The Bible is a source of many wise sayings. Some of them have become part of our everyday lexicon, and we might use them without even know that we are quoting Bible verses.
And then there are phrases that get quoted like Bible verses, and we might be surprised to learn that they actually come from somewhere else. One source of confusion is that the language of the King James Version sounds a bit like Shakespeare. This is not surprising, since Shakespeare lived from 1564-1616, and the translation of the KJV was completed in 1611.
Here are 20 phrases and quotable quotes. See if you can tell which ones are Bible verses, and which come from other sources?
1. Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
2. I must be cruel, only to be kind.
3. The truth will set you free.
4. … whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
5. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.
6. Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
7. To thine own self be true.
8. Am I my brother’s keeper?
9. … a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.
10. God’s gonna get you for that!
12. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
13. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
14. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
18. … ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
- Nope. While cleanliness may indeed be next to godliness, it doesn’t say so anywhere in the Bible. This phrase is credited to John Wesley.
- Shakespeare. Hamlet. And more recently, in 1979 Nick Lowe penned the lyrics “You gotta be cruel to be kind, in the right measure.”
- Bible. John 8:32. What is the truth that will set you free? Actually, the question should be, “Who is the truth?” because the truth is a person: Jesus. And what will Jesus set you free from? Sin.Verse 34: “everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
- Bible. Galatians 6:7
- Good advice again, but not from the Bible. According to the free dictionary.com, this bit of wisdom was first found in ‘Teacher’s Manual’ by American educator Thomas H. Palmer and ‘The Children of the New Forest’ by English novelist Frederick Maryat (1792-1848).
- Trick question! As quoted, it is a phrase from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but there is a similar phrase in the Bible. Proverbs 22:7 says that “the borrower is slave to the lender.” Prov 22:7)
- Hamlet again.
- This one comes from the Bible. In Genesis 4:9, Cain had just killed his brother Abel, and God calls out to Cain to ask where Abel was. Cain’s infamous response: “I don’t know! Am I my brother’s keeper?”
- It might surprise you to know that this is in the Bible – Proverbs 19:13.
- I don’t know where this one comes from. It is certainly not in the Bible.
- Attributed to Ben Franklin, not in the Bible.
- The Serenity Prayer, as it is commonly referred, was made popular with its use in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).
- This is a verse from the “love chapter” of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:13.
- The “Hail Mary” prayer is not found in the Bible. It is a liturgical prayer used by Catholics.
- The Lord’s Prayer is Biblical. You can find it in Mt 6:9-13.
- The prayer of Job is from Job 1:21.
- Bible. Psalm 14:1.
- The verses right before this one are quoted more often: Ephesians 6:1 reads “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” The one I quoted for #18 is Ephesians 6:4.
- This is one of my favourite Bible verses, found in Deuteronomy 24:5.
- Honest, this one is also in the Bible, Song of Solomon 4:5. They obviously had different descriptive metaphors for beauty back then. Here is a literal .artist’s rendering. (A roe is a fawn or a gazelle)
- He certainly does, but this line comes from a William Cowper poem. The actual quote is just a little different: ” God moves in a mysterious way”.
- Bible, Matthew 19:16-26. Jesus said this as a response to the rich young ruler who wanted to know what good thing he must do to merit eternal life.
This passage is often quoted incorrectly or out of context. Jesus was actually telling him that one cannot earn eternal life. It was a bit arrogant of the young man to insist that he had kept all of the commandments since he was a child. Jesus looked at his heart and saw that the love of money was hindering him from accepting salvation, which is a gift that cannot be earned. The disciples are a bit flabbergasted at Jesus’ analogy of the camel going through the eye of a needle, and they ask Him, “Who then can be saved?” They were only looking at the outer appearances.
The rich young ruler looked very religious, but no one, not even this fellow is able to keep all of God’s commandments. In fact, the Ten Commandments are given as evidence that we are incapable of earning our way into heaven. Jesus added further proof of our complete inability to keep the law by explaining the standards- it is not enough to not murder anyone, but if you hate someone it is like committing murder in our hearts. Likewise, to lust in your mind is the same as adultery. Basically, there is no hierarchy of sins – no one sinful behaviour is worse than any other. All sin is evidence of our separation from God our creator.
Why would God give us rules that He knows we cannot keep? Isn’t that unfair? It would be if there was no other way to be saved. God provided a way by sacrificing His son. The blood that Jesus shed is payment for our sins, and the only way to reconnect with God.
- Bible, Matthew 19:21. This is part of the story in #22, and is another frequently misquoted passage. We cannot earn salvation – not even by selling all that we have and giving it all to the poor. The rich young ruler went away sad, because he loved his money.
- This phrase is actually attributed to Ghandi, not Jesus.
- Just kidding!