There are things in the Bible that have been commonly
overlooked. There are also things which are commonly believed to
be in the Bible, but which are simply not there. The Bible speaks
about being "throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim.
3:17). It is easy to confuse "throughly" with "thoroughly." In
this case, it does not make much difference in meaning. But
sometimes just one letter can make quite a difference, like when
a bum asked a Dunkard minister why he wore a beard. "I'm a
Dunkard", the minister answered. "I'm a drunkard, too", said the
bum, "but I shave now and then!"
Some make a similar mistake in reading Mark 16:1. It is not
uncommon for people to add an "r" to the word "bought" which
changes it to "brought" and the meaning of the whole verse can be
affected! "And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and
Mary the mother of James, and Salome had BOUGHT [not brought]
sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him."
The difference between "bought" and "brought" enters into
the discussion regarding the time period between the burial and
resurrection of Christ. Jesus spoke of this period as "three days
and three nights" (Matt. 12:40). Though tradition is strong for
the idea of Friday as the day of crucifixion, there are an
increasing number of Christians who feel the crucifixion could
have been as early as Wednesday, thus allowing time for a full
three days and three nights. With this view, it is figured that
there were two Sabbaths that week - the high day sabbath (John
19:31) and the weekly Sabbath - and a regular business day
between during which the women bought their spices.
This would explain how it was after the sabbath they bought
their spices (Mk.16:1) and prepared them. Then after preparing
the spices, they rested on the sabbath (Lk.23:56) before coming
to the tomb on the first day of the week.
The translators of our King James Version have used the
expression "had bought, but the original is, simply, "the women
bought spices." None of the translations I have checked have the
he word "had" at this place.
It is not our purpose to lose the reader on this point, but
these words have been necessary to point out how one letter can
give an entirely different meaning to a verse.
The Bible does not mention a sycamore tree. The expression
the Bible uses is "sycomore tree." Zacchaeus climbed up into a
sycomore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see (Lk.19:4). But
whether sycamore or sycamore, the Bible tree was different than
what most of us think of by this name. As its name implies in the
Greek, the sycomore tree has characteristics of a fig tree and a
mulberry tree. Its fruit is more like that of a fig tree, but its
leaves are like a mulberry tree. The commentary by Barnes
(p.120) includes the following: "It not only bears several crops
of figs during the year, but these figs grow on short stems along
the trunk and large branches, and not at the end of twigs, as in
other fruit-bearing trees."
There are a number of quotations commonly supposed to be in
the Bible but which are not there. A preacher who used the
saying, "Cleanliness is next to godliness", said he had taken it
from the Bible. Someone told him later, "You must have taken it
from the Bible, it's not in there now!"
Actually, we know the quotation "Cleanliness is next to
godliness" from a sermon given by John Wesley in 1740. His
precise words were, "Clean is indeed next to godliness." Wesley
put the words in quotation marks, a fact which may indicate this
quotation had an earlier origin. Some believe it may go back as
far as to the Hebrew father Phinehas ban Yair - over 2,000 years
"God helps those who help themselves" probably appeared
first in "Discourses Concerning Government" by Algernon Sidney,
published in 1698. It is better-known from Benjamin Franklin's
"Poor Richard's Almanac" for 1733 in which it was worded, "God
helps him who helps himself."
"Each generation will grow wiser and weaker" is not found in
the Bible. Its source is unknown, but it is probably based on the
words of Walter Pope (1630-1714): "May I govern my passion with
an absolute sway, and grow wiser and better, as my strength wears
Some believe the Bible says, "When in Rome do as the Romans
do." This is not Biblical. Paul did say: "I am made all things to
all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor.9:22), but
this must be understood within its proper setting. The idea that
a person in Rome should do as the Romans do could easily be
carried to an unscriptural extreme!
"God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform, he
plants his footprints on the sea and rides upon the storm." These
words are from a poem by William Cowper (1731-1800). It is true
that God does work in ways that are mysterious to us. But this
quotation is not in the Bible.
We should not make the mistake of saying the Bible says
things it does not say. However, if a quotation is good, there is
nothing wrong with using it - even though it is not in the Bible.
