Actually, That’s Not In The Bible.
Last Updated – 01/06/2014.
If I were to say “Scripture tells you that all things shall pass” and “This, too, shall pass.”
The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t appear in the Bible. The quotation is a phantom scripture, an apparition that sounds like it should belong in the Bible but when we look closer and it’s not actually there.
This biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers, that the Bible also says is a No, NO (see Mark 12:35-44). The Bible may be classed as the one most sacred books in the world but it’s also one of the most misquoted. Officials, teachers, motivational speakers and even preachers; all types of people – quote passages and give sermons that actually have no real basis in the Bible e.g. I’ve heard this sermon preached by ministers twice and once by a layperson, that Cain married one of his sisters at some time after he killed Able. This is totally incorretc. Read Genesis 4.
These spectral passages include: “God helps those who help themselves” as well as “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Then 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 many bible scholars say the last one is actually anti-biblical.
The trouble is people rarely challenge these passages because of their own biblical ignorance; this is so pervasive that it even reaches groups of people who should know better. Another problem is that many people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the entire book or have done little or no studies on it at all.
Some people often have memorised different parts of Biblical texts that they can string together in order to prove a biblical basis for whatever it is they believe in; however they ignore the vast majority of the text because it does not relate to what they believe. You will often see this in cults.
Still we can see that ignorance isn’t the only cause for phantom Bible verses. Confusion is another.
Biblical Passages Can Work In Mysterious Ways.
Some of the most popular faux verses are pithy paraphrases of biblical concepts or bits of folk wisdom.
Let’s consider these: “God works in mysterious ways” and “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
Can anyone tell me just where in the Bible these two pieces are?
They sound as if they are taken from the Bible but they’re not. The first is a paraphrase of a 19th century hymn by William Cowper “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform”.
According to Thomas Kidd, a history professor at Baylor University the “cleanliness” passage was coined by John Wesley, the 18th century evangelist who founded Methodism. Regardless if it was John Wesley or some other who came up with the wise saying – if it sounds proverbish, people figure it must come from the Bible.
We humans have a fondness for short and chirpy sayings, so this could also explain our fondness for phantom biblical phrases. The counterfeit verses function like theological sweets: They’re to the point and summarisations of what may be call biblical concepts.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child” falls into this category. It’s a popular verse and painful for many children (I know it was for me). Could some innovative child avoid a spanking by pointing out to his parents that it’s not in the Bible? I doubt it very much. The popular saying is a distillation of Proverbs 13:24: “He who fails to use a stick hates his son but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” (C.J.B.)
Another saying that sounds Bible-worthy: “Pride goes before a fall.” But its approximation, Proverbs 16:18, a cut down version of what is actually written: “Pride goes before destruction and arrogance before failure.” (C.J.B.)
One of my favourites would be “There Are None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See.” Many people believe this to be in the bible but it isn’t. However according to the ‘Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings’ this proverb has been traced back to John Heywood in 1546 and resembles the Biblical verse Jeremiah 5:21 “Hear this, stupid, brainless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear:” (C.J.B.)
In 1738 it was also used by Jonathan Swift in his ‘Polite Conversation’ and is first attested in the United States in the 1713 ‘Works of Thomas Chalkley’. The full saying is: “There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.”
“All Things Come To Those Who Wait” is another of my favourites; I have heard it said by Christians that this comes out of proverbs but I can find nothing really similar in the Bible at all. The earliest this I can find were this quotation is used; by but probably not originated, by Mary M. Singleton who wrote under the name “Violet Fane” 1843–1905 in her poem Tout vient ß qui sait attendre.
There are some phantom biblical verses for which no excuse can be offered other then the speaker stuffed it up. Bruce Wells, a theology professor, who is director of the ancient studies program at Saint Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania says of ‘This, too, shall pass’ quote that it is probably from a peculiar feature of the King James Bible. Wells basically says, my hunch on the quote is that it comes from a peculiarity of the King James translation. The 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’. This also could be that the (K.J.V.) was actually translated from the Latin version of the Bible and not the original Hebrew and Greek ones.
The Danger Of Phantomic Bible Passages.
People not only get verses wrong but they also mangle plenty of well-known biblical stories as well.
Two examples: The scripture never says a whale swallowed the Old Testament prophet Jonah; it is written, as a Big Fish; nor is there any New Testament passage that says that three wise men visited baby Jesus. Yet our society sees these as common Biblical beliefs. While we are on the subject of Jesus’ birth; the herald angles didn’t sing, there is no mention of Mary riding on a donkey nor is there any mention of angles, the Magi and the shepherds being at the manger at the same time but it is fairly well depicted that way at Christmas time in cards, etc.
Those details may seem minor but both are misleading, still 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.” The first thing I can find using Satan to temp anyone is in the book of Job 1:6-22.
“The eye is the window to the soul”; nowhere in the Bible does not speak of the eye being a window to the soul, yet it does represent the eye as being a lamp of the body in Matthew 6:22 and also in Luke 11:34.
