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A weekly show where we debunk common misconceptions. This week, Elliott discusses some misconceptions about the Bible.

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Hi, I'm Elliott, and this is Mental Floss on YouTube. Today I'm going to talk about some misconceptions about the Bible. I know that you guys are going to get pretty angry about this episode, so I'll say that people interpret the Bible in different ways. These are just some examples of things that people often think are in the Bible, but you will not find in the actual text.

(0:16) Intro

(0:25) Misconception #1: There were three wise men. The fact that there were three wise men is not in the Bible story of Christ's birth. In Matthew 2:1, it says that magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem. People later concluded that there were three of them because they present three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. One of those sounds great.

(0:42) Misconception #2: Adam and Eve ate an apple. In the Bible, the thing that tempts Eve, and subsequently Adam, is not necessarily an apple. This is the quote from one translation of Genesis: "But God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" It was only ever referred to as fruit. Scholars have claimed that it could be anything: apple, fig, mushroom, pomegranate, just a piece of apple pie, still not quite an apple.

(1:07) Speaking of Genesis, Misconception #3: The serpent that speaks with Eve is Satan. It could be, but that's not stated in the story. It merely describes the serpent as "more cunning than any creatures of the field that the Lord God had made." In the New Testament, the book of Revelations, Satan is referred to as the ancient serpent, so later the serpent was interpreted as Satan, but it's possible that the original story did not intend that.

(1:26) Misconception #4: The Immaculate Conception is in the Bible. Another major misconception is about the concept of Immaculate Conception itself. Many believe that this refers to how Mary conceived Jesus despite being a virgin; in fact, the term refers to the Church's teaching that the Virgin Mary was born without sin, and this was not in the Bible. There's no mention of Mary's birth at all in the text. It was made into a doctrine in 1854, by Pope Pius IX.

(1:51) Misconception #5: Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. This confusion probably comes from the fact that there is a story in the gospel of Luke in which an unidentified woman sinner washes Jesus' feet. People tend to assume that she was both a prostitute and that she's Mary Magdalene. Two other unnamed sinners pop up in stories about Jesus. To add to the confusion, there are multiple Marys mentioned in the Bible, including Mary of Bethany and Clopas' wife, Mary. There's nothing in the text that states Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. 

It was Pope Gregory I that really caused all this confusion in the sixth century AD. He gave a homily in which he combined the unnamed sinner in Luke, Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene. Since then, the notion has persisted, but it's common knowledge among scholars that she was not a prostitute. So stop calling her that. It's very rude.

(2:30) Misconception #6: Jesus condemns homosexuality. In the text of the Bible, Jesus never even mentions homosexuality. It was Paul who condemns it, and that's all I'm gonna say about that.

(2:39) Misconception #7: Noah took two of each animal onto the ark. It's actually unclear how many animals he brought. Initially, God tells Noah: "You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you." Then, in a few verses, he contradicts himself, saying: "You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female."

Let's finish up with a few Bible quotes that are actually not in the Bible at all.

(3:02) Misconception #8: "This too shall pass" is a quote from the Bible. You won't find this in the text. This expression is actually a Persian proverb, written by ancient Persian Sufi poets. There's even a story about one poet, Attar of Nishapur, who inscribed the saying on a ring for a sultan.

(3:16) Misconception #9: "God works in mysterious ways." This quote is a little bit younger than the Bible itself. In 1773, Englishman Cowper wrote the hymn, "God moves in a mysterious way." Scholars believe that the popular saying is a misquote from that hymn.

(3:30) Misconception #10: "Cleanliness is next to Godliness." This phrase is even younger: it's credited to a pamphlet that John Wesley wrote in 1769 titled "On Dress". So, feel free just to leave your room messy.

(3:42) Thank you for watching Misconceptions on Mental Floss on YouTube, which is made with the help of all of these wonderful people. If you have a topic for an upcoming Misconceptions episode that you would like to see, leave it in the comments, and we'll check them out. I'll see you next week, bye.