Actually, that's not in the Bible
Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden right? Nope. That's one of many phantom passages that people think are in the Bible.
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.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Books • Christianity • Faith

soundoff (8,604 Responses)
  1. jim

    correction to last (should not dictate)

    June 6, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  2. jim

    To say that man has a "sole" purpose is ridiculous. Its all possiblities of conciousness. We all serve many purposes, be it to ourselves or others. You can change a persons life in an instant by geniunely giving a crap about them and their life. The world in general is self involved because they are lacking in certain aspects of their life, some choose religion as an anchor some science, some recreation, some family and friends. We all need something to guide us, I let intuition do it, seeing as how that is all I was born with, I figure it should be the staple of my life.. we let others cloud our judgement with their fears, funny thing is we all have about the same fears, obviously in general. Life is compliation of your experiences be them good, bad or whatever inbetween. The purpose of anyones life can't be picked from a dang hat. The only way to know and accept your purpose in life is to understand what it is that makes you happy and start simply with small things and work your way to bigger things. It all starts with the individual, but we are all too scared to look in the mirror and analyze that completely, so we look at everyone else and compare. Not saying comparison isn't useful in society, but it should dictate your life. Analyze and stand in awe both. To appreciate life you have to experience it, through yourself or vicariously, but it is a combination of both that I have found the most useful. Biologically our purpose, procriate, other than that we can't all choose our lives, meaning we can't all have everything we want. We can choose to be happy with what we have and work towards the rest. Having great friends and family to help and share my life with is the only purpose I need, the rest is just gravy.

    June 6, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  3. James Black


    June 6, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  4. Trewth

    Man was created to fellowship with God. After the seperation from God at the garden of eden, man has a void that cant be filled with power, money, or pleasure. Men still try and fail. King Solomon was the richest man in the world. He had it all and this is what he wrote.
    13 Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
    Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
    14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.

    He wrote about many things including riches, pleasure, drunkeness. You can go through life and get wealthy but for what? To pass your enheritance off to someone who will trash it? What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?

    June 6, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's "inheritance", you mope.

      June 6, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  5. Nigel

    I feel that the Bible and interpretation is more about spirit of the words than the actual words. I say this because the genuine quotes are themselves only translations and therefore to a degree they must be subjective. So in the example ‘Pride comes before a fall’ it is certainly within the spirit of Proverbs 16:18 even if it not a direct lift. So why is that such a problem? If I said the bible says “Be good to your neighbor” I wouldn’t expect someone to say “no it doesn’t it says ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’“ unless they were going for the Nobel Peace prize in pedantry.

    June 6, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Caleb

      I would say it does matter when it comes to one's own pursuit of Holiness. To use your quote "“Be good to your neighbor” I wouldn’t expect someone to say “no it doesn’t it says ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’“. To me those could/do mean different things. I could be "good to my neighbor because I want something in return or it's just a nice thing to do". However, "Love thy neighbor as thyself" challenges me to hold my neighbor in the HIGHEST regard .. as I hold myself. One is a suggestion the other is a commandment. And as a commandment falls in line with being obedient to the Word. Also, the Word should be read first literally always IMHO.

      June 7, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  6. Driving Miss Crazy

    'And Sarah came to her flock, the weak of mind, the easily influenced; her sheep. Sarah said unto them, "I am you God and Savior, you must obey."' ~ 1 Palin 1:1

    June 6, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  7. nitpicker

    Since when is paraphrasing considered a blatant error and an ignorance of the root?
    Yes several of the quotes like the cleanliness doesn't seem to be there in essence but most of the others are quite accurate to the intent. Not quotes but a close paraphrase so you are making a mountain out of a molehill. Bottom line though, all the words in the Bible are just stories and ideas of people over a vast amount of time so any of these newer ones could be included and adulated if they speak to your particular addiction…
    Like James Taylor said: there's a song they sing of their home in the sky, you can believe it if it helps you to sleep…
    I actually don't but am very interested in studying the weak minded and their chronic search for "the truth" from someone else's lips. hmmmmm…

    June 6, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  8. Jon

    Here's something that I find hilarious: people hate Mormons because they practiced polygamy over a hundred years ago. Funny thing is...many well known prophets in the Bible were polygamists...yeah...the same bible everyone knows and loves (well...maybe they don't know it too well). Remember Jacob's 12 sons that become the 12 tribes of Israel? (Joseph sold into egypt/ coat of many colors) Yeah...not the same mom. An the list goes on. And yet, even though there were bible prophets who were polygamists people don't hate the bible and say its not true...but they do hate Mormonism and say its not true. A little inconsistent if you ask me....but then most of those people haven't ever read the Bible.

