You’ve heard these Bible stories and phrases so many times you accept them as authentic. Some are fictional additions to Biblical events while others sound kind of Biblical but definitely aren’t. See how many of these 12 things you thought were actually mentioned in the Bible.
1. An apple in the garden
While Western art has traditionally depicted the fruit Adam and Eve ate in the garden as an apple, the Bible is not that specific. Genesis 3:6 merely describes Eve eating some of the “fruit” and sharing it with Adam.
So, don’t blame the Red Delicious sitting in your fridge for the Fall. Maybe it was a lemon or a banana.
2. Three wise men
Once again, we find a specific drawn from limited information in the Bible and popularized by art. While we may sing “We Three Kings of Orient Are” at Christmas, the Bible only tells us that there were three gifts and more than one magi (Matthew 2:1-12).
Oh, and take the wise men out of your nativity scene, too. They arrived much later, when Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had already moved to a house in Bethlehem.
You may be interested in further Little Known Christmas Fun Facts.
3. A whale swallowed Jonah
Despite what Veggie Tales taught you, the Bible never says it was a whale that swallowed the runaway prophet. Jonah 1:17 says that God sent a “great fish” to take Jonah in the right direction. If a grouper can swallow a shark whole, I’m sure God could find a fish big enough for Jonah.
4. Money is the root of all evil.
Close, but the frequently quoted phrase is missing a few important words. 1 Timothy 6:10 actually says, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil…” Money is not good or bad, and being wealthy is not a sin; Job was wealthy and described as a man who was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1). Loving money, which in the Greek is “avarice” and implies an emotional affection, is the root of all sorts of evil as the desire to accumulate wealth is placed above God and others.
5. This too shall pass.
This could be a misinterpretation of a line from “The Lament of Doer,” an Old English poem. Doer has been replaced as his lord’s poet and calls to mind several other Germanic mythological figures who went through troubled times. Each refrain ends with, “that passed away, so may this.”
Several verses in the Bible remind us that our lives and, indeed, heaven and earth will pass away (Matthew 24:35). But while we can find comfort knowing that our earthly sorrows are temporary, we’re still called to rejoice in our trials, knowing that they will lead to endurance and perseverance (James 1:2-4).
6. Cleanliness is next to godliness.
Despite the strict rules given to the Israelites about uncleanness as a metaphor for sinfulness and ceremonial washing required by the priests (see: Exodus, Leviticus), this phrase is not in the Bible. It originated as an ancient Babylonian and Hebrew proverb but became very popular during the Victorian era after being revived by Sir Francis Bacon and John Wesley.
Is the proverb true beyond the metaphor? A new study shows that people are generally more fair and generous when in a clean-smelling environment. But Jesus also exhorts us to worry more about the sin in our hearts than the dirt on our hands (Matthew 15:16–20).
7. God works in mysterious ways.
This might be one of the most quoted sayings of all time when it comes to God. The only problem is that it isn’t a verse in the Bible. Yes, God does work in ways we don’t understand, but this saying is most likely a simplified paraphrasing of two verses.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 says, “As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.” And Jeremiah 33:3 reads, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” In this case, it’s not that this saying is wrong, it’s simply not in the Bible.
Isaiah 55:8-9 also reminds us that God’s ways are different from ours. But no biblical prophet ever uttered those words.
8. Love the sinner. Hate the sin.
Although this is a biblical-sounding admonition, it is not directly from the Bible. It’s a loose quote of something Mahatma Gandhi wrote in 1929, “Hate the sin and not the sinner.” Augustine expressed a similar thought back in AD 424: “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” The biblical principle backing this up is found in Jude 1:22–23, Matthew 5:43-44, and Psalm 97:10. We are to hate sin—even our own. And we are to show love to other people.
9. Be in the world, but not of the world.
This one may surprise you, but that phrase is nowhere in the Bible. As much as you may think it’s an exact quote from the Sermon on the Mount or another verse, it’s not there. Parts of the sentiment are, however, expressed in various places in Scripture (John 15:19, John 17:14-15, Romans 12:1-2). Just don’t try to find that word-for-word as a verse in your Bible.
10. God will not give you more than you can handle.
I think we’ve all said this at one time or another, primarily to comfort another believer or even an unbeliever who is struggling with something or fearful that something bad might happen. But this verse does not exist. And this statement doesn’t hold true. God will often give us more than we can handle so that we will depend on Him to carry the burden for us. You find countless cases where someone faced something they couldn’t handle—but God could and did. If we could handle everything that came our way, we could take care of our sin problem. But we couldn’t and we can’t. That’s why we needed (and continually need) Jesus.
Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV), and Matthew 11:28-30 tells us to come to Him when we are weary and take His yoke upon us so we can bear a load that is too heavy to lift ourselves.
I believe we get the idea that God won’t give us more than we can bear from 1 Corinthians 10:13 which tells us “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” That verse tells us God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to resist. But He will allow us to struggle beyond our capacity in other aspects of life so we understand what it means to surrender and allow Him to carry the burden for us.
11. God helps those who help themselves.
I’m sure you’ve heard it and possibly even said it to encourage someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get it done. But this verse is not in the Bible. And its premise is not true. To the contrary, God helps those who admit they can’t help themselves.
Where does the phrase come from? Variations are proverbial statements in ancient Greek tragedies. The earliest recording of this saying is from Aesop’s fable “Hercules and the Waggoner.” A man’s wagon got stuck in a muddy road, and he prayed for Hercules to help. Hercules appeared and said, “Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel.” The moral given was “The gods help them that help themselves.” Aesop was a Greek writer who lived from 620 to 564 BC, but obviously did not contribute to the Bible.
The Quran (13:11) has something similar and an English politician gave us the exact wording, which Benjamin Franklin quotes in Poor Richard’s Almanac.
Scripture is loaded with examples of God calling weak, humble people who would have been inadequate for the Lord’s work without His enabling strength. Scripture says that Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness. And Paul states “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV).
The message of Romans 5:8 is the exact opposite. While we were still sinners and unable to help ourselves, Christ died for us—proving how much God loves us, how amazing grace is, and how incapable of helping ourselves we truly are.
Furthermore, James 4:10 tells us “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” If God helped those who helped themselves, that verse would read: “Show yourself capable and God will come along and help.” Many times those of us who believe we can help ourselves don’t feel we need God and therefore, we don’t rely on Him. God wants us to admit we’re helpless so we can start depending on His strength to get us through situations. That is faith.
12. The lion shall lay down with the lamb
This phrase does not appear in the Bible. Isaiah 11:6 says, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.” Similarly, Isaiah 65:25 reads, “The wolf and the lamb will graze together and the lion will eat straw like an ox…” The sentiment reads true, however—hunter and prey will be reconciled and live in peace in the eternal kingdom.
God left us the Bible as a written testimony of His Word. His truth is found in the Bible. Some sayings are simple rewordings of biblical truth, but others contradict Jesus’ teaching. Despite how clever or even edifying a quote may be, if it isn’t in the Bible, we have no guarantee that it is the Word of God. And the only way we’ll know is if we read the Bible.
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11 Things You Think Are in the Bible, but Really Aren’t by Aaron Earls