“God helps those that help themselves.” Most people have heard this one but it is another ghostly scripture that appears nowhere in the Bible although many people think it does. It’s actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the America’s founding fathers. Yet this statement contradicts the biblical definition of goodness: defining one’s worth by what one does for others, like the poor and the outcast. We often contaminate the Bible using our own values and morals without taking note what the Bible’s values and morals really are.
So we move onto another one; when encouraging people to follow their conscience on matters, then “to thine own self be true” is often cited as a Biblical recommendation. Actually this saying originates in William Shakespeare tragedy Hamlet. Polonius, the older counsellor of Prince Hamlet’s uncle, King Claudius, is dispensing advice to his son Laertes who is about to leave Denmark and return to France when he speaks the famous line: “This above all things: to thine own self be true” another of his cliché, in the same play is, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” — another saying occasionally mistaken for Scripture.
“Money is the root of all evil.” This expression is often misquoted and stems from the biblical verse in 1st Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils”. There is a gigantic difference between the two statements because Money can be used either for the Good or Bad it is neutral. Money itself can’t be evil, yet the love of it can be the root of all kinds evil.
This is a probably one of the misquoted passage from Scripture “The lion shall lay down with the lamb” the image of a lamb sweetly nestled into the side of a powerful lion is one that resonates. The image has developed from a different concurrence of animals in a couple verses from the writings of Isaiah. In these verses, both lions and lambs appear but are paired with other animals. The first being Isaiah 11:6 “The wolf will live with the lamb; the leopard lie down with the kid; calf, young lion and fattened lamb together, with a little child to lead them.” (C.J.B.) and the second in Isaiah 65:25 “"The wolf and the lamb will feed together and the lion eat straw like an ox (but the serpent — its food will be dust). They will not hurt or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain," says Adonai.” (C.J.B.)
As you can see, the lamb is both times paired with the wolf and not the lion who is paired both times with a beast of burden i.e. once with calves and another with the ox. Nevertheless, the meaning behind the imagery is not done any damage by switching the scene to include lions and lambs. It is easy to see with little difficulty how the image become as popular as it has. Not only is the imagery made far more powerful by replacing the wolf with the lion but there is also a precedent for the comparison if one considers the Lion of the tribe of Judah and worthiness of the Lamb imagery that is sourced in Revelation 5.
The Seven Deadly Sins has come under scrutiny at the hands of the 1995 film, Se7en as being Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Sloth, Vanity and Wrath. Although they are certainly sins that scriptural practices condemns, still they are not to be found anywhere in the Bible in any such grouping. The seven sins in this grouping originated in the writings of medieval theologians.
Getting biblical scriptures and stories wrong may not seem significant but it can become dangerous.
Where Do These Phantom Passages Come From?
It’s easy to blame the spread of phantomised biblical passages on continuing biblical illiteracy. But the causes are varied and some go back for centuries.
We find that a number of the guilty parties are anonymous, lost to history. They are artists and storytellers who over the years have embroidered biblical stories and passages with their own twists e.g. say you were an artist painting the Garden of Eden during the Renaissance, why not portray the serpent as the devil to give some spice to your creation? 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”?
Some blame the spread of phantasmic Bible passages on King James Version or more specifically the declining popularity of the King James translation of the Bible. This translation, which has been around for over 400 years, had a monopoly on the Bible market in the English speaking world until around the 1970’s. Consequently if you quoted the Bible and got it wrong then, people were far more likely to notice because there was only one text. However today we have 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. An example of this would be that all my quotes come from the Complete Jewish Bible.
Others lay blame of the ghostly biblical verses on Martin Luther, a German monk who in the early 1500’s inflamed the Protestant Reformation and the protests against the excesses of the Roman Catholic Regime leading to the formation of Protestant church leading to the majority of today’s denominations.
It was a great Protestant tradition for anyone; be they male or female, a farmer, common worker or manager to pick up the Bible and read for themself. However without the guidance of biblical teaching often these people started creating biblical inaccurate passages. This was more than likely not done willingly but chiefly through a lack of biblical comprehension, insight and/or conception.
So today you can see this manifesting in living room Bible studies around the world, where lovely Christian people, with no training whatsoever, drink tea, eat scones and bickies asking each other, ‘What does this text mean to you?’ Occasionally not only do they get the interpretation wrong but frequently end up misquoting verses or using ones that really aren’t there. Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have Bible studies, only that when we do have them, do not take a person’s word that it is in the bible even if they are a preacher, etc. We should always ask for a reference of the quote, if we do not know it for sure and check it out.
I would like to leave you with this thought ‘And then there shall be bestowed upon the elect wisdom and they shall all live and never again sin, either through ungodliness or through pride:’ Enoch 5:8a.
The book of Enoch was originally apart of the Bible but in 325A.D. at the Council of Nicaea they met to codify Christian doctrines in response to growing heresies – Jewish bishops were specifically excluded from the meeting. Doctrine of the Trinity formally acknowledged – in some cases with bishops threatened with death if they do not accept it. At this time many books and verses were remove from the Bible. Some verses were also added to books as well. The books and verses that were removed came to be known as “The Apocrypha”