    June 6, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • Alyssa

      I think Mormons, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and all other religious followers are equally ridiculous.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  9. The Dimension Machine

    All the truth in the sensational book at www TheDimensionMachine dot com

    June 6, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  10. Sean

    If he didn't want man and woman to eat it, he should have made it broccoli or spinach.

    June 6, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  11. fat

    Actually, that's not in the Bible Continued......

    The Trinity
    Eternal torment in a fiery Hell
    Jesus Died on a Cross
    Adam and Eve eating an apple
    All good people go to Heaven
    Money is the root of evil ( it says the LOVE of money is the root)
    Holy spirit is a person
    gods star leads wise men to baby Jesus (they were astrologers a practice that God condemns, it was Satans star)
    Jesus born on Dec 31

    the list goes on and on

    June 6, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Polis

      How is the "Trinity" not in the Bible?

      June 6, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • Dave

      because it's... not?

      Do you actually read this stuff or just take what the preacher says at face value?

      June 6, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • mmm no

      50% correct 50% fail, go study

      June 6, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • mmm no

      because it doesn't say the word trinity? genius

      June 6, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • BSargent

      The Trinity
      "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth..." John 14:16 & 17 (NIV)

      Eternal torment in a fiery Hell
      "This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 13:49 & 50 (NIV)

      Jesus Died on a Cross
      "And they crucified him..." Matthew 27:35 (KJV)
      "It was nine in the morning when they crucified him." Mark 15:25 (NIV)
      "When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there..." Luke 23:33 (NIV)
      "There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle." John 19:18 (NIV)
      Crucifixion: http://christianity.about.com/od/goodfriday/p/crucifixionhub.htm

      June 6, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  12. pete

    How would the serpent even tell Adam to eat the Apple? Snakes don't have vocal cords lol

    June 6, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Sean

      He didn't say anything to them. It was posted on his blog.

      June 6, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Dave

      it's a story, only idiots would read winnie the pooh and think "oh i guess bears have convos with boys"

      June 6, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • FletcherGR

      Dave, What are "convos"?

      June 6, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Dave

      To convo someone is to have a conversation with them.


      June 6, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Traylor

      It never says it was an apple, simply "fruit". Humans probably did not cultivate apples at the time Genesis was written. Obviously, the talking snake is a metaphor.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  13. july4ht1776

    Actually, when it comes to the account of Jonah, the Book of Jonah calls it a great fish, but in Mathew 12:40, Jesus said, "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." If Jesus said it's a whale, then my guess is that the Book of Jonah's rendering was more of an approximation – they're not contradictory, but merely Christ was being more exact in his rendering of the account. As for the whole "it wasn't Satan that tempted Eve, but the Serpent," Revelation 12:9 says, "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world..." Sounds like Satan had taken the form of a Serpent in the Garden of Eden, yes? But hey, what do I know – I'm not classically trained in the Scriptures – I'm merely a simpleton who studies the Bible and quotes Scripture...

    June 6, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • Lou

      "The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli." Book of Costanza, 17:3.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • BSargent

      Well said!

      June 6, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Traylor

      Those are the translator's words. The scientific perception of whales as mammals and not fish is relatively recent. It was common in ancient times to refer to whales as great fish and conversely to refer to any large fish as a whale.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • pgh

      Remember, it may say whale in the english text, but this could have been a translation from giant fish or great fish. However, I believe that to nitpick over such small things as the type of fish isn't really a good enough example. I feel like the wise men should have been a more major focus.

      June 6, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  14. Bubba

    Here's another common one: "Know the truth and the truth shall set you free." When Jesus said this it was right after the part where He says: "I am the way, the truth and the life...". What He's saying is : "Know ME and I will set you free".

    June 6, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  15. Vadim Alkasov


    June 6, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  16. JJ

    I for one, dont' need any book to tell me what is right or wrong, good or "evil". If I did, that would make me less than human or just incredibly stupid.