When Paul was in Greece, he purposely quoted from some of their
own poets to make a point as he spoke on Mars' hill. "...for in
him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain of your own
poets have said, For we are also his offspring" (Acts 17:28).
From what Greek poetry was Paul quoting? The thought appears in
the "Phaenomena of Aratus" and in the "Hymn to Zeus of
When writing to the Corinthians. Paul used the expression,
"Evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor.15:891 This was
quoted from Menander, an Athenian dramatist who lived from 842 to
291 B.C. In his "Thais," which survives in fragmentary form,
Menander said: "It must be that evil communications corrupt good
manners." The saying had become proverbial and was used by Paul.
On another occasion, when writing to Titus, Paul apparently
quoted from Epimenides (who lived in the sixth century B.C.) and
was considered a prophet among the Cretians. "One of themselves,
even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars,
evil beasts, slow bellies" (Titus 1:12).
Paul also used a quotation from Jesus which is of special
interest in that it appears nowhere in the gospels. It may have
been included in some early Christian writings which are no
longer available or may have been passed down by word of mouth.
Whatever the case, it was known as a saying of Jesus at the time
of Paul, for he said: "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how
he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts
20:35). We know these words as the words of Jesus only because
Paul quoted them here.
In the book of Jude, we are told that "Michael the
archangel, when contending with the devil disputed about the body
of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but
said, The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 1:9). This information or
quotation appears nowhere in the Old Testament. According to
several of the early Christian fathers, including Clement of
Alexandria and Origen, this information was from "The Assumption
of Moses," a Jewish apocyphal work of the first century A.D.
EXPRESSIONS SUGGESTED BY THE BIBLE
A number of present-day expressions - though not always
exact quotations - were suggested by the Bible. "A little bird
told me" may have come from Ecclesiastes 10:20: "For a bird of
the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall
tell the matter."
When speaking of certain doom upon an individual or country,
we might say that "the handwriting is on the wall" which is
based, of course, on the divine writing which announced the fall
of Babylon (Daniel 5:5).
The expression "holier than thou" is commonly applied to
people who profess to be more virtuous than others. This is found
in Isaiah 65:5: "A people that provoketh me to anger... which
say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than
A person who barely escapes some calamity might say he
escaped "by the skin of his teeth." This expression is based on
Job 19:20: "I am escaped with the akin of my teeth."
The motto "In God We Trust" which appears on our money,
though not an exact Biblical quotation, is based on verses such
as Psalms 56:11: "In God have I put my trust."
The Bible does not use the expression "helpmate." The reader
will notice that a different expression is actually used in
Genesis 2:18, "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man
should be alone: I will make him an help meet for him." The word
"help" means helper and "meet" means suitable. Adam was given a
helper suitable for him. At some point in the evolution of
language, these two words became merged into help-meet, then
helpmeet, and finally helpmate, as though meet and mate were the
same! Consequently, today we have two words, helpmeet and
helpmate, both of which are used interchangeably for a person's
There is no record in the Bible of a minister performing a
marriage ceremony. The custom then was, and it is especially
evident in the Old Testament, that the uniting of a couple was
arranged by the heads of the two families involved. It was made
legal by some exchange of goods or services.
Some might suppose the words of the marriage ceremony "for
better or for worse, for richer or for poorer" are in the Bible.
Parade magazine once ran a quiz that reflected this idea. One of
the questions was: "How many wives does the Bible allow for each
man?" The answer was: "Sixteen (four better, four worse, four
richer, four poorer)"!
The accompanying illustration (not included here - Keith
Hunt) is from a famous painting by Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) of
Samson and Delilah as she is cutting his hair off. This reflects
a common assumption: that Delilah cut off Samson's hair. This is
not true. A man did it.
"...and she called for a MAN, and she caused him to shave off the
seven locks of his [Samson's] head" (Judges 16:19).
It is commonly believed that Absalom got caught in an oak
tree by the hair of his head. It is true that Absalom had long
hair (2 Sam.14:26) and this may be why some believe his hair
became entangled in the branches while the mule he was riding
went on. But this is what the Bible actually says: "And Absalom
rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a
great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken
up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under
him went away" (2 Sam.18:9-15). The word translated "head" is the
normal word for a person's head. The word "hair" is an entirely
different word. Clarke's Commentary (Vol.2, p.358) says: "It has
been supposed that Absalom was caught by the hair, but no such
thing is intimated in the text. Probably his neck was caught in
the fork of a strong bough."
