Read the Bible for Yourself!

14 “Verses” not in the Bible – and One that Might Be

14. “Honk if you love Jesus!”
13. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
12. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
11. “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

10. “Money is the root of all evil.”
9. “God moves in mysterious ways.”
8. “Pride goes before a fall.”
7. “Everything happens for the best.”

6. “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”
5. “Once saved, always saved.”
4. “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
3. “Be in the world but not of the world.”

2. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
1. “God helps those who help themselves.”
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

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14. “Honk if you love Jesus!” (1/13/14) Read Jeremiah 7:1-10; Matthew 6:1-6.

What the Bible really says:
Matthew 6:1-2 – “Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward.”

Have you ever wanted the scripture reference for “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”? Or maybe “God helps those who help themselves”? We’ll see those two and a dozen others, including today’s nonexistent “verse,” “Honk if you love Jesus!”

I admit that you probably don’t think “Honk if you love Jesus!” is in the Bible. But give it another 50 years, and many people will believe it is. What the Bible actually says is that God is not fooled by noisy displays of false piety. I especially like Matthew 6:2 – “Don't blow a trumpet like the hypocrites do in the streets so that they will be praised by people.” The next time you see this bumper sticker, just wave.

13. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” (1/14/14) Read Mark 9:43-48; Matthew 23:23-33.

What the Bible really says:
Mark 9:43-48 – “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter into life crippled than to have two hands and go into hell, to the unquenchable fire. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out! It is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.”

If we have good intentions but things don’t turn out the way they should, we say, “It’s the thought that counts.” If they have good intentions but things don’t turn out the way they should, we say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” As a matter of fact, the Bible doesn’t say either one of those things. The Bible says pretty clearly that the road to hell is paved with sin. Don’t go there.

12. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” (1/15/14) Read Mark 7:1-8, 14-23.

What the Bible really says:
Mark 7:14-15, 20-23 – Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand. There is nothing outside of a person that can defile him by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles him.” ... He said, “What comes out of a person defiles him. For from within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly. All these evils come from within and defile a person.”

Fellow-reader Susan writes to say she has a friend who calls these non-Biblical “verses” the book of “Second Opinions.” HAHAHahaha!

Today’s verse from 2 Opinions is “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” I was surprised to learn that this saying, in the exact form that we have it, seems to originate with our own John Wesley (see Sermon 88, On Dress), according to Thomas Kidd, a history professor at Baylor University in Texas. Wesley had it in quotation marks, however, which suggests that it was already widely used. Some websites go on and on about this “verse” and Peter’s vision in Acts 10. Bulletin: Biblical cleanness has just about nothing to do with cleanliness. Clean in the Bible means “ritually acceptable,” and unclean means “ritually unacceptable.” Washing in water is, as a matter of fact, one way of making some items clean, but no amount of scrubbing could make a pig clean. Jesus says the same thing is true of us: if our hearts are not clean, no amount of scrubbing will help us.

11. “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” (1/16/14) Read Proverbs 13:24.

What the Bible really says:
Proverbs 13:24 – The one who spares his rod hates his child, but the one who loves his child is diligent in disciplining him.

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” is an old saw that apparently originated with Samuel Butler, 17th century British poet, in his satirical poem “Hudibras.” I think it probably says more about the speaker than about the Bible. One of my sons had to be spanked in order to get his attention, and another one rarely needed more than a strong word. Consequently, I have no particular horse in this race, and I am amused that translation teams are all over the map on Proverbs 13:24. “Spare the rod” clearly comes from this verse, but there’s nothing in it about “spoiling the child.”

Remember that hate/love is a Hebrew idiom that rarely contrasts real hate and real love; instead it normally means “love less” and “love more.”

10. “Money is the root of all evil.” (1/17/14) Read 1 Timothy 6:6-11, 17-19.

What the Bible really says:
1 Timothy 6:9-10 – Those who long to be rich, however, stumble into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains.

Of course we all know that Paul did not say, “Money is the root of all evil.” Paul said, “The love of money” – which is a very different thing – “is the root of all evil.” In fact, Paul goes on in the same passage to give instructions on how the wealthy are to put money to good use, which he hardly would have done if he thought money was intrinsically evil.

I was surprised to learn today that the Revised Version, daughter of the King James Version, says “all kinds of evil,” and a number of modern English translations follow the RV. I looked at the Greek and at The Expositor’s Greek New Testament, and “all kinds of” just isn’t in there. Paul wasn’t given to qualifying remarks; however, I’m sure that if we asked him, he’d admit that plenty of evil springs from other sources as well.

9. “God moves in mysterious ways.” (1/20/14) Read Isaiah 55:6-9, Isaiah 65:1-3a, and Jeremiah 29:10-14.

