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Folk Wisdom And The Bible

“This, too, shall pass.”

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.*

…Others credit it to Jewish folklore, saying it originated with King Solomon,…


“Money is the root of all evil.”

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.”

…a hymn written by William Cowper in the 19th century that says, “God moves in a mysterious ways;…

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: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (KJV) *

“The Seven Deadly Sins”

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.”

This “verse” did not originate in the Bible but has been repeated often by various speakers and writers throughout the centuries, like Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac of 1757. The Bible, in fact, speaks often about how much God helps humankind. However, there are instances in the Bible that point the necessity for people to take action on their own behalf in tandem with God’s work. For example, Romans 5:6, 8; Proverbs 28:26 and Jeremiah 17:5. *

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

…credited to John Wesley’s 1778 sermon, “Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness…”

The Bible never specifically addresses cleanliness being “next to godliness”, meaning that being clean is a form of godly
behavior. The proverb is popularly credited to John Wesley’s 1778 sermon, “Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness” as well as to writings in the Jewish holy scripts the Talmud. It is not, however, found in the Bible. *

“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

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.”

“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 wise men”

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. *

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

Paul will write it is when he is weak that the strength of Christ is seen.

This particular statement, that “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” isn’t even in the Bible.  There is a statement that sounds like it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”  But notice that verse is about temptation.  That’s it.  You won’t be tempted beyond what you can stand up against.  This text is not saying that you will not experience more than you can bear.  That idea just isn’t Biblical.  If anything the exact opposite is true. Paul will write it is when he is weak that the strength of Christ is seen.  In other words, when we can’t do it any longer.  When we are fed up.  When it has become too much.  When we have nothing left.  When we are empty.  When it is beyond our capability to deal with it.  Then, in that moment, the strength of the God of resurrection will be seen.” **

* from article by Alicia Purdy, Deseret News
**from blog by Nate Pyle

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