Bible Phantoms

Actually, phantom passages, but plain old “phantoms” makes for a cheekier title. CNN posted a piece this past Saturday in their Belief Blog, called “Actually, that’s not in the Bible.” It’s got 6,220 comments (a tad more than our record), so you know it struck a chord.

What’s it about? All the sayings that people think are from the Bible, but, in fact, aren’t. Like:

  • This, too, shall pass.
  • God helps those who help themselves. (check your nearest $100 bill)
  • Spare the rod, spoil the child.
  • God works in mysterious ways.
  • Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
  • Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden. (paraphrase)

There are lots more. Why do they keep getting passed on from generation to generation?

[...] 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.”

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