Debunking 14 Common Misconceptions About the Bible

🌺  Written by Brittany Ann

Ever found yourself in a conversation about the Bible, only to be met with a barrage of misconceptions that leave you scratching your head? Well, you’re not alone. The Bible has been around for centuries, and along the way, it’s picked up its fair share of myths and misunderstandings.

In this journey through the pages of scripture, we’re not here to preach or persuade, but to explore. Think of it as a friendly chat over coffee, where we untangle the web of 14 common misconceptions surrounding the Bible.

No fancy jargon or theological debates – just a down-to-earth exploration of what’s true and what’s, well, not so true.

1. Jesus was Born in a Barn

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Everyone loves a beautiful nativity scene at Christmas time, but Western Christmas traditions aren’t always accurate.

The idea of a stable or barn as the place of Christ’s birth comes from a cultural misunderstanding of Luke 2:7, “and she laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

An “inn” within Jerusalem’s culture of the time was a guest space and often an upper room of a typical village home.

The main living area would have a small, clean space dug out for the family donkey or livestock. Reading the passage through an understanding of the culture of the place and time, one would glean that midwives assisted Mary in the delivery of Jesus and, as the guest space was already occupied, swaddled him with love and made do with the next best thing for him to lay in; a humble manger.

2. Adam and Eve Ate an Apple

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While the story of Adam and Eve is certainly in the Bible, Scripture never mentions that Eve ate an apple. The text simply refers to a “fruit.”

Genesis 3:6 says: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

3. The Trinity

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The “Trinity” refers to the concept that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are simultaneously one Person (God) and three distinct individuals. While the Bible does include multiple references to all three Persons of the Trinity, you won’t find the word “Trinity” itself.

4. Mary Magdalene was Promiscuous

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While there were “women of questionable professions” in the gospels who encountered Jesus and followed Him, the Bible never names Mary Magdalene as one of them.

Mary Magdalene is referenced many times; one such chapter is in Luke 8, where her name appears among women who financially supported Jesus’ ministry, and the scripture mentions demons were driven from her.

This misconception was implied in 591 during Pope Gregory’s Easter sermon and spread from there due to Mary Magdalene’s name being listed in Scripture as an unnamed “sinful woman,” implying the sin of this nameless woman to be promiscuous.

There are other women by the name of Mary mentioned throughout the gospels that are assumed to be Mary Magdalene when they are different people, which increases the misunderstanding of who she was.

5. The Phrase, “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”

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While there is certainly no shortage of Bible verses about loving others or verses about hating sin, the exact phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin” doesn’t come from the Bible.

Instead, many suggest the phrase originated with St. Augustine, 300 years after Jesus walked the Earth.

According to Catholic Answers, “His Letter 211 (c. 424) contains [a] phrase which translates roughly to ‘With love for mankind and hatred of sins.’ The phrase has become more famous as ‘love the sinner but hate the sin.'”

6. The People Mocked Noah for Building an Ark

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Read the Bible story of Noah and the Ark in Genesis 6-7, and you’ll notice something missing. The Bible never mentions the people mocking or ridiculing Noah for building an ark in the middle of a desert. While it’s entirely possible they could have, the Bible never says they did.

7. The 7 Deadly Sins

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The seven deadly sins include lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. You won’t find these seven sins listed together in the Bible, however, like the Ten Commandments or the pieces of the armor of God. While the Bible does contain verses about each of these sins (and others), there is no official biblical list of these exact seven.

8. The Phrase, “Money is the Root of All Evil”

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In the King James Version, 1 Timothy 6:10 reads, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Money isn’t evil. It’s a morally neutral tool we use to help us exchange goods and services more conveniently. The problem occurs when we value, prioritize, or love money above seeking the kingdom of God.

9. Jonah and the Whale

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Read the story of Jonah in the biblical book by his name, and you’ll notice something interesting: The Bible never mentions a whale — at least not in the popular NIV version.

Rather, Jonah 1:17 tells us, “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”

10. The Phrase, “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves”

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Search the Bible from cover to cover and you won’t find the well-known phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.”

This is because the phrase originated from Algernon Sydney in 1698, in his article “Discourses Concerning Government,” before becoming widely popularized after Benjamin Franklin included it in his 1757 Poor Richard’s Almanac. This is just one of the many misconceptions about the Bible out there.

11. The 3 Wise Men

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The story of the three wise men can be found in Matthew chapter two when the magi follow the star to see the newborn baby Jesus.

There’s just one thing missing from the story, however. The Bible tells us that wise men brought three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but it never actually mentions how many wise men there were in total.

