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The “This Too Shall Pass 'Bible Verse'" & Other Non-Bible-Verses

Updated on April 22, 2017
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Justin Aptaker graduated from the University of Tennessee with a major in psychology, and a minor in comparative religious studies.

Four Common Sayings Mistaken for Bible Verses

I'll briefly mention three common sayings mistaken for Bible verses, starting with the “this too shall pass 'Bible verse'". I'll then reveal a fourth saying often mistaken for a Bible verse. I'll have a bunch of philosophical things to say about that fourth one, but I saved that part for last on purpose, so you can completely ignore it if you aren't feeling very philosophical!

Whirling Dervishes (Muslim Sufi mystics)
Whirling Dervishes (Muslim Sufi mystics) | Source

This Too Shall Pass “Bible Verse”

I was quite surprised when I found out via keyword research that many, many people apparently think that the saying, “this too shall pass”, is a Bible verse. It certainly does not come from the Bible. According to no less a source than Wikipedia (See: This too shall pass), it seems to come down from the Sufis: Muslim mystics. It is understandable that people would think that this saying is in the Bible, though, as it certainly does express a great deal of wisdom. It reminds me of the great insights of Heraclitus, who said that “all is flux”. It is also reminiscent of the Buddha, who taught the wonderful concept of anicca (impermanence). The wisdom is this: whatever your present situation may be, whether wonderful or horrible, it certainly won't last. So if you're on top of the world, don't get overly excited about it, or you'll set yourself up for disappointment. And if you're in the pits, don't quit hoping, since things might always get better.

Boring required disclaimer about the sources referenced in prior section:

I remember reading somewhere once that Wikipedia has been shown statistically to be about as accurate as World Book or Britannica. I can't remember exactly where I read that, but I'm thinking it must be true. And I actually did not make up that whole bit just for nerd humor. Not the first part anyways.

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness "Bible Verse"

The best information I've found (See: What is the origin of the phrase "cleanliness is next to godliness"?) traces this saying to the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, who wrote in 1791:

"But, before we enter on the subject, let it be observed, that slovenliness is no part of religion; that neither this nor any text of Scripture, condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly, this is a duty, not a sin. 'Cleanliness is, indeed, next to godliness.'"

I find it ironic that John Wesley begins by stating that no Bible verse condemns cleanliness. Now over 225 years later, thanks to him, troves of people believe in a Bible verse that promotes cleanliness to the level of godliness. But there is no bible verse even remotely similar to this phrase.

Scientific Note

Several meta-analyses of a vast body of relevant scientific literature have shown a pronounced failure to demonstrate any statistically significant correlation between cleanliness and godliness. In other words, the null hypothesis that cleanliness is not next to godliness couldn't be definitively (or otherwise) rejected. And yes, I did just make all that up for terrible nerd "humor".

Money is the Root of All Evil "Bible Verse"

This quote, unlike the others in this article, is a misquotation of an actual bible verse. 1 Timothy 6:10 reads, “For the love of money is a root of all evils.” There is a great deal of difference between money itself causing evil, and the love of money causing evil. The first formulation makes the Bible’s ethics sound absurdly simplistic. Money, being an inert thing, can not cause evil any more than rocks can cause evil. The real culprit, as the actual Bible verse makes clear, is the excessive desire for wealth.

According to many, a better translation of this verse would actually read, "The love of money is behind all sorts of evil/mischief/trouble/misery", or something similar. If that kind of translation is actually more accurate, then even an unbalanced craving for money is not a cause of “all evil”, but of “all sorts/kinds of evil”. This makes more sense as well. There are kinds of evil that are clearly not caused by greed. Some kinds of evil are caused by sadistic cruelty, for example. But there are also all kinds of evil that are caused by greed.

Dominicus Smout - The Miser and Death

The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil/misery
The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil/misery | Source

Before reading this article, which one of these were you MOST likely (pick only one) to think was a real Bible verse?

See results

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves "Bible Verse"

This saying came from Algernon Sydney, and was later used by Benjamin Franklin. It is not in the Bible. According to the Bible, God helps all living beings, regardless of anything they may or may not have done to help themselves.

For example, in Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV) Jesus declares:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

Here's my take on this (Warning, philosophy/theology ahead!)

I'll begin with two statements.

  1. God is Love.

  2. God is also Being/Existence Itself.

The second statement may be difficult for some people, but I think the Bible supports it. In Exodus 3:14 (KJV) for example, God tells Moses that His name is “I Am That I Am”. One possible interpretation of that is “I Am [the fact that] I Am”.