What the Bible really says:
Isaiah 65:1-2 – “I made myself available to those who did not ask for me;
I appeared to those who did not look for me.
I said, ‘Here I am! Here I am!’ to a nation that did not invoke my name.
I spread out my hands all day long to my rebellious people,
who lived in a way that is morally unacceptable, and who did what they desired.

Jeremiah 29:11-14a – For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord.
‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you.
I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.
When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers.
When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you.
If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you,’ says the Lord. ‘

Isaiah 55:6-7 shows that the reason we can’t understand God is that we are wicked and unrighteous. “My thoughts are not your thoughts” is a criticism of God’s people, not a boast about God’s superiority. (God is superior, of course, but I don’t think that’s what this passage is mainly about.) In Isaiah 65 and Jeremiah 29, God seems to say we could understand his ways if we would just listen. God calls us all the time; we don’t listen. God promises to let himself be found; we don’t search. Is it any wonder that we think “God moves in mysterious ways”?

8. “Pride goes before a fall.” (1/21/14) Read Proverbs 16:18.

What the Bible really says:
Proverbs 16:18 – Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

“Pride goes before a fall” is one of those sayings that are close enough to what the Bible says that it may seem like quibbling to point out that it’s not actually in the Bible. The problem is the slippery slope. If we allow this one, what’s next?

7. “Everything happens for the best.” (1/22/14) Read Genesis 50:20, Romans 6:1-2, 8:28-39.

What the Bible really says:
Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

You often hear that “Everything happens for the best.” Absolutely not; sin never happens for the best, and there’s nothing good about evil. God can use evil for good, as we see in Genesis 50:20, but all in all, God would much rather use good for good, as Paul reminds us in Romans 6:1-2. Today’s non-verse distorts several scriptural ideas, most importantly Romans 8:28, which tells that everything – which includes God’s use of evil and suffering – works together for good for those who love God. (I’m sorry to say that the Bible doesn’t say that everything works together for good for those who don’t love God.)

6. “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” (1/23/14) Read Jeremiah 31:29-30, Ezekiel 18:1-4, Romans 3:23.

What the Bible really says:
Ezekiel 18:1-4 – The word of the Lord came to me:
“What do you mean by quoting this proverb concerning the land of Israel,
“‘The fathers eat sour grapes And the children’s teeth become numb?’
“As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord,
you will not quote this proverb in Israel anymore!
Indeed! All lives are mine – the life of the father as well as the life of the son is mine.
The one who sins will die.

Romans 5:12 – So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned.

“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all”is the New-England Primer’s (1690) summary of Augustinian doctrine on original sin. For an exhausting discussion of “doctrine” vs. “scripture,” go here. The summary is this: scripture is the word of God, and doctrine is something that the Church – or sometimes a church – teaches. When scripture is straightforward, doctrine usually lines up with it, and we should, too. When scripture is obscure or silent, doctrine tends to vary, so read the Bible for yourself, and make up your own mind.

What scripture says in numerous places is that we’ve all committed sins, and we die for our own sins. Augustine taught – and practically everyone in the Western Church follows this teaching – that because Adam sinned, we all inherit sin from him. This supposedly inherited sin is “original sin.” Augustine did not read Greek at all well, and he based his idea on Romans 5:12 in a Latin translation in which Romans 5:12 is simply wrong. Even the revered King James Version says that Adam’s sin resulted in death for all of us, not sin. In fact the doctrinal position of the Eastern Church is that we inherit death from Adam, not sin, so rest assured that whatever you believe on the topic of original sin, lots of Christians agree with you.

However, do not believe that “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all” is in the Bible, because it isn’t.

5. “Once saved, always saved” (1/24/14) Read John 15:1-10; Acts 1:15-17, 24-25; James 5:19-20.

What the Bible really says:
John 15:1-2, 6 – “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me. He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit. ... If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out like a branch, and dries up; and such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and are burned up.

“Once saved, always saved,” like yesterday’s non-verse, is a doctrinal point held by many Christians, even though it’s not stated anywhere in the Bible. Although there are five major points of traditional Calvinist doctrine, this one seems to be held by lots of “one-point Calvinists.” My personal position is that I’d like it to be true but I suspect it’s not. John Wesley argued strongly that it is not true. The scriptures we read today (among others) argue against it: As I understand the UMC doctrine on this point, it is that you can choose to become unsaved, but it’s somewhat difficult to do by accident because God is always trying to get you back.

4. “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” (1/27 /14) Read Matthew 5:43-48, Psalms 97:10, Proverbs 8:13, and Amos 5:15, Zechariah 8:16-17.

