Author: Ben McEachen; Eternity Magazine
A prominent American politician has been quoting a Bible verse not found in the Bible. After US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed leaders of Christian Colleges this week, Slate magazine reported on the “Scripture” that Pelosi likes to refer to.
“I can’t find it in the Bible, but I quote it all the time.” Nancy Pelosi
“To minister to the needs of God’s creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonour the God who made us,” said Pelosi to the Christian leaders. Although Pelosi has quoted this “verse” about 11 times in US Congress since 2002, she admitted she has been unable to locate exactly where it’s from.
“I can’t find it in the Bible, but I quote it all the time,” Pelosi admitted this week at the Christian event. “I keep reading and reading the Bible — I know it’s there someplace. It’s supposed to be in Isaiah. I heard a bishop say, ‘To minister to the needs of God’s creation … ’ ”
Pelosi’s “Bible verse that’s not” situation brings to mind a famous scene from classic Australian comedy The Castle, where a lawyer tries to summarise a complicated constitutional matter:
“It’s the vibe.”
Pelosi seems to be going with “the vibe” of the Bible, rather than quoting directly from it. But she’s not alone. Here are other examples of popular Bible verses not actually found in the Bible:
God helps those who help themselves.
This is Bible Society CEO Greg Clarke’s favourite non-Bible verse, although he warns about what it might inspire people to think: “It’s pretty much the opposite of what the Bible teaches, but was common in the ancient Greek tragedies and made famous by Benjamin Franklin.” So, it’s a mash-up between Aesop’s fables and the American Dream.
Cleanliness is next to godliness
John Wesley was an amazing Christian figure in the 18th Century who was a founder of the Methodist denomination and encouraged generations of social justice activism. He also popularised this “proverbial” statement about tidying, which he said in a sermon titled “On Dress” (Wesley was discussing 1 Peter 3:3-4). But Wesley didn’t claim “cleanliness is next to godliness” was from the Bible, as many have done ever since. While it seems he was referencing Hebrew wisdom from the 2nd Century, Wesley’s positioning of cleanliness beside godliness still suffers from the Pelosi problem: it’s not actually in the Bible.
That Pulp Fiction sorta sermon
One of the most memorable un-Bible Bible quotations comes from Quentin Tarantino’s blistering movie Pulp Fiction (1994). In a confronting scene, hitman Jules (Samuel L Jackson) holds a man at gunpoint and proclaims to him Ezekiel 25:17 – “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
Powerful, fear-of-God kinda stuff.
Thing is, the real Ezekiel 25:17 in the Bible is much shorter and resembles only the final sentence of Jules’ speech: “I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I take vengeance on them.”
Artistic licence, Tarantino?
Hate the sin. Love the sinner
A suburban Sydney church recently did an entire sermon series on stuff Jesus did not say, such as the pithy “Hate the sin. Love the sinner” bumper sticker. Check out St James Turramurra sermons to listen to more un-Bible Bible verses, including the confounding “money is the root of all evil” statement. While you might have assigned that statement to Jesus, he didn’t say it. He did say “You cannot serve both God and money,” as recorded at Matthew 6:24. However, the love of money and evil is combined in 1 Timothy 6:10 – “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”