googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Misquoted Bible Verses

Monday, January 12, 2009

Misquoted Bible Verses

Several years back, during the 2000 Presidential debates, Vice President Al Gore made the following statement:
"And I'm a grandfather now. I want to be able to tell my grandson, when I'm in my later years, that I didn't turn away from the evidence that showed that we were doing some serious harm. In my faith tradition, it is written in the book of Matthew, 'Where your heart is, there's your treasure also.' And I believe that we ought to recognize the value to our children and grandchildren of taking steps that preserve the environment in a way that's good for them."
The fact of the matter is that Mr. Gore quoted the verse backwards. The passage from Matthew 6:21 actually says: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In the context of the passage, Jesus points out that we tend to be concerned about our treasure; Jesus was saying we should be concerned about our eternal treasure in heaven rather than the temporary treasures of earth. In Mr. Gore’s misquote, he gave the impression that Jesus was telling us we should invest our treasure in the things our hearts desire.

But Mr. Gore is not alone in misquoting the Bible. I’ve noticed there are many misunderstood verses that have made their way into common vernacular. In this post we’ll talk about some of the most common ones.

“Money is the root of all evil.”

The passage from 1 Timothy 6:10 actually says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” You see, it’s not money that is the problem; it’s the greed of people who covet money.

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

OK, so this verse from Matthew 7:1 may not typically be “misquoted.” Rather, this verse tends to be quoted out of context to mean we should never judge anyone. The Bible doesn’t tell us we shouldn’t judge anyone (or anything). Indeed, 1 Corinthians 2:15 says the exact opposite: “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” These verses don’t contradict each other – the complement each other. Matthew 7 is talking about hypocrites who are guilty of worse things than what they condemn others for. 1 Corinthians points out that a spiritual judge is one who correctly judges yet is himself innocent.

In addition to misquotes, there are also some common paraphrases that we use:

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

The “verse”, commonly called the Golden Rule, is a paraphrase of Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” In the case, the meaning between the misquote and the correct verse is very close but the commonly quoted words are still incorrect. Also, the Bible itself doesn’t identify this text as “The Golden Rule.”

[Editor's note - after posting this, a very kind reader pointed out to me that Luke 6:31 in the NIV translation reads: "Do to others as you would have them do to you," which is extremely close to the popular paraphrase]

“Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

This must be a reference to Proverbs 13:24, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” I guess it’s not a terrible paraphrase but it doesn’t convey exactly the same meaning. In the paraphrase, it almost sounds like a command to beat your children lest they spoil. The actual quote from the Bible explains that a loving parent doesn’t withhold discipline from his child when it’s appropriate.

“The lion shall lay down with the lamb.”

I don’t know if I should call this a misquote or something else. These words don’t appear in the Bible. There are 2 passages that are close:

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6.


“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.” Isaiah 65:25.

How the misquote gained such popularity is a mystery. The actually verses seem to convey a similar message but they’re not really even close to the misquoted line.

"Pride goeth before a fall."

Younger people might not hear this as much but this is an extremely well known proverb among my generation. For having been so often quoted, I'm surprised that so few people know it's a misquote. Proverbs 16:18 actually reads, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall".

“The Lord helps those that help themselves.”
“The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

These last two “verses” are not found in the Bible. They’re not even close. The first one can only be described as bad doctrine. I believe the latter one is a line from an old hymn written William Cowper (1731-1800):
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
So if you’re in a conversation and someone quotes a favorite verse to you, I suggest you not take his word for it. Go to the Bible and see for yourself. The Truth might surprise you!

15 comments: said...

Nice post. You can find more Misquoted scripture at Misquoted Bible Verses

God Bless.

Marianne said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for the information! I was looking up more information on the lion lays with the lamb quote. Glad that I looked it up!

Anonymous said...

As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this awesome information, as many times I have heard scriptures misquoted, which is very misleading

freebobafett said... probably shouldn't misquote the bible in a post about misquoting the bible. It's "the law OF the prophets", not "the law and the prophets"

Now, I don't know if anything in there is correct. I'm sure it is, but I didn't want to have to grab a bible. Either way, it was helpful.

RKBentley said...