    June 6, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • JJ

      Ahhh yes...I forgot to add sociopath. If I were a sociopath, I might need some sort of guide between right and wrong. But then I wouldn't really care either.

      June 6, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • sumday

      you comment just makes you sound stupid imo. You say you don't need a book to tell you right and wrong- yet you obey the laws set before by our government don't you? Do you need those laws to tell you right and wrong or should we just let you decide what "laws" are right and wrong? The bible is claimed to be God inspired, laws are man inspired and most times borrow their idea's from a bible. So saying you don't need a book to know good and evil I would have to ask then why do we need man made laws if good and evil are so common knowledge? Just answer me what is the difference in following the rules of the bible and following the laws of man other than we know and can prove time after time that man is corruptible- yet you rely/obey “his” rules to define your right/wrong/good/evil and make fun of those who use the bible to tell them right and wrong.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Dave

      "Just answer me what is the difference in following the rules of the bible and following the laws of man"

      Man laws are more moral. No slavery, women as property, we're more moral than the bible. That's why man laws are better. They can change with our morality.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • Alyssa

      The difference of course, sumday, is that the rules of man are adapted to what best benefits our societies. They are also not immutable. They can be changed when the society changes. Just like child labor was an acceptable practice 150 years ago, we have changed our laws because the benefits of having 7 year olds in factories as cheap labor no longer outweighs the disadvantages to having a host of illiterate adults who started working in factories at age 7. Our ethical guidelines change with society. Your bible dictates that rules never change, even when they are grossly out of style (ie. beating women, eating shellfish, and owning slaves).

      June 6, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Bible Thumper

      We still need an objective standard to determine "good and evil". Ancient cultures sacrificed other human beings even children, they thought they were doing "good" even though it was a monsterous "evil". Even today some cultures view oppression of others as good in the eyes of their God. You may not need a book to tell you right from wrong but when we elevate ourselves to the pinnacle of morality our whims become "good" an evil becomes suborned to our desires.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • sumday

      @ dave that is exactly my point! No, we are not more moral than the bible! it use to be illegal to educate black people- that was man's law- how moral was that? The fact that our mortality changes testifies to how immoral we are! Those living in slave times thought they were 100% moral- it is only you today that says it is immoral (and where do you base that on? Your own idea bc you have no proof to it being immoral other than you say it is) and only because humans have changed their minds over time. Right now I can legally trick you out of money (set up an investment group then bankrupt it), have a trillion dollars in the bank and watch every human starve- that is legal and would be considered moral in todays standards and you say how moral we are. What a foolish person you must be to think man kind is anything but immoral. Just show me 1 human in history that has not become corrupt? There is either an absolute right/wrong or nothing is ever wrong (only the timing of it). Further more if mankind is a random accident then there really is no such thing as morality, no such thing as right/wrong only made up ideas from an accident.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • Alyssa

      "We still need an objective standard to determine "good and evil"'

      @Bible Thumper, I'll agree that we need to record our societal determinations about what we currently determine is "good" or "evil" (I'd use different words) so that it is clearly established for all to see. Because it is true that these things differ in degree from person to person. But that's the beauty of democracy, the "crazies" are averaged out, and most people fit into the center. Our goal as a civilization, though, should be to adopt the least restrictive laws that promote the health of our society.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • sumday

      @Alyssa-The difference of course, sumday, is that the rules of man are adapted to what best benefits our societies. – you said it- what best benefits society NOT WHAT IS BEST FOR SOCIETY! borrowing more debt benefits us today, but that doesn't mean it is what is best for our nation in the long run. The problem with mankind acting like it is the most moral is that we are corruptible and it ALWAYS leads to laws that benefit only a few. Every ruling government ever has come to an end- because of the laws that man made. Only 1 or 2 governments ever lasted pass 300 yr, and those governments were run by "moral men making their own laws", yet religion has lasted 1000yrs. Jews follow their religion/government and they have been around for thousands of years (without change), Islam has been around almost 1600yrs (without change) and Christianity has been around for 2000yrs (with change). So just looking at the FACTS it seems the system set up by religion far out last any system set up by man- who you claim to be so much more moral! Those are just the historical facts. In fact it can be shown that all governments/society first came from a religion- all government first had to borrow all concepts of right/wrong and how to distribute/control power from a previous religion. If man was so moral why couldn't it come up with it's own rules- and why in the past 5000yrs has man not been able to retain "his" government for more than a few 100 yrs, yet religion (which you claim is so immoral) has been able to last 1000 of yrs? When men try to rule and control things it only last a few years- when religion rules and controls things it last 1000yrs- hmm which one was right again?