The Bible does not use the term "seven heavens." Though this
expression may be found in the book of Enoch and in the writings
of several religions, the Bible itself mentions only three
heavens. "... caught up to the third heaven... caught up into
paradise" (2 Cor.12:2-4).
"As a tree falleth, so shall it lie" has become a popular
phrase in evangelistic sermons, but it is not in the Bible (as
such). The closest wording to this is Ecclesiastes 11:3: "If the
tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place
where the tree falleth, there it shall be."
Though the words "soul" and "spirit" appear hundreds of
times in the scriptures, never once does the Bible use the
expression "immortal soul." The word "eternity" appears only once
in the Bible and is applied to God - "the high and lofty One that
inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy" (Isaiah 57:15). Psalms
111:9 says, "Holy and reverend is his name." This is the only
time the word "reverend" appears in the Bible and it was applied,
not to a preacher, but to God himself. The title was not applied
to clergymen until the fifteenth century.
The word "sermon" is not found in the Bible, though we
commonly refer to Matthew, chapters 5-7, as the sermon on the
The last book in the Bible is not the book of Revelations.
There is no "s" on it. The correct title is given in verse 1: The
Revelation of Jesus Christ.
The expression "golden rule" does not appear in the Bible
nor do the words "Do unto others as you would have them do unto
you" - not in this exact form. The thought is there, of course,
as in Luke 6:31: "And as ye would that men should do to you, do
ye also to them likewise." It should also be pointed out that
this is not exclusively a New Testament thought. It is also in
the Old Testament: "... thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself"
Does the Bible say, "Pride goeth before a fall"? This would
seem like a Biblical quotation, but what the Bible actually says
is this: "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit
before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).
The Bible does not say that money is the root of all evil.
Instead, "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim.
6:101. There is a difference.
The phrase "the witch of Endor" does not occur in the text
of the Bible. The Bible simply mentions "a woman that hath a
familiar spirit at Endor" (1 Sam.28:7). Some believe she was a
medium rather than a witch.
The term "prodigal son" does not appear in the Bible text,
though the word "prodigal", meaning wasteful, fits the path
followed by the wayward son (Lk.15:11-32).
We use the term "the good Samaritan" - but the actual
wording in the Bible is this: "A certain Samaritan...had
compassion" (Lk.10:33). He had compassion on the man that Jesus
said "went down from Jerusalem to Jericho" (verse 30). Any who
have travelled this Jericho road know that the word "down" in
this verse should be taken as just that. Jerusalem is about 2,581
feet above sea level and Jericho is 825 feet below sea level. So
in the trip of 23 miles from Jerusalem to Jericho, the road drops
almost 3,500 feet!
It is commonly supposed that Jesus used parables in order to
make the meaning of his message clear. This may have been true of
some parables, but it is certainly not true of all of them. To
the contrary, Jesus spoke in parables so that the crowd would not
see his point and would not understand: "And his disciples asked
him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it
is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to
others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing
they might not understand" (Lk.8:9,10).
Some say that Jesus never smiled. I don't believe this.
The scriptures do refer to him as "a man of sorrows and
acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). But we must also remember
that he was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows
The word "Christmas", of course, does not appear in the
Bible. Even though Christmas is celebrated on December 25, most
now realize that this date is incorrect. The fact that the
shepherds were out watching their flocks at the time of Christ's
birth (Lk.2:8) strongly indicates that it was not during the
middle of winter.
The Bible does not say Jesus was born in a manger. "And she
[Mary] brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in
swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no
room for them in the inn" (Lk.2:7). The word manger comes from a
verb meaning "to eat" and means here literally a "feeding-place."
The Bible does not use the word "stable" in connection with the
birth of Jesus. Some have pictured the place of his birth as
resembling a barn on a typical American farm. But the area in
which a manger was located by an inn for travellers was probably
only a very primitive and simple shelter in which animals used
for travel could be fed and kept overnight.
"Manger scenes" are commonly displayed in which not only the
shepherds, but the wisemen also, are pictured as being present.