A copy of Auguste Rodin's The Thinker at the Kyoto National Museum. A nice illustration of Cogito Ergo Sum: "I think, therefore I am" (Descartes).
A copy of Auguste Rodin's The Thinker at the Kyoto National Museum. A nice illustration of Cogito Ergo Sum: "I think, therefore I am" (Descartes). | Source

Does empirical observation conflict with reason?

I plan to start off on this winding road of philosophy stuff in the most non-philosophical language I can muster, so most people can enjoy the read, to begin with. That said, the following brief paragraph is an exception. I'm writing it for the benefit of philosophically minded folk, although such folk could undoubtedly shred it to bits, logically speaking. Note: an exception this early on does mean that this "winding road of philosophy stuff" will ultimately devolve into a "convoluting via negativa of apophaticisms", so be warned.

Empirically we observe that things do exist. But reasoning processes alone would lead us to conclude that nothing should have ever existed. In pure philosophy-speak, I'm suggesting that our two most cherished epistemological sources don't mesh well when it comes to a most fundamental ontological issue.

Ok, with that out of the way, let's continue.

Our reason (logic) and scientific method depend on the "fact" that there is a cause, or reason, for everything. A "How". Even our simple conscious thought processes (cognitions) are structured around that seemingly established idea. We learn it as infants. For example: hot stove burner causes pain in hand. How did my hand hurt? The stove.

But how could there be a cause for Being/Existence itself? If there was ever truly Nothing, including no God, then there was nothing around that could have caused there to be Something. So there must have always been Something, right? Well, if there has always been Something (aka God, by my earlier definition), what causes It/Him/Her to exist? That is, "how" does anything (including God) exist? And that is where our systems of logic shatter altogether, putting the question outside the scope of human rationality/thought, and by extension, outside the scope of the scientific method. And that happens when we just ask "how". The question of "why" is even more mind-blowing, since it requires examination by "meaning-perceiving" or "meaning-making" consciousnesses, such as humans. And that is outside the scope of this article.


Doubting Causality

With the limited human minds we must work with, we might reasonably conclude that Being/God simply exists, with no cause ("I Am [the fact that] I Am"). I'm going to agree with that statement, and go from there. If that's true, then we have no good reason to think that anything that is a part of Being/Existence actually requires a cause or a "how" either. Perhaps our minds just generate the illusion of "cause" whenever we repeatedly observe a certain thing following after another thing. A pool stick strikes a billiard ball. The ball moves. So we think that the impact causes the ball to move. But really, we can't prove that absolutely. All we can do is use different tools to observe, again and again, the movement of the ball happening after contact with the stick. And then we can create stories and pictures (scientific narratives and models) about what those repeated observations ought to mean for us.

Philosophers, please forgive me for here omitting a volume on maps vs territories and phenomena vs noumena etc. Scientists, please forgive me for everything.

But if Existence itself has no cause, and the movement of a billiard ball takes place within Existence, why must the ball movement have a cause? In other words:

“Pool stick”, “billiard ball”, “contact between stick and ball”, and “ball movement” are all part of “Existence/Being”.

  1. Existence/Being has no cause.

  2. Therefore, “ball movement” has no cause.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 13
A Summary of 1 Corinthians 13 | Source

God is Love, and Love Gives

But let's go back to my first statement, "God is Love" (1 John 4:8 & 16). Here I'll turn away from my reasonings to give a personal perception of “meaning”. I can do that since I am a “meaning-perceiving” being. I think that one essential part of Love is to give generously and unconditionally. I think Jesus is pointing to that in Matthew 5 (above), where he says that without condition, God generously provides sunlight and rain to everyone alike.

Now, Jesus was speaking to agricultural people who were familiar with crops and farming. They knew what sunlight and rain really meant. Our scientific models of today also describe what sunlight and rain mean. Sunlight + Water + Oxygen = plant growth. That is where all food comes from. Or at least we perceive food to come from those things. But think back to our pool stick and billiard ball.

What if Jesus was saying, on a deeper level, that Being/Existence Itself (aka God) alone gives all beings their sustenance? If God/Existence has no cause, then rain and sunlight have no cause, and so food has no cause besides the fact that it is a part of God/Being/Existence Itself. Which means that, despite the stark realities of deprivation and starvation on earth, Being/Existence is constantly casting out an unlimited, infinite supply of food. That would be a generous, unconditional giving. The kind of giving that I believe is a part of Love. Perhaps food literally, like everything else, just bursts on the scene continually without any cause, offering Itself up to beings who consume it. That would definitely add layers of meaning to statements from Jesus like "I am the bread of life [. . .] Unless you eat [my] flesh and drink [my] blood, you have no life, for [. . .] my flesh truly is food, and my blood truly is drink" (John 6:41-55).