      June 6, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Alyssa

      " When men try to rule and control things it only last a few years- when religion rules and controls things it last 1000yrs- hmm which one was right again?"

      You assume that the reason for religious longevity is its intrinsic correctness. Not at all. Religion is the art of telling people what they want to hear, and controlling their behavior by peddling an unique concoction of fear and immutability. That is not the purpose of a society. Societies (or governments, as we call structured societies) aren't meant to be stagnant. In fact, stagnancy is what kills them the quickest. And even though governments may fall, that does not mean that the moors of that society are gone forever with it. We are indelibly influenced now by governments past, to include the Greeks, the Roman Empire, the Enlightenment, etc.

      Also, I am not saying that religions are immoral. You seem to be the one stuck on these labels for things. Religions do have benefit to their societies, through the charity they provide, the education, and the control of behavior to societally acceptable levels. However, like anything else, it has drawbacks, and when those drawbacks become greater than the benefits it will start to decline in acceptability in that society.

      June 6, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  17. clarity

    The article claims that the Bible never clarifies that the serpent is Satan... (asterisks added for emphasis, not from the Bible):

    Revelations 20:1-3 (ESV) "(1)Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the hey to the bottomless pit and a great chain. (2) And he seized the dragon, **that anceint serpent**, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, (3) and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, **so that he might not deceive** the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended."

    June 6, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Dave

      The author says

      "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."

      Meaning that the book of Genesis never states the serpent to be satan. Your passage of revelation supports the author who notes that the idea of satan is added later.

      June 6, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Richxx

      And what does Revelation calling the devil a serpent have to do with the fable of Genesis? Revelation is talking about Nero and the Roman empire (with a little plagiarizing from the book of Enoch).

      June 6, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • CelticLotus

      You cannot use a New Testament book to prove the veracity of an Old Testament one. The two were not written at the same time whatsoever, and even the most steadfast Christian will agree that many parts of the NT contradict the Old. This is because the Old is Jewish law and the history of the Jewish forefathers, while the New consists of stories about the life and teachings of Jesus.

      Making the serpent of Eden Satan is comforting to people, because it pits Eve against a powerful foe that was nearly possible to resist. It makes us feel better about our own shortcomings when we give in to temptation; after all, "the devil made me do it" is one of our favorite excuses. It also removes the necessity for accountability.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Traylor

      Revelations was written about a thousand years after Genesis. There is no mention of Satan or Hell in pre-exilic literature. The concepts did not exist in ancient Judaism. They acquired them from the Zoroastrian religion of the Babylonians.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Oh, please. Not Revelations again. Those were the meandering ramblings of an old blind, nearly insane and drug-addles man who may or may not have been John the Evangelist, who had the misfortune of being the only one of the 12 Apostles who was not martyred.
      When the early church councils were trying to decide on what books actually were to make up the Bible (a decision made by men who wanted to reinforce their beliefs and to satisfy their political patrons) they nearly left that book out because of its psychotic ramblings and disjointed text. The only reason it was included was because of its promises at the end.
      The Concept of Ha-Shatana – the Adversary or Advocate, depending on your translation – was not the horn-headed, goat-footed being shown in Medieval and Renaissance paintings, but one of God's angles who's function was to challenge Mortals in their belief in God. Eve failed. Job succeeded. Even when he was SENT to tempt Jesus during his 40 days in the wilderness, he was still sent by God to test the faith.