The shepherds did come to the manger, but not the wisemen. It was
later that the wisemen came, and not to the manger, but to a
We do not want to overmake a point like this, but such can
serve to show how people have believed things to be Biblical
which are actually only traditions of men. We are reminded of a
woman who went to see the movie "The Ten Commandments." She
claimed the movie made the Bible so real to her and that she
"never knew what Moses looked like until she saw the movie"!
The Bible does not say there were three wisemen. A tradition
says they were three kings: Gasper, Melchoir, and Balthasar. A
song goes: "We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts, we
traverse afar." The fact that they offered gifts of gold,.
frankincense, and myrrh (Matt.2:11) does not, necessarily, prove
there were only three of them. Nor does the Bible refer to them
Many scholars believe these men were Magi, members of a
priestly caste in Persia. In Palestine, the "east" commonly
referred to Persia; and the religion of the Magi included a
belief in the coming of a Messiah. Some translations use the term
astrologers. But whatever may be implied by the designation "wise
men," as has been said, we know they were wise because they were
Many suppose the term "virgin birth" is in the Bible. But
this expression is not found in the King James Version, the
Revised Version, or any other version. The scriptures teach that
the birth of Jesus was the result of a miracle - being the son of
God and without an earthly father (Lk.1:30-35) - yet the emphasis
is not put so much on his birth as being miraculous, but on his
conception. The real miracle took place nine months before his
Believing that Jesus was supernaturally conceived is not the
same as a Romish belief which would make his birth such that he
passed from Mary's body by a miracle after the resurrection he
passed through closed doors - thus leaving her physical parts
intact. Then, according to the belief, Joseph kept her as a
virgin all her life and that now in heaven she is the blessed
virgin, queen of heaven. This is known as the doctrine of the
"perpetual virginity." But the Biblical explanation is that
Joseph "knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born
son" (Matt.1:25). The idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary is
not even hinted at in the scriptures.
The word "trinity" is not in the Bible. Artists have had
their difficulties trying to depict the Trinity, as can be seen
in the drawing of a window of the sixteenth century in the church
of Notre Dame at Chalons, France (drawing not included here -
Keith Hunt). The Bible speaks of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
but the expression "God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy
Ghost" does not appear in this form. Though Jesus is referred to
as "God" in the scriptures (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:8), he is most
often called "the son of God" (Mk.1:1, Acts 8:37, Heb.4:14, etc.)
BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The expression "baptism of the Holy Spirit" is commonly
used, but this is not the actual Bible wording. Instead of using
the word "of", the Bible says the disciples were "baptized with
the Holy Ghost", were "filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 1:5,
2:4), the Spirit was "poured out" or "fell" upon them (Acts 2:17,
10:44-48). Such terms are used interchangeably as the New
Testament repeatedly stresses the Spirit-filled life.
The term "holy of holies" is commonly used to designate the
most holy place in the ancient temple. But the expression, in
this form, does not appear in the Bible.
The word "rapture" comes from the word "rapere," meaning to
seize. It is the same word, incidently, from which the word
"rape" is taken. The term "rapture" does not appear in the Bible,
but is now commonly applied to the statement of Paul that
believers will be "caught up... in the clouds, to meet the Lord
in the air" (1 Thess.4:17).
The word "millennium" does not appear in the Bible, but the
word means "one thousand" and Revelation 20 does mention "a
Because we have pointed out these numerous expressions and
words which are not in the Bible, we do not mean to imply,
necessarily, that their use is wrong. We should not put ourselves
in a spiritual strait jacket. After all, the word BIBLE is not in
the Bible either! Some of the terms we have mentioned do indeed
represent scriptural ideas; quite a few do not. But these are
technical points and may be of interest only to the advanced
We should not make the mistake of believing that a precise
knowledge of doctrinal points is any indication of true
spirituality. We do not encourage people to play "doctrinal
detective" so that in hearing a message they only hear the fine
points on which they may not totally agree. We must avoid a
critical and negative attitude. We must not major on minors. If
truth has come to us, we should rejoice in that truth, and seek
to be humble and loving, bearing in mind that "knowledge puffeth
up, but love edifieth" (1 Cor.8:1).
TO BE CONTINUED