In fact, I know that many of the earliest Christians interpreted such sayings in entirely panentheistic terms. The traditions of these gnostic Christians were almost entirely stamped out by a bloodthirsty Christianized Roman Empire, but their ideas are making a resurgence today.

I've heard it said somewhere that Christ's miracles were all reenactments, in a scaled-down and time-lapsed way, of God's acts in the universe. So when, for example, Jesus multiplied a few fish and loaves into a feast for a massive crowd, he was reenacting the great act of cosmic fertility that supplies all beings with life and sustenance. As John chapters ten and fourteen have him repeatedly expressing, if anyone sees (understands) him, they can see (understand) his Father (Love/Being), because he only does the things that his Father does.

Avarice and Strife, Indifference and Privation

So if the Father/Being is a boundless, universal giving of Itself (Love), then why are people starving? Worldhunger.org agrees that there is plenty of food for all of us, and points out that people go hungry largely due to war and an unequal distribution of resources (see the link to the right). In fact, if you look into it, you will find out that war and greed are the only real reasons that there are any hungry people on earth. Mass starvation today occurs almost exclusively where war has cut off people's access to resources. Greed is responsible for the rest of world hunger, as a few individuals cling to more resources than they and their descendants could ever possibly need in a thousand lifetimes. This is not a polemic against the wealthy. Rather I would encourage those with wealth, reminding them of the wonderful position they are in to do good in the world.

Original sketch by author
Original sketch by author | Source

The Turning of a Paradigm

In short, God (Existence/Being) is Love, which is in one crucial sense a tireless and unconditional expenditure of Itself into All. The lack of love among humans is, in a crucial sense, the only reason any humans are hungry. This fact in no way mitigates, nor is it meant to mitigate, the gravity of suffering, either as a phenomenological (hence ontological) fact, or as a "theodical problem". It does not philosophically remove culpability from God, nor ease the visceral sting that reeks of divine abandonment. All the infinite universes could encode nothing but endless tomes about suffering, as suffering may be the true crux (wordplay very intended) of very Being and Nonbeing. So much for not sounding too philosophical.

But setting the problem of suffering aside for other articles, please consider the human race's response to suffering: profound distrust, anxiety, and even terror towards Being/Existence Itself. This has resulted in an almost perfect alienation of ourselves from Existence, from the planet and ecosystem, from other species, from other tribes, and from other individual people. Indeed, it has alienated us from ourselves and from our selves and from our Self.

These facts make Matthew 5 all the more impressive. There, Jesus is telling us to love even our enemies. This defies animal and human instinct, along with social convention. Pro-social behavior among animals (including humans) is thought to result from the parent/child bond and the principle of reciprocity. In short, evolution favors groups of individuals who learn to mutually give to one another. But evolution also drives such groups to engage in conflict with any other groups who would take from them. Groups survive when individuals band together to mutually strengthen one another, while defending against “outsiders” who would weaken or take from them.

In Matthew 5, Jesus overturns human social norms, human/animal instinct, and the course of evolution itself. His instructions here only make sense if it actually is true that we may unconditionally trust in an infinite Providence to sustain our own needs, freeing us, in turn, to unconditionally share with others.

From that perspective, the idea that God only helps those who help themselves is not only unbiblical, but it represents the most pernicious and commonly accepted current of sentiment in the collective cultural wisdom that we've amassed over countless generations. It is a sentiment that justifies greed and war. It is a sentiment that chokes Love at the root, and leaves us violently consuming one another in a vicious circle, which has been the spiral of our history.

Uroboros, a mythical symbol (of a snake in a circle eating its own tail) with great cosmic significance, is here portrayed as an Amphisbaena.
Uroboros, a mythical symbol (of a snake in a circle eating its own tail) with great cosmic significance, is here portrayed as an Amphisbaena. | Source

© 2011 Justin Aptaker

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    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 6 years ago

      Someone once told me "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" was in the bible. I'm not sure she believed me when i told her that quote is from Hamlet :)

    • japtaker profile image
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      Justin Aptaker 6 years ago from United States

      Maybe anything written in quaint English sounds like the Bible to people? Thus the "shall" in "this too shall pass" throws people off?

    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 6 years ago

      I think you are onto something there.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      I really do love your hubs, my friend. you speak sense, but don't preach. You are brief and to the point and you touch on matters that are relevant.