Thank you for visiting my blog. It would indeed be very embarrassing to misquote the Bible in a post dealing with misquotes of the Bible. However, the verse as I posted it is accurate. Nearly every time I quote the Bible on my blog, I copy and paste the verse from I also have a neat application called RefTagger that displays the verse whenever you hover your mouse over it. In this post, I copied the KJV version and the RefTagger displays the NASB. Both of them say, "the law AND the prophets." Check it out for yourself.

Thanks again for visiting.

God Bless!!

Anonymous said...

13Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

14Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Hmm...sounds like an the child abuse to me.

RKBentley said...

It's unfortunate that you think that. Do you understand that the context is saying it's not good to withhold correction from a child? What is your alternative? To not correct a child?

Perhaps you're a little confused by the language? Some people claim to have a little trouble with the KJV. I'll paraphrase it in modern terms:

"Correct your child when he's done wrong. It's not going to kill your kid to spank him. It's better to correct him sternly now than let him suffer worse things later."

Does it still sound like child abuse? I think, maybe you're being overly sensitive. I think it's far worse to not discipline your child.

Thanks for visiting.

God bless!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot may the Good Lord bless you...

Unknown said...

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is in the bible or as close

Do to others as you would have them do to you NIV


Do to others as you would have them do to you

RKBentley said...


Thanks for your comments. You have a sharp eye and I appreciate that you've taken the time to double check what I've said against Scripture.

The same point you made has been made to me before and if you notice, I've added an addition in green that the common "paraphrase" of the Golden Rule is very close to the actual translation in different versions.

Thanks for keeping me on my toes. Please keep visiting and commenting.

God bless!!


Barb Jordan said...

RKBentley...I noticed your page while looking up a Misquote: "The Lord works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform." Wm. Cowper.
Your calling this a misquote of the Holy Bible is true. Cowper is said to have referred to NT John 13:7; however, when I searched on 'wonder, mystery, perform, mind of God (or, "of the Lord")', I found a greater understanding of his inspiration for the phase. The greatest mysteries being about Christ. (Job 37; Romans 11:34, I Corinthians 2:16, in particular.) I hope this helps. I found the study fascinating!

"Demon possession," as we know, is Schizophrenia, Insanity and other mental illnesses organic to the brain. Doesn't that make sense? Here's a thought: How could Mary Magdalene be a prostitute having demons that through her into fires all her life? Epilepsy, is referred to separately by the Apostle Paul.

"Mystery of Babylon" is thought by some Bible scholars to be: All religions that worship idols or pervert the Word of God; or, everyone and everything outside of the Lord and Christ. (Why would the scriptures speak of just one particular group in world history when the Word is written in completeness, all-encompassing?)

Thank you for your time and I truly enjoy your sight. The more I read and study the Holy Bible the less I really know! The LORD loves us and wants us to love HIM through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, His Living Word. Amen

RKBentley said...


Thanks for visiting and for your comments.

You're absolutely right that Cowper certainly received inspiration for his hymn from actual passages in Scripture. We sometimes use terms and expressions to sum up sound Biblical doctrine. Words like “Trinity” or “Rapture” do not occur in the Bible. However, we use them as terms of convenience to describe things about the Bible we know to be true. In his hymn, Cowper was describing something true about God – that we can't understand all of His ways.

It's not necessarily a bad thing to use familiar expressions. We just need to be careful in discerning between what is Scripture and what is simply man's description of Scripture. It would be wrong to say, “The Bible says, 'the Lord works in mysterious ways.'”

To your point about demon possession: I believe ancient people sometimes ascribed supernatural causes to mundane maladies. Demon possession, however, was a real phenomenon. The Bible is very clear in Jesus' encounters with different people that sometimes people had physical ailments and sometimes they were possessed with demons. Jesus spoke with the demons and they answered Him. In the case of the demon named, “Legion,” the demons left the man and entered the nearby pigs. Certainly that cannot be true if the “possession” were merely a mental illness.

I encourage you as you continue your studies. I hope God blesses your labors with fruit. Please keep visiting and commenting.

God bless!!


Anonymous said...

Demon possession was a one time occurance a prophecy in the Old Testament talks about it

RKBentley said...


I'm not sure I follow you about demon possession. By “one time occurrence” do you mean to say it was limited to the time of Jesus' ministry? If you could cite the OT passage you mentioned, I would be happy to look at it.

Thanks for visiting and for your comment. God bless!!