What the Bible really says:
Matthew 5:43-45 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

This non-verse apparently came to us from St. Augustine via Mahatma Ghandi. Not only is “Love the sinner, hate the sin” not in the Bible, but neither is “love the sinner” nor “hate the sin.” The Biblical position is that I am required to love everyone, no exceptions. Many passages tell me to love my neighbor, my enemies, and everyone in between; telling me to love the sinner is such an obvious redundancy that the Bible skips it.

Not only that, I find only three verses (in Psalms, Proverbs, and Amos) that tell me to hate anything whatsoever at all. The scripture references above contain every single thing I could find in the Bible on what we should hate. Surprised? Hate is bad for us. Most hate is sinful. You and I should concentrate on loving each other and hating our own sins exclusively. I suspect that when I love my neighbor perfectly, as God does, then I will be free to hate my neighbor’s sin, as God indeed does.

3. “Be in the world but not of the world.” (1/28/14) Read John 17:11-16; 1 John 2:15-16.

What the Bible really says:
John 17:11a, 17:15-16 – I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. ... I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world.

While I was preparing this study, my Greek teacher said that years ago he would have bet his right arm and his car that that “Be in the world but not of the world” was in the Bible exactly as it is often quoted! It might be a summary of John 17:11-16 and 1 John 2:15-16, but it’s definitely not a verse in the Bible.

Summaries like this one, or like “Hate the sin but love the sinner,” can be useful. These two aren’t unbiblical in outlook, and they are easy to remember as guides to behavior. The problem comes when we start quoting them as “scripture” because we don’t know any better. For example, the unbeliever who checks up on us is liable to conclude that Christians are either ignorant or deliberately misleading, and this brings the faith into disrepute. Never take my word or everybody’s word for what the Bible says; read it for yourself.

2. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” (1/29/14) Read Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:1-4.

What the Bible really says:
Matthew 6:9-13 – So pray this way:
Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen,” isn’t in the version of the Lord’s Prayer given in Luke (in the Sermon on the Plain). It isn’t in the best Greek manuscripts or in very many modern English translations of Matthew 6:9-13 (in the Sermon on the Mount). It was added as a standard part of the prayer by the very early Church, probably in the late first century or early second century.

The Lord’s Prayer is intended for use by groups of Christians (you can tell by the pronouns, which are all plural). In my opinion, Jesus offered it as a model, not as a formula. In Matthew, he specifically says, “Pray thus,” not “Pray this.” So it’s fine that we use this doxology, just as long as we remember that we added it, and not Jesus.

1. “God helps those who help themselves.” (1/30/14) Read Isaiah 41:8-14; Mark 9:14-27.

What the Bible really says:
Isaiah 41:10 – Don’t be afraid, for I am with you! Don’t be frightened, for I am your God!
I strengthen you – yes, I help you –
yes, I uphold you with my saving right hand!
41:13 For I am the Lord your God, the one who takes hold of your right hand,
who says to you, ‘Don’t be afraid, I am helping you.’
41:14 Don’t be afraid, despised insignificant Jacob, men of Israel.
I am helping you,” says the Lord, your protector, the Holy One of Israel.

Mark 9:21-24 – Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Then Jesus said to him, “‘If you are able?’ All things are possible for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

“God helps those who help themselves” apparently originated with Aesop and other ancient Greeks. It’s not in the Bible, and in fact it’s contrary to what we learn from scripture. The whole point of the Bible is that God helps us because we cannot help ourselves. We are little children who have to hold onto God’s hand in the parking lot. God help us all!

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (1/31/14) Read Luke 6:27-36.

Our final look at “well-known verses” not in the Bible brings us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Now, I was very surprised to find this on quite a few websites listing verses not in the Bible, so I looked at a number of translations (see below). Some translations have almost these exact words, and some have the order of the words the other way around. So I looked at the Greek, and I talked to my Greek teacher.

The thing about Greek and English is that they don’t put the words in the same order in sentences, and sometimes they don’t even put the ideas in the same order. I’ve given you the exact word order in my own “translation,” mainly so that you can see that translators have to make some changes to produce decent English. How many changes is a matter of judgment: make too many, and you end up with a paraphrase. I would call “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” a translation of vs. 31 (or possibly Matthew 7:12), but my Greek teacher calls it a paraphrase. So our whole study comes down to this. Many “well-known Bible verses” aren’t in the Bible in any way, shape, or form. Some of them, like “Be in the world but not of the world,” summarize or paraphrase material that is in the Bible. And occasionally people say that something isn’t in the Bible when it really is. Read the Bible for yourself, and don’t be fooled!

Copyright 2014 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB. Scriptures listed under "What the Bible really says" are from the NET Bible and are used by permission.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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