      I was fascinated to discover that "This too shall come to pass" originated with the Sufis. A branch of Islam which I have always found fascinating, mystical and poetic... until I looked into the rigours that go along with the philosophy.

    • japtaker profile image
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      Justin Aptaker 6 years ago from United States

      Thank you, twilight! I too, have always found the Sufis fascinating, although I'll admit that I haven't yet looked into the rigors of their philosophy. Feel free to share what you know about it right here in the comments if you like :)

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Well, first, let me say I'm selfish and like the creature comforts. OK?

      Sufis have a leader to whom they look for guidance and follow around. They also give up all worldly goods and carry a bowl for alms; mainly food and rely in the generosity of others. Then with a bit of luck and a lot of prayer and effort and learning, perhaps become a master themselves.

      I know this is simplistic to the extreme, and someone who "knows all about Sufism" will come and tell me I know nothing... I suppose I do, but when I learned these basic bits, I thought, the whirling Dervish business and the mysticism and trance like states may be fun, but "in the world and of it" are my ideas of following a true path

    • tlmcgaa70 profile image

      tlmcgaa70 5 years ago from south dakota, usa

      ironically, my mother and i were just talking about this very thing, and i considered writing a hub on it...alas you beat me to it. at least it is written. well done. i told mom if cleanliness WAS next to Godliness...i am sure GOD would have meant internal cleanliness, as HE always was more concerned with a persons spiritual state rather than how he looked on the outside.

    • sonfollowers profile image

      sonfollowers 5 years ago from Alpharetta, GA

      Good stuff, my friend. I like your writing style. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work. See you around.

    • profile image

      5 years ago

      excellence. A real truth seeker.

    • Jezelangel profile image

      Jezelangel 5 years ago from Cebu City, Philippines

      Good...very useful for my research studies..Keep on writing!

    • profile image

      sallysunshine 5 years ago

      I am so happy that I am solid in Christ as "this too shall pass" is extreme comfort to me as I know GOD has a plan that makes "everything ALL right" and I say this because I believe it! Do not be too critical of believers that do not express themselves exactly as you do.....that is how you lose them!

    • gracefaith profile image

      gracefaith 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Haha, fantastic idea for a hub! I hate the 'this too shall pass' nonsense. It may well not while we are on Earth- whatever it is! :P

      Happy hubbing :)

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      Chris 5 years ago

      Thus was very helpful. I will pay this forward.

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      Stephen 4 years ago

      What one must understand is that these people GET THEM from the bible, and toy with the words and rephrase them, claiming them as their own. Thomas Jefferson did the same thing as did Alexander Pope and Thomas Wolfe. The ideas came from there. And if not, it is amazing that people are near paraphrasing something written long before their existence.

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      Stephen 4 years ago

      An adequate question for the believer to ask, though, is how biblical is the comfort found in the reminder that "This too shall pass." Really we should be focusing on the promise of what awaits us who believe. Romans 5 reminds the believer that suffering produces hope for the kingdom of God; if we simply take heart in the temporary end of a given earthly trial, we are finding comfort in the wrong thing. I have found in reading both stories in mythhology, and even fairy tales, the parallels in parables and the lives of those in the old and new testaments match up very closely, with a few holes here and there. The next stop is understand the human "psyche', anima and animus terms Carl Jung has claim to fame. For then we find, those terms are not his at all, but did he knows this? if we read about Jacob Boehme, it was he that could have brought later on the science for electricity and Newton's Law of Gravity, as well as spirals used in meteorology and magnetic fields. For example, the list goes on and one.: The word "souls" (psuchás, plural of psuché) also requires explanation, as the Greek word is far too complex in meaning to define facilely as a person's immortal essence, as most Catholics and Protestants are wont to do. Its basic meaning is "breath," and is thus equivalent to the Hebrew nephesh and Latin anima (as in English "animal" and "animate"). One of its uses is as the New Testament version of what Genesis 2:7 calls "the breath of life," that is, the vital force that makes a body live: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [nephesh]." Luke 12:20 and Acts 20:10 use psuché in this manner.

      From this basic meaning derives its extensions: as "life" (see Matthew 6:25; John 10:11; Philippians 2:30; Revelation 12:11) and "living being" (see I Corinthians 15:45; Revelation 16:3). In addition, psuché can refer to the seat of emotion, will, and desire, whereas we would use the terms "heart," "mind," "personality," or "being" today (see Luke 1:46; Acts 14:2, 22; Hebrews 6:19; II Peter 2:14). In a similar sense, it can also identify man's moral and spiritual life (see Hebrews 13:17; I Peter 1:22; 2:11, 25; 4:19; III John 2).

