Marcel is a husband and father of five, serves on the pastoral council at St. Mary’s and is the founder and Executive Director of Catholic Missionary Disciples.
These quotes are either frequently misquoted from the Bible or not there at all. I also have some things that are frequently thought to be in the Bible, but are not. I have tried to provide a origin of each, if I could find one. I have avoided doctrinal items (both valid and invalid ones) not found in the Bible, because that list would be never-ending.
Top 15 Phrases & Sayings Not Found in the Bible
15 – The Three Wisemen
They Bible calls them Magi, not “Wisemen”, though the two are synonymous in common parlance. The Magi are found only in Matthew 2 and no number is given to them (three comes from the number of gifts given).
14 – “Moderation in all things”
This idea behind this phrase originates from Aristotle’s ethics and the direct quote comes from Rome, several hundred years before Christ. Two different Romans are generally given credit – one named Terence and the other Petronius.
13 – “The Lord (or God) works in mysterious ways”
Comes from a Hymn (“God Moves in a Mysterious Way”) by William Cowper, who lived in the 18th century.
12 – “The eye is a window to the soul”
Matthew 6:22 says “The lamp of the body is the eye”, but there is no reference saying it is a window to the soul. There is no consensus as to the origin of this phrase. Some attribute it to a proverb of varying origin and others to several writers including Shakespeare and Milton.
11 – The Apple in the Garden of Eden.
There was fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2, 3), but we do not know what kind of fruit is was. The apple grew out of Christian tradition and may have been a result of artists trying to depict The Fall. It might also have come from the Latin word for evil (“malum” = evil / “malus” = apple). Some say it was likely a pomegranate. But, we do not know.
10 – “The lion will lay down with the lamb”
A very common misquote of Scripture. Isaiah 11:6 reads “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.”
9 – “A fool and his money are soon parted”
Not even close to a Biblical reference – this comes from Thomas Tusser who wrote it in 1573 in in Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie.
8 – “This too shall pass”
The origin of this phrase isn’t even Christian. It comes from a Persian Sufi (Muslim) poets some time in the middle ages.
7 – The Seven Deadly Sins
The list of the 7 deadly sins = wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. The first evidence of the list is from a monk in the 4th century. The list was then altered slightly by Pope Gregory I in 590. It was then popularized by Dante in his Divine Comedy.
6 – “Money is the root of all evil”
1 Timothy 6:10 says “For the love of money is the root of all evils”. It is the love of money that causes the problem, not the money itself. Money doesn’t have a moral value all to itself, it is what we do with it that makes the action good, neutral, or evil.
5 – “Pride comes before the fall”
Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
The origin of the misquote is unknown, but The Beatles’ song “I’m a Loser” has the line in it.
4 – “Charity begins at home”
Generally credited to Terence, the Roman comic writer. It is sometimes also attributed to Sir Thomas Browne who wrote the phrase in 1642.
3 – “To thine ownself be true”
Comes from Hamlet by Shakespeare. In a bit of context the quote reads, ”This above all: to thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Not bad advice, but not from the Bible.
2 – “Cleanliness is next to godliness”
While there are many references in the Mosaic law to cleanliness (esp. in Leviticus), there is none that we can ascribe to this quote. Some say it comes from a 2nd century Rabbi. We know the first English version comes from Francis Bacon. He wrote the following in Advancement of Learning, “Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.” John Wesley then changed it to the phrase we use today.
1 – “God helps those who help themselves”
This very common phrase comes from Algernon Sydney, who wrote it in an article titled Discourses Concerning Government. It was then popularized by Ben Franklin in 1757 in Poor Richard’s Almanac. In many ways this phrase is wrong, because God helps (saves) those who can NOT help themselves (sinners). Though we must agree to allow Him to help us. An earlier form of the phrase may have come from “God loves to help him who strives to help himself” by Aeschylus (6th C BC).
Do you have any others?