      Our modern concept of Satan is a mixture of the Seraph Samael, the Roman God Lucifer (light-bringer), and the Greek God Pan. The concept of the War that resulted in the expulsion from Heaven was taken from a chapter in Revelations and later expanded on by Dante and Milton, giving us the modern concepts of Hell and the Devil.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • sumday

      Gen 3:15- I will put enmity between you and the woman,
      and between your offspring[e] and(M) her offspring;
      (N) he shall bruise your head,
      and you shall bruise his heel."- this is the first prophecy given and points to Christ in the Christain view. No satan is not called by name here, but it is obvious as who the snake is referring to. It is like describing a person with a beard- no where did I say it wasn’t a child but the fact that I mentioned beard would let the reader know I was referring to an adult. The same I believe is true for this. As all throughout the old testament “Satan” is referred to by different names/attributes. He is called the adversary, the accuser, light bearer, Cherubim, ect. “He” might not have been named Satan in Gen, but the concept always was the snake was Satan- an opponet to humans. Maybe 500ys or so later his “name” changed to Satan, but the concept was there in genesis, and this can be seen by all the aspects describing Satan throughout the rest of the bible are described and shown in the act of the snake beguiling Eve in Gen.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Idontthinkso

      The scholar is saying that at the time the story of Adam and Eve was written, the idea of Satan being a tempter had never been thought of or imagined for another 500 years.
      "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.

      Just because the bible is one book, doesn't mean it is one book. Several books written hundreds of years apart were conjoined to compile the bible. Christened by Emperor Constantine after he converted to Christianity.

      As far as where the saying "God helps them who help themselves". It's from one of Aesop's fables named "Hercules and the Waggoner.

      Hercules and the Waggoner

      A Waggoner was once driving a heavy load along a very muddy
      way. At last he came to a part of the road where the wheels sank
      half-way into the mire, and the more the horses pulled, the deeper
      sank the wheels. So the Waggoner threw down his whip, and knelt
      down and prayed to Hercules the Strong. "O Hercules, help me in
      this my hour of distress," quoth he. But Hercules appeared to
      him, and said:

      "Tut, man, don't sprawl there. Get up and put your shoulder
      to the wheel."

      The gods help them that help themselves.

      Now if you want to call Aesop a Christian go right ahead. I suppose Moses was too.

      June 6, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  18. Kaila

    I'm sorry, but is there a correct way to interpret text? Interpretation is personal.

    Ignoring historical context and twisting Biblical passages to support political aims is one thing. Pure interpretation of a line for personal use is another. Who rules on the correct interpretation?

    While it is very interesting to see the evolution of these different paraphrases, I find it a bit worrisome that this is the most read article on CNN this morning.

    June 6, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  19. Stevebilliter

    "And there is this often-cited paraphrase: Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden"

    The author himself does not understand scripture. That was Satan that tempted Eve, as he possessed the serpent. Much of the Bible is not written in perfect, technical language, so we must put together other texts to understand the real meaning. Spiritual things are spiritually understood;

    1Co 2:14 But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    I believe that Ellen White sheds additional light upon the issue

    In order to accomplish his work unperceived, Satan chose to employ as his medium the serpent–a disguise well adapted for his purpose of deception. The serpent was then one of the wisest and most beautiful creatures on the earth. It had wings, and while flying through the air presented an appearance of dazzling brightness, having the color and brilliancy of burnished gold. Resting in the rich-laden branches of the forbidden tree and regaling itself with the delicious fruit, it was an object to arrest the attention and delight the eye of the beholder. Thus in the garden of peace lurked the destroyer, watching for his prey. {PP 53.4}

    June 6, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Traylor

      Actually the author does say that passages have been reinterpreted and even rewritten over the centuries. That is his whole point. The ancient Hebrews had no concept of Satan or Hell, and they are not mentioned in Genesis. The letter from Paul to the Colossians you quote was written over a thousand years later.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • DaLe

      "Serpent with wings" sounds as being a dragon (of the creature I am aware of). Does it talk in the Bible about a "serpent with wings"? Is there any, and if what, connection with the dragon at eg. Chinese mythology (that dragon having legs but apparently no wings)?

      Btw re dragon, in a number of fairy tales it appears to me that the dragon is a metaphor for the story-king's wife, or (step)mother.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • DaLe

      *of the creatures

      June 6, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  20. natural born skeptic.

    Funny how Christians, the loudest and most devout to hear them say it don't follow or understand their own book of faith.

    June 6, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • sumday

      kind of like citizens who don't know all the laws they are suppose to or obey in their own land? Or citizens who don't even know how their own government works? yeah I see little difference in the people you are speaking of and the average citizen of the USA.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:34 am |
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About this blog

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.