Is that really in the Bible?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mike Ditka was giving a news conference the day after being fired as the coach of “da Bears” when he decided to quote the Bible: “Scripture tells you that all things shall pass,” a choked up Ditka said. “This, too, shall pass.”
The coach fumbled that one. The phrase, This too shall pass doesn’t appear in the Bible. This most revered book in America is also one of the most misquoted. From public speeches to politicians, coaches to consultants, motivational speakers to yes, even some ministers – many quote passages that actually have no place in the scriptures. Consider these:
• God works in mysterious ways.
• God helps those who help themselves.
• Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
• Spare the rod and spoil the child.
The first comes from a hymn by William Cowper written in 1774. “God helps them who help themselves” is usually attributed to Ben Franklin, as quoted in Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1757. The correlation between being clean and being Godly may have come from some ancient Hebrew writings, but it seems that it was first stated in one of John Wesley’s sermons of 1791. “Slovenliness is no part of religion. Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness.”
Even some ministers, and most parents, look to the “spare the rod” quote (a favorite of mine). The closest the scripture comes is in a compilation of six verses of Solomon’s wisdom recorded in Proverbs. Example: “He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him.” (Proverbs 13:24)
When those of us who teach the scriptures on a regular basis want to pull a fast one on our congregations, we usually refer them to the book of Hezekiah, or as Steve Bowman-Prediger quotes in his religion classes at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, 2 Hesitations 4:3. “I want to see if anyone realizes that there is no such book in the Bible and therefore no such verse. Sadly,” he states, “only a few catch on.”
For all the things that aren’t in the Bible, there are some things that are included that may appear fairly strange. For one year, A.J. Jacobs carefully studied the Hebrew and Christian scriptures and did his best to follow every law to the letter. He grew a beard, stopped cursing, stoned adulterers (well, did what he could), and chronicled his experience in the witty and insightful memoir “The Year of Living Biblically.”
Some laws were difficult to keep from the beginning — the ones that he found related to his everyday life. In addition to a year without cussing, there was a self-imposed ban on gossiping (Leviticus 19:16), telling lies (Exodus 20:16), and keeping the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8).
While some were tough to keep, some, Jacob writes, seemed just plain weird.
While there are prohibitions on shellfish, pork, rabbits, eagles and vultures, locust was on the “must try” list (Leviticus 11:22). Chapter 19, verse 19 forbids mixing fibers of wool and linens. The only reason I can find is to be different from the pagan pool that lived around the Jewish people. A few verses later, in verse 27, there is the admonition to “not round the corners of your heads.” The result of this one was to grow a beard that would rival one of the Robertsons’ of “Duck Commander” fame.
His wife, Julie, was no fan of Leviticus 15:19-20. You’ll have to read it for yourself, but she responded by selling all the furniture in the house, leaving him the only option of purchasing one of those portable chairs that doubles as a cane that he could sit on “in cycles.”
She reminded her husband that if he were to get in some street brawl with a local ruffian there were rules in Deuteronomy 25:11-12 that clearly state that there were certain boundaries that she could not – would not – cross to rescue him from the altercation. She gave her hand to him in marriage; she didn’t want to lose it for that particular reason.
“Most people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the book,” says Rabbi Rami Shapiro, who once had to persuade a student in his Bible class at Middle Tennessee State University that the saying, “That dog don’t hunt” does not appear in the Book of Proverbs.
“They have memorized parts of texts that they can string together to prove the Biblical basis for whatever it is they believe in,” he says, “but they ignore the vast majority of the text.”
Though most Americans have a deep respect for the Bible, it’s clear that few read it or know it. Most of the reason revolves around it being “too complicated” to read, especially the Old Testament, the Hebrew scripture. Even some Christians do not consider that first covenant worthy of their attention. Imagine if you were seeing a play or reading a book and 77 percent of the play was not shown or 3/4 of the pages of the book were torn out.
First Baptist-Salisbury is presenting what has been called the “most popular Biblical seminar in the world.” Walk Thru The Old Testament is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 13 from 1:30-6 p.m. Most people who try to read the Old Testament from beginning to end find it difficult to follow the plot, or even keep going beyond the first five books. Some of the more prominent stories – like Joshua and the Battle of Jericho or David and Goliath — may stand out, but the big picture gets lost in the details.
“At the Walk Thru The Old Testament, people will learn 77 of the major characters, events and places of the most misunderstood part of the Bible,” says Richard Whittington from Walk Thru The Bible and leader of the seminar.
“In a few short hours, you’ll see the big picture better than some who have studied it for years.” The most interesting part is that it is all learned in a fast-paced, fun and memorable way – through hand signs. “Sure, some of the hand signs may feel a little cheesy at first,” Whittington says, “but after about 10 minutes, you’ll be lost in the energetic atmosphere and enjoy yourself. You’ll walk away saying, like many others, I never understood the Bible like this before.”
Maybe Coach Ditka could have picked up on those signs.
To register for the Walk Thru the Old Testament seminar, contact Rod Kerr or Lisa Kluttz at 704-633-0431. The cost for the seminar, materials and breaks is $19. For those who wish to hear Dr. Whittington in the worship serve at 11 a.m., there will be a potato and chili bar between 12:15-1:15 p.m. for an extra $5. Reservations are required to ensure enough materials and food.

The Rev. Rod Kerr is minister of education at First Baptist Church of Salisbury.