11 Things Everyone Thinks Are In The Bible, But Aren’t

Cleanliness: not technically next to godliness. (Yesssss.)

1. “This, too, shall pass.”

Actually from: Persian poetry.

This proverb has its roots in the works of Persian Sufi poets. Attar of Nishapur records one fable of a powerful king who asks assembled wise men to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad, and vice versa. After debating, the sages hand him a simple ring with the words “This too will pass” etched on it, which has the desired effect.

2. “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

Actually from: The Talmud.

This old proverb, often also mistakenly attributed to Ben Franklin, actually comes from Phineas ben Yair, whose writing appears in the Talmud this way: “The doctrines of religion are resolved into carefulness; carefulness into vigorousness; vigorousness into abstemiousness into cleanliness; cleanliness into godliness.” I.e., “cleanliness’ is literally next to ‘godliness.” Yes.

3. “Money is the root of all evil.”

1 Timothy 6:10 actually says, “The love of money is the root of all kind of evil.” It’s not a big difference, but it does soften the meaning. (cc: Scrooge McDuck)

4. A little drummer boy.

It’s a nice Christmas carol, but there’s no actual drummer boy in the New Testament.

5. “God will not give you more than you can handle.”

1 Corinthians 10:13 actually refers to dealing with temptation, not burdens: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

6. An apple.

The Hebrew word פרי (“fruit”) is used in Genesis to refer to what Adam and Eve ate in the garden of Eden, but it’s a generic term that doesn’t indicate which kind of fruit. Western art came to depict the fruit as an apple, but other theories have proposed it was actually a pomegranate, a grape, a fig or even a mushroom.

7. “God helps those who help themselves.”

Actually from: ancient Greek literature.

From Aeschylus’ play “The Persians”: “Whenever a man makes haste, God too hastens with him.” Sophocles also wrote, “No good e’er comes of leisure purposeless; And heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act.” Euripides wrote, “Try first thyself, and after call in God.” Benjamin Franklin also used a variation of the phrase in his almanac.

8. “To thine own self be true.”

Yeahhhhh, that’s Shakespeare.

9. “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Actually from: St. Augustine.

This beloved evangelical saying is found in one of St. Augustine’s letters, which contains the phrase “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” translated to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.”

10. “God works in mysterious ways.”

Actually from: William Cowper/Bono.

One William Cowper poem reads, “God works in a mysterious way / His wonders to perform; / He plants His footsteps in the sea / And rides upon the storm.” A famous U2 song that’s supposed to refer to the Holy Spirit notes that “she moves in mysterious ways,” but I guess Bono’s not the same as Jesus.

11. Hell.

Obviously this is a more complex discussion than can fit here, but the Satan/pitchfork/flames/brimstone idea of hell comes mostly from Dante’s Inferno, not the Bible.

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