Thomas Robinson

19 Misattributed Biblical Beliefs That Originate from Other Sources

Throughout life, many passages from The Bible are passed on from generation to generation to help guide us through life. However, many people will be surprised to hear that the famous words they thought were from holy scriptures are actually from other sources. We take a look at 

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

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This saying is often misattributed to the Bible, but it originated with a Greek writer named Aesop in his fable “Hercules and the Wagoner.” 

Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

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This proverb is not found in the Bible but may have originated from Jewish or early Christian traditions, so people may confuse it with being from the Bible. 

Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child

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This verse is often used to justify corporal punishment but is taken out of context. The whole verse from Proverbs 13:24 says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their son, but whoever loves him is diligent to discipline him.” The verse is not advocating for physical abuse but for loving correction.

Money Is the Root of All Evil

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This is a popular misquote of 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” The verse is not condemning money but the love of money and the evil that can result from it.

Go Forth and Multiply

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This phrase is often used by people who believe that the Bible commands Christians to have as many children as possible. However, it is taken out of context from Genesis 1:28, where God commands Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” This command was given in a specific context to the first humans, and it is not a universal command for all Christians today.

Judge Not, Lest You Be Judged

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This verse is often used to silence criticism or to promote tolerance. However, it is essential to read the whole verse in context. Matthew 7:1-2 says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Jesus is not saying that we should never make any judgments but that we should judge with humility and righteousness, knowing that God will judge us ourselves.

Adam and Eve Eating an Apple

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Contrary to popular belief, the Bible doesn’t explicitly identify the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge as an apple. Western artistic interpretations and specific translations, like the King James Version, influence this widely held image. As noted by Live Science, alternative interpretations suggest the fruit could have been something else entirely, such as grapes or figs.

Appearance of Angels

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Popular culture portrays angels as ethereal beings with wings. However, the Bible offers a more diverse and symbolic view. Biblical descriptions of angels often differ, emphasizing their celestial nature rather than physical appearance. As Christianity explains, “Scripture reveals that angels can sometimes appear human, even going unnoticed. In other instances, they are described through symbolic imagery, like wheels adorned with eyes.”

“Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child”

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The verse most commonly cited to support the saying is Proverbs 13:24, which states: “Whoever spares the rod hates their son, but whoever loves him is diligent to discipline him.” However, this verse needs to be more context and interpreted. The “rod” referred to here is not necessarily a literal physical object but somewhat symbolic of discipline and correction. The verse emphasizes the importance of loving guidance and instruction, not advocating for corporal punishment.

Jesus Being Born in a Stable

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While the familiar image of the nativity scene depicts Jesus being born in a stable, the Bible doesn’t explicitly mention this detail. Early Christian traditions and even some biblical interpretations suggest alternative birthplaces. Like the manager, the iconic stable setting and its elements are primarily rooted in artistic interpretations and cultural tradition rather than direct biblical description.

The Three Wise Men

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The story of the wise men visiting Jesus is well-known to many Christians, but the Bible doesn’t specify their exact number. The popular notion of three wise men likely stems from the gifts mentioned – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Interestingly, different Christian traditions hold varying accounts regarding the number of these visitors.

“God Works in Mysterious Ways”

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The Bible mentions God’s plans being mysterious; however, the exact phrase “God works in mysterious ways” isn’t present. Some interpret verses like Isaiah 55:8-9 as loosely related to this concept. The widespread use of the phrase likely reflects the human tendency to acknowledge the limitations of our understanding of God’s actions and plans.

Women Can’t Be Pastors

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While some interpretations of specific texts restrict women from church leadership roles, the Bible doesn’t offer a definitive prohibition on women serving as pastors. Specific biblical figures, such as Phoebe, also suggest a more inclusive perspective.

“God Loves You and Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life”

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The phrase “God has a plan for your life” is often used in evangelism, but it’s not a direct quote from the Bible. Though it resonates with the overarching theme of God’s love, it can simplify the complexities of God’s Wirken and potentially create unrealistic expectations of problem-free lives for those embracing faith.

“Money Cometh to Me Now”

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The famous saying “God wants you to be rich,” while not found in the Bible, can be misleading. The Bible offers a more balanced view of wealth and prosperity, often urging responsible management and even caution regarding money. Oversimplifying this complex topic can have negative consequences.

“Blessed and Highly Favored”

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The well-meaning affirmation “you are highly favored” can lead to misunderstandings regarding biblical teachings on favor and blessing. While the Bible emphasizes God’s favor, the specific title of “highly favored” is traditionally associated with Mary within Christian theology, as explained by CrossWalk.

 “Touch Your Neighbor”

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The phrase “touch your neighbor,” commonly used in sermons, doesn’t directly translate to a biblical command or saying. It likely stems from cultural practices within specific church communities rather than a scriptural directive. While the Bible emphasizes loving and helping our neighbors, it doesn’t prescribe specific actions like physical touch.

Violent Depictions of Jesus

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The core message of Jesus, as conveyed in the Bible, emphasizes compassion, forgiveness, and non-violence. However, misinterpretations portraying him as vengeful can arise from selective readings of Scripture and the influence of cultural biases.

“Pride Comes Before the Fall”

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The commonly used phrase “pride comes before a fall” is a simplified and slightly altered version of Proverbs 16:18, which reads: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” While the essence of the message remains similar, the original Scripture uses slightly different wording and emphasizes the potential consequences of pride.

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