“Cleanliness is Next to Godliness” & 8 Other Misquoted Bible Phrases

There are several popular proverbs and familiar sayings that are not recorded in the Bible but are commonly thought to originate there.

“Cleanliness is Next to Godliness” & Other 8 Misquoted Bible Phrases
Image Courtesy of BBC

The Bible is considered to be a book full of spiritual wisdom and insight to help individuals navigate their lives as they strive to follow God.


However, as full of counsel as the Bible is, there are several popular proverbs and familiar sayings that are not recorded in the Bible but are commonly thought to originate there.

Because biblical ignorance is a pervasive problem, according to religion scholars, these sayings are often not challenged but are simply taken as Biblical truth.

Case in point, with the cholera epidemic giving the country a difficult time many officials, either clerics or political, have been on record urging citizens to stay clean because even the holy book does say that “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,”.

In contemporary churches, we always find loudmouthed folks who do not concur with the idea of giving money to the clergy saying that the bible specifically stated that “Money is the root of all evil,”.

Most of us can also agree that we have heard our local preachers at many times declaring the saying that “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” with the same vigour and excitement they employ when they are quoting any other Bible verses.

Read on to find out which other “Biblical” phrases actually aren’t Biblical at all and their etymology.

“Money is the root of all evil.”

Image Courtesy of melindascashsource.files.wordpress.com

This passage, based on a letter from the Apostle Paul to a young pastor named Timothy is found in 1 Timothy 6:10 which says, “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.”

Without the word “love,” the verse takes on a completely different meaning and gives the impression that money in and of itself is evil.

“The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

Image Courtesy of walkingboston.com

This particular phrase is not found anywhere in the Bible, although it is often misquoted as being a Bible verse. There are several ideas about where this saying grew from, one being a hymn written by William Cowper in the 19th century that says,

“God moves in a mysterious ways; His wonders to perform; He plans His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.”

There are several verses that may seem to allude to this idea as well, including Romans 11:33.

“The Seven Deadly Sins”

Image Courtesy of 2.bp.blogspot.com

The Seven Deadly Sins is a categorical list of sins that, according to popular myth, lead to death. They are gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, vanity, envy and wrath. History shows that this list was compiled by theologians and used in various commentaries over the centuries.

Proverbs 6:16-19 says,

“These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.”

Although this verse may have been the inspiration for the “Seven Deadly Sins” list, nowhere does the Bible say these are “deadly.”

“God helps those who help themselves.”

Image Courtesy of upload.wikimedia.org

This “verse” did not originate in the Bible but has been repeated often by various speakers and writers throughout the centuries, like American politician Benjamin Franklin (1757).

The Bible, in fact, speaks often about how much God helps humankind.

However, there are instances in the Bible that point to the necessity for people to take action on their own behalf in tandem with God’s work. (ie Romans 5:6, 8; Proverbs 28:26 and Jeremiah 17:5.)

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

Image Courtesy of 1.bp.blogspot.com

The Bible never specifically addresses cleanliness being “next to godliness”, meaning that being clean is a form of godly behaviour.

The proverb is popularly credited to English cleric and founder of MethodismJohn Wesley‘s 1778 sermon, “Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness”.

It can also be traced back to the writings in the Jewish holy scripts the Talmud.

It is not, however, found in the Bible.

“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

Image Courtesy of cdn.sheknows.com

Proverbs 13:24 says,

“The one who withholds [or spares] the rod is one who hates his son.”

Verses like this one are probably the inspiration for the proverb that people often misquote as being Biblical.

Proverbs 22:15 says,

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”

Although similar in concept, the actual phrase “Spare the rod, spoil the child” is not Biblical.

“Pride goeth before a fall.”

Image Courtesy of emotionwisegroup.org

“Pride goeth before a fall” is a saying that is similar to the original Bible verse, found in Proverbs 16:18, but it does not accurately reflect the original text.

In fact, the verse says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” This shows that destruction is the end result of pride, according to the Bible.

“The Three Wisemen”

Image Courtesy of upload.wikimedia.org

Nowhere in the Bible is the number of wise men, kings or Magi, as they are also called, who visited Jesus after his birth recorded.

“This, too, shall pass.”

Image Courtesy of perdaily.com

People often use this phrase when working through difficult circumstances in life, and give credit to the Bible; however, it is not found there.

There is not one definitive answer for the origin of this popular saying, but a common belief is that it stems from a fable written by Persian Sufi poets.

Others credit it to Jewish folklore, saying it originated with King Solomon, although it is not recorded in the Bible.

Source: Deseret News

Hallelujah Magazine is committed to publishing reliable, trusted, quality and independent Christian journalism. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and is not influenced by wealthy people, politicians, clerics or shareholders. We value our readers’ feedback, suggestions and opinions. Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.