to note that the difference in the Roman day, the Jewish day and our present day.
The Roman day began at 6 am and went to 6am the next morning. The Jewish day began at sunset and closed at the next sunset. It was technically around 6pm to 6pm the next day. Our day starts at midnight and closes at midnight the next day.
Jesus was placed on the cross about 9:00 am our time and was there until about 4 pm. It was on a Wednesday. He was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb before sunset- before the beginning of the Sabbath. Note- this was not the beginning of of the regular weekly sabbath at sunset on Friday, but a 'high sabbath'= A passover sabbath that came on a Thursday that week.(Think I'm making this up?- see Lev. 23:5-7, where we find that the first day of the feast of unleavened bread was a sabbath day.) At about sunset on Thursday He had been in the grave one day and one night. At about sunset on Friday He had been in the grave two days and two nights. Then, just after three full days and nights He arose. He arose as it began to dawn the first day of the week(just after sunset Saturday our time) The Bible mentions that some women came to the tomb early Sunday morning, but He was already gone. The expression 'on the third day' in the Gospels referring to His resurrection would be "after the third day" in our way of saying it today.He arose on sunset Saturday our time which means the new day, Sunday in the Jews time. Duh.
Fish, whale, who cares? It's a silly, impossible, dumb story and not worthy of discussion. Get real, it never happened of course!
It's obviously worthy of lots o' discussion by Believers and unbelievers. See for reference all these posts.
"This too shall pass" – Isaiah 40:6-8, I John 2:17
"God helps those who helps themselves" – Luke 12:57
"Spare the rod, spoil the child" – Compare with Ephesians 6:4
Satan the Garden of Eden – Revelation 12:9
(You can't really find out what Genesis tell you about if you don't read the whole Bible.)
"Only a few catch on" – Matthew 7:13,14
"God works in mysterous ways" – Isaiah 55:8,9,
"Cleanlines is next to godliness" – Isaiah 4:4, 64:6
Those are some pretty big reaches. If you're going to use that much interpretation then you could easily find parts of the bible to justify killing in the name of
Nice try, but only a few of those verses even sort of express the same idea and none are close to the pithy non-biblicalisms cited in wording.
"He who spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24)
All the wise thoughts and sayings of truth, both in the East and the West, are in the Bible, in far better forms. People remember things in summarized forms. "That's not in the Bible" is an ignorant statement.
Wiseman, Where in the bible that says that certain uses of condoms are acceptable after 2010? The bible is a POS!
@Buff, if you controled your lust, condoms weren't needed.
Control my lust? LOL now you just talking crazy! No wonder the religious types are so miserable, uptight and hateful – they miss out on really enjoying the only life we have for the vacant promise of another one by people who simply want to control them.
my personal bugaboo is "money is the root of all evil. It is the LOVE of money is the root of all evil.
What about the 7 deadly sins?
And the 7 dwarves?
Where in the bible that says that certain uses of condoms are allowed after 2010! The bible is a POS!
The bible allows certain uses of condoms after 2010?
Revelation 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.
@Josiah - when that phrase was written, the Book of Revelations was simply that, a book, not part of the Bible, in fact the Bible as we know it was not in its current format. I hear this verse quoted from time to time but it's important to know that early on there were lots of Books written by prophets, but the Bible hadn't been compiled yet. Furthermore, this verse applies only to the Book of Revelations, it's important to consider context when interpreting verses of scripture.
Big Man – The Bible is not a source of evil. It has been paraphrased and taken out of context to justify some horrible atrocities, but that evil came from the people committing those atrocities, not the Bible.
The author of this article should read the Bible for himself and comment with clarity. Jesus in the New Testament does mention about the nature of Satan. Although a text that says Satan tempted Eve does not exist in Genesis, Jesus does attribute murder and lying to the devil
"John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. "
Or maybe Eve/Adam/Jesus were all schizophrenic. Believing that animals are talking to them and believing they are the son of God nowadays gets one admitted to a psychiatric facility. Just saying...
..or rather as depicted in Forrest Gump movie, as critics of how people easily interpreted one thing as they want to be (conjecture)..
Trish: Maybe they stumbled upon some mushrooms
Well you get to choose what you believe then. He said that He was God, so He was either the Lord, a Liar or as you imply, a Lunatic. Read the Gospel of John and choose wisely.
And to my repliers, I add this. How do we not know whether the son of God has indeed returned or not? So many suffering with schizophrenia deal with hyperreligiosity and claim to be Jesus, or many other biblical features. Maybe the second coming has already passed, and he's sitting in a padded cell somewhere with a pretty white jacket with long sleeves.
At Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 God’s principal opposer, Satan, is referred to as “the original serpent,” evidently because of his employing the literal serpent in Eden as his means of communication with the woman. (Ge 3:1-15) As “the original serpent,” he is also the progenitor in a spiritual sense of other opposers; hence Jesus’ classification of such ones as “serpents, offspring of vipers.”—Mt 23:33; compare Joh 8:44; 1Jo 3:12.
Using a serpent, or snake, as a mouthpiece, Satan implied that God was withholding something desirable from the woman and her husband. The angel told Eve that she and her husband would not die if they ate the forbidden fruit. Satan thus accused God of lying to His human children. The Deceiver presented disobedience to God as an appealing course that would lead to enlightenment and freedom. But this was all a lie—in fact, the first lie ever spoken on earth. The real point at issue involved God’s sovereignty, or supreme rulership—whether God has the right to rule and whether he exercises it in a righteous way and in the best interests of his subjects.
Eve believed Satan’s lie. She began to desire the fruit, and then she actually ate some of it. Later she gave some to her husband, and he also ate it. Thus they became sinners. That seemingly simple act was actually an expression of rebellion. By deliberately choosing to disobey God’s command, Adam and Eve rejected the rule of the Creator who had given them everything, including perfect life.
God called the rebels to account for their actions. He foretold the coming of the promised Seed, or Deliverer, who would destroy Satan, the one represented by the serpent. God deferred the execution of the death sentence upon Adam and Eve for a time, thereby showing mercy to their unborn offspring. Those children would have a basis for hope because the One whom God would send would undo the tragic consequences set in motion by the rebellion in Eden. Just how God’s purpose concerning this future Savior would be fulfilled—and who the sent-forth One would be—was gradually revealed as Bible writing progressed.
Brett, I totally agree with you. If you read and really give serious study to the Bible you will see that was the real issue in the Garden of Eden. Many times things that are mentioned in one part of the Bible is clarified in another.
Now, you're making things make sense for yourself. There's quite a bit of time between the writing of those texts. Do not Monday morning quarterback the Bible, the Lord doesn't like that either.
Excellent research and explanation. That is a truth that many miss, but a careful examination of the Bible reveals the truth....for those who would like to know it.
The Catholic church is the one who compiled the bible. They decided which texts to include from Jewish tradition and they also authored everything written in the New Testament. So if you want to know what the bible means, you need to ask the ones who compiled it. To do otherwise is only to guess at the meaning of the bible.
Catholics were the authors- really? you might want to brush up on your history.
@Christian - The Catholic Church "Compiled" the Bible, they did not "Write" the Bible. The author of the Bible, ultimately, was the Lord, through His prophets & apostles. If you want to know what it means, ask Him.
Kris.....how do I "sk Him'? That is ignorant. How do you ask God questions? Get real