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Phrases And Concepts From The Bible That Most People Get Wrong

August 4, 2021 1.1k votes 205 voters 10.9k views13 items

List RulesVote up the passages you really thought were in the Bible.

The Bible is the most widely purchased and read book in the world. It's been around for 2,000 years, so many people have grown to believe that certain popular phrases and idioms are derived from its pages. However, many biblical truths and sayings are not from the Bible at all. Many are paraphrased from actual Bible passages, some are concepts that are talked about in the book but never literally said, and a few of them are derived from non-biblical writings.

While the Bible has many unbelievable and often controversial stories and passages, sometimes it's the other way around. Something Ben Franklin said sounded so biblical that famous politicians and athletes have been misattributing it ever since. Read on to learn the phrases and concepts many believe are in the Bible but actually aren't.

  • Photo: Caravaggio / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Bible Never Says Mary Magdalene Was A Sex Worker

    Mary Magdalene is a popular biblical figure who is often misjudged and merged with the stories of other New Testament women. Have you ever heard anyone say something along the lines of, "Jesus loved everyone! He hung out with prostitutes!"

    While Jesus may have befriended sex workers, nothing in the Bible states Mary Magdalene was one. Mary Magdalene was an incredibly important figure in the New Testament. She was present at the most important moments of Jesus's journey, including his sermons and crucifixion. She helped carry him to the tomb and was the one who revisited the tomb three days later to find it empty. That makes her the discoverer of the most important aspect of Christianity: Jesus's Resurrection. 

    Nothing in the Bible claims Mary is or ever was a sex worker. There was a moment where a woman washes Jesus's feet with oils and begs for forgiveness for her sins. That woman is never identified as Mary Magdalene, but in the Middle Ages, the church took the liberty of labeling her as such. This could be attributed to the fact that the church wanted to provide an explanation for why a woman was one of Jesus's closest friends. They wanted to provide a reason for her dedication to Jesus in the hopes of leading other women "living in sin" to do the same. 

    Mary Magdalene then became the Patron Saint of Repentant Prostitutes, and there were even 18th-century recovery homes for former sex workers called Magdelene Houses. The Vatican didn't correct this fallacy until 1969. By then, the idea of Mary Magdalene as a former sex worker was deeply embedded in the Christian canon. 

    Common misconception?
  • 2

    'Spare The Rod, Spoil The Child' Is A Paraphrase Of Proverbs 13:24

    Many parents have used this phrase to justify hitting children to avoid spoiling them, but it turns out that this isn't an exact quote at all. "Spare the rod, spoil the child" was first mentioned in the poem "Hudibras" by Samuel Butler in the 1600s.

    While this exact phrase is never said in the Bible, it was derived from an actual passage: Proverbs 13:24, which reads:

    Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
    but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

    While a rod is mentioned in regards to children, there is nowhere in the Bible where corporal punishment is encouraged. The rod referenced in this passage points to the rod a shepherd uses to guide his sheep.

    The interpretation of this passage that is closest to reality at the time it was written would be about giving children guidance.

    Common misconception?
  • Photo: Lemuel Francis Abbott / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Poet William Cowper Wrote 'God Works In Mysterious Ways'

    If anything strange or unusual happens, or if a situation you thought was negative turned out to be positive, you will often hear "God works in mysterious ways" uttered in response. While there are many similar sentiments in the Bible, this exact phrase cannot be found there.

    It was written in a 19th-century hymn by the English poet William Cowper, who penned many famous religious poems and hymnals. Here is the entirety of the hymn from Cowper's Hymnal 1982, No. 677:

    God moves in a Mysterious way
    His Wonders to perform,
    He plants his Footsteps in the Sea,
    And rides upon the Storm.

    While this popular quote is not from the Bible, there are many biblical passages that have a similar sentiment. One notable passage is from Isaiah 55:8-9:

    "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts..."

    Common misconception?
  • 4

    'God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Handle' Is A Misreading Of 1 Corinthians 10:13

    It's comforting to think that God will never give a person more than they can handle. This phrase is used by many to help them through hard times, knowing that God will guide them through. It's a phrase of meaning and value. However, it does not appear in the Bible. 

    The passage in the Bible that this saying is drawn from is 1 Corinthians 10:13, which reads,

    No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

    When examined closely, it becomes clear that this passage means that God will be there for you through any temptations, even if God has to provide you a way out.

    Saying we can handle anything God gives us would mean that any single human could survive a hurricane, military conflict, or debilitating disease. Since we are not God, there are some things that may break us.

    The point of this passage is to serve as a reminder to have faith in God and trust His will. 

    Common misconception?