The Bible Does Not Say That.

“Thou shalt be a registered Republican.” — definitely not one of the Ten Commandments

“The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

How often have you heard this phrase repeated after something unexpected or even miraculous happens? Would it surprise you to know it’s not actually a Bible verse?

“Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

Though a similar injunction to discipline children (deriving from the rod used by shepherds to create a boundary line for sheep) can be found in the book of Proverbs, the actual saying “spare the rod and spoil the child” is not found in the Bible. This line is originally found in a satirical 1663 poem called “Hudibras” by Samuel Butler.

“God helps those who help themselves.”

Though this quip has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, and does indeed appear in “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” the original source seems to be Aesop in ancient Greece. He refers not to the Christian God but to the Greek deity Hercules, in Hercules and the Wagoner.

“The ends justify the means.”

Here’s another phrase that has changed precise wording since its first incarnation. Sophocles seems to have been the first to write this one down, in 409 B.C., and was followed by Ovid in 10 B.C. Niccolo Machiavelli espoused principles similar to this sentiment, but did not quote it directly.

“Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

We don’t hear this phrase nearly so often in the 21st century, but it pops up frequently in literature and nonfiction of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In fact, it was born near the end of the eighteenth century. English preacher John Wesley wrote it in a book of sermons. It is certainly true that the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament) have a great deal to say about rituals of cleanliness for the people of Israel as a prototype of being washed clean from sin, but Wesley’s affirmation regarding personal hygiene has no Scriptural basis.

Historical costumer, fifty-cent-word purveyor, aspiring humorist, and Oxford comma fan. Books, women's history, & musings of a new mom. Twitter: @sewistwrites

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