    • bockshiner profile image

      bockshiner 4 years ago from Dallas, TX

      Interesting hub. "God helps those who help themselves" is the one that bothers me when I hear it because it is contrary to the actually bible teaching. And I always thought "cleanliness is godliness" was a Smashing Pumpkins quote. :)

    • japtaker profile image
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      Justin Aptaker 4 years ago from United States

      I don't believe that was original to the Pumkins, but "God is empty, just like me" very well may have been. :)

    • krispage profile image

      krispage 4 years ago

      In the "This Too Shall Pass" quote; perhaps it originated from the bible verse Matthew 24:6 KJV - where the verse says "And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things 'must come to pass', but the end is not yet".

      Then eventually people translate this Bible verse from one interpretation to another (well, this is only according to my opinion).

    • profile image

      Malcolm Rogers 3 years ago

      Awesome.

    • profile image

      Synnoveah Cooke 3 years ago

      This Too Shall Pass actually comes from a poem, that has a story attached to it. I unfortunately am out of town, so I cannot access it right now, but when I get home this next weekend I will be happy to post it if posts are permitted to be long. For it is a very long poem. I might actually have it on FB but not sure which year it was posted.

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      h-squared 3 years ago

      US Money, having many symbols of Satan all over it and having been created to divert people's minds from thinking about God+, in an effort to usurp worship of the one true God+ and replace it with Lucifer (the most obvious signs of which are the all seeing eye of Horus and the six sided star of "sacred geometry" and 5 sided pentagram (having been used to identify that money was created by Freemasons - a brotherhood now under Illuminati (Satanic) control)), SURELY is the root of all evil in a symbolic sense of the word. Since a great deal of the mysteries in the bible are thinly veiled in allegorical language, we can see that the LOVE of money is actually the worship of Lucifer. Knowing that money is his device, we can attribute the same preoccupation with it to being equal to worshiping the devil, himself. It is his vehicle to many other evils based upon it, such as war, pornography, entertainment, politics, science and technology, professional sports, etc... so many of the industries of this world are filled with his mark upon them by their constant strive for profits at all costs, setting up a "love" of money over a love of God+. I am not surprised at how all encompassing this one statement is when trying to discern the truth of this world from the lies that are used to trap the unwary mind. It is why God+ asks us to focus on the image of Christ+ with all our hearts and all our minds. God+ was issuing a warning and a proof that he would protect the faithful from this, Satan's biggest, deadliest and most obvious trap.

    • profile image

      Rayne123 3 years ago

      Hi there, how are you

      Very good hub. A lot of us are guilty of interpreting the bible the way we want it to read, but like other books or even conversations you may have with a friend or acquaintance you may have to ask for confirmation on what was just said.

      We tend to hear and see only what we want. "don't believe half of what you hear and not all of what you see" forget whose quote that is but its true.

      Because the bible is coded and Jesus spoke in parables, we really need to pay attention to the words and not only the ones we are reading, but the ones beside it.

      Just like cards (and I don't do them) most readers can only tell you something depending on where and what card it stands beside.

      I think that the saying "this too shall come to pass" is in the bible but decoded. On bible gateway there are interpretations of the scriptures, if you put in "Gods word" it will read a lot more clearer for you. Not sure they are dead on but it makes sense.

      I researched and found this scripture that tells us that very thing:

      17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal 2 Cor 4

      and translated into Gods word reads as is:

      17 Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine. 18 We don’t look for things that can be seen but for things that can’t be seen. Things that can be seen are only temporary. But things that can’t be seen last forever.

      Blessings

      Laurie

    • profile image

      Aaron 3 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading this, I just wanted to ask you to re-ponder something :) I fear that in examining things philosophically and intellectually, we can often sacrifice the power of simple truths. Take the saying "this too shall pass" for instance. In times of heartache, pain, and anxiety, remembering this phrase can be an enormous comfort. Even in times of great happiness and excitement, remembering this simple truth is very beneficial. It reminds us to appreciate and not take for granted the blessings God has given us. I believe over complicating such a helpful saying takes the power away from it, and robs people of the encouragement it can give. This life is complicating enough without over thinking simple sayings that bring hope to those who are moved by them. I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Again thank you for your thoughts, I admire anyone who has the guts to say what they think!

    • japtaker profile image
      Author

      Justin Aptaker 3 years ago from United States

      Wow, Aaron, thank you for the very helpful comment. I've changed and grown a lot in the years since I wrote this article, and if I had written it recently, it would have been much different. In any case, I think you are absolutely right on your points, and I will edit this article accordingly. Thanks again :-)

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