What is a phantom Bible Verse? Consider the following two “verses” of scripture:
“God helps those who help themselves.” – Hezekiah 5:1
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” – Phillips 66:1
Do you see anything wrong here? Of course, Hezekiah and Phillips are not even books of the Bible, and these verses are not found in any other book of the Bible, either. These are two examples of phrases which are thought to originate from the Bible, and are even given fake Bible-sounding book names to add credibility. To people who haven’t studied the Bible, these could indeed pass as authentic Bible verses. Hence the name, “phantom verses.”
These and other Bible “verses” are discussed below, as well as several often misquoted Bible verses.
Phantom Verses – Phrases which do not exist in the Bible
- “God helps those who help themselves.”Not only is this not a verse of the Bible, but the Bible actually teaches the opposite of this. Supposedly, this phrase was coined by Benjamin Franklin, who as a deist believed in self-reliance. Instead, the Bible teaches us to put our faith in God, and to rely on Him, not on ourselves. Consider these authentic Bible verses (NIV):“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5“This is what the LORD says, ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD.'” – Jeremiah 17:5“A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper. He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.” – Proverbs 28:25-26
- “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”There are sections of the Bible that refer to cleanliness, but not as much to physical cleanliness but rather to spiritual cleanliness. There are cases of objects being “ceremonially clean”, according to Old Testament tradition. (For example Mark 7:3 mentions this: “The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.”)More significantly, being “clean” refers to being without sin. Of course, this is impossible for man to achieve on his own. Only through belief in the saving power of God and Jesus Christ are we made “clean”:“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” – Psalm 51:10“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” – Ephesians 5:25-27
- “God works in mysterious ways.”The origin of this phrase is uncertain, but it is definitely not from the Bible. However, the Bible does say that there are things beyond our understanding.“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” – Deuteronomy 29:29“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28While we don’t always know why the purpose of our circumstances according to God’s plan, we can rest assured that whatever happens will work toward the benefit all believers in Jesus Christ as Savior.
- “The eye is the window to the soul.”The Bible does not speak of the eye as being the “window to the soul”, but it does refer to the eye as the “lamp of the body”.The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” – Matthew 6:22-23
- “To thine ownself be true.”While this phrase may be offered as a Biblical recommendation to follow one’s conscience, this phrase is not Biblical, but rather is from Shakespeare. In Hamlet, Polonius, the older counselor of Prince Hamlet’s uncle, King Claudius, is in the process of advising the prince when he speaks forth the famous line: “This above all things: to thine own self be true.”But is this really good advice? Better advice would be to seek the will of God: “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” – Psalm 105:4
Misquoted Bible Verses – Verses from the Bible that are often misused.
- “Money is the root of all evil.”
The actual Bible verse is “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
– 1 Timothy 6:10A key phrase that is left out of the commonly spoken words above is the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. The next verse explains this even further, stating that the love of money enables people to wander from their faith is Jesus Christ as Lord, and to commit sin. Thus it is not the money itself, but rather the love of money becoming a type of false god, replacing Jesus in our lives.Another verse speaking of the “love of money”: “Whoever loves money never has money enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” – Ecclesiastes 5:10However, God has a positive view on wealth itself:“The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.” – Proverbs 10:22“Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.” – Ecclesiastes 5:19Wealth is best used to glorify God:“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” – Proverbs 3:9-10
- “Judge not lest you be judged.”
The actual Bible verse is “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Matthew 7:1-2This is one of the most inappropriately used Bible verses. It is usually spoken contemptuously and self-righteously by a non-Christian in criticism of a Christian supposedly judging someone else. The statement has evolved into a pervasive creed of open-mindedness that slaps-down anyone who has the courage to declare that someone else’s belief, actions or lifestyle is morally wrong. The Bible itself is very clear on what is and what is not sinful, without any help from us.When Jesus condemned judging in the verse above, he was not implying we should never make judgments about anyone. What Jesus condemns is a critical and judgmental spirit, an unholy sense of superiority. Jesus commanded us to examine ourselves first for the problems we so easily see in others. Only after we remove the “plank from our own eye” can we help remove the “speck from another’s eye”.
- “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24This verse is commonly used during praise and worship, declaring that today was made special by the Lord, and we should rejoice in this gift from the Lord. While this is true, it is not what the verse is talking about. Read the entire passage from Psalm 118:22-24, and Acts 4:11.
“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:22-24“It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”– Acts 4:10-12This passage is not compelling us to rejoice in just any day, but to rejoice in the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!