Matthew 2:1, 11 simply tells us, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem… On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

12. The Phrase, “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle”

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Unfortunately, this phrase simply isn’t true, though it’s easy to see where the sentiment came from.

The Bible does tell us that God will never tempt us beyond what we can bear. First Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

However, the same writer, Paul, also shares this in 2 Corinthians 1:8: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.”

13. Tattoos Being Forbidden

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Tattoos are not a sin, and getting a tattoo is not sinful. The only verse where tattoos are prohibited in the Bible (Leviticus 19:28) was written for the Israelites only and referenced a pagan ritual that was in worship of a false god. No Bible verses about tattoos state that tattoos are a sin for Christians today.

Some might argue that 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 implies that Christians shouldn’t get tattoos, as our bodies should highlight the glory of God. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”

However, this passage about our bodies as God’s temple isn’t about tattoos at all. In this section, Paul is talking about sexual immorality and honoring God with your body – not body modification.

14. The Bible is a PG-Rated Rulebook

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A rulebook implies all the rules within can be reasonably upheld.

While we see God’s instructions on right and wrong throughout Scripture, it is abundantly clear that no person can live them out to perfection. Instead, the Bible directs the reader to the person of Jesus Christ, who did live the perfect life we cannot.

Anyone who has read more than one chapter of this book knows it is the ultimate tale of the human experience and, therefore is no fluffy PG read. Its pages contain historical accounts of violence, betrayal, lust, sometimes fatal mistakes, heartache, and all the beauty, love, and joy one could seek.

Oops! These 10 Popular Bible Verses Don’t Mean What You Think

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The Bible is full of inspirational verses that can encourage us, lift us up, and remind us of God’s goodness.

Yet, just because a verse sounds encouraging doesn’t mean that’s the way the original author meant his or her words to be understood.

Here are 10 popular Bible verses people love to take out of context, completely distorting their original meaning in the process.

Oops! These 10 Popular Bible Verses Don’t Mean What You Think

7 “Sins” the Bible Never Actually Prohibits

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If you grew up in a conservative Christian household (like I did!), you may have learned that some actions weren’t appropriate for Christians.

For example, I was definitely taught that “you don’t smoke, drink, cuss, gamble, or spend time with those who do.”

Imagine my surprise, then, when — as an adult — I learned that not all Christians find all of these actions (or others) wrong in the slightest!

No matter your personal preference (and I still prefer not to do most of these things myself), here are 7 things the Bible never actually prohibits as sin.

7 “Sins” the Bible Never Actually Prohibits

Yes, Christians Should Judge. Here’s Why.

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Tired of judgemental Christians? Me too.

But, unfortunately, simply scolding someone online isn’t enough to make all the judgmental haters quit with their biting comments.

Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, the Bible actually says Christians should judge.

Here’s what the Bible says on the matter, why Christians should judge others (at times), and why you probably should too.

Yes, Christians Should Judge. Here’s Why.

Are We Witnessing the Apocalypse? 10 Alarming Signs Hinting at Christ’s Second Coming

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For centuries, Christians have been eagerly awaiting the return of Jesus in what’s known as the Second Coming. They often search the Bible for clues that might show when this return is near. While it’s important to approach these signs with care and humility, some people suggest that recent events and changes match what the bible prophesizes.

Are We Witnessing the Apocalypse? 10 Alarming Signs Hinting at Christ’s Second Coming

Skipped Church Today? Why Christians are Opting Out of Regular Sunday Services

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Did you make it to Sunday church this morning? If not, you’re not alone. 

A recent Lifeway Research study identified some common reasons why Christians are skipping church these days — and some of the reasons might be surprising.

Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Yet, for these Christians, there are several very good reasons why they might miss any given Sunday morning.

Skipped Church Today? Why Christians are Opting Out of Regular Sunday Services

Brittany Ann Equipping Godly Women

About the author

Brittany Ann is an ECPA bestselling author of “Fall in Love with God’s Word” and “Follow God’s Will” and the founder of EquippingGodlyWomen.com, a popular Christian-living website dedicated to helping busy Christian moms find practical ways to go "all in" in faith and family. Her work has been featured on CBN, The Christian Post, Crosswalk, and more.

  1. That some things are not specifically stated in Scripture (like the apple) is a no-brainer: this was invented by man, perhaps for an illustration – and the apple does make a fine fruit illustration. Others, like Jonah and the whale are found in Scripture (assuming one uses the King James Bible which doesn't omit "Lord" 51 times) in the New Testament when Jesus says that even as Jesus was in the belly of the whale three days and three night, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. That was a paraphrase. Some things about Bible stories are found later in Scripture, while some (like the 3 wise men) are assumptions based on basic story information.

    As a reader becomes familiar with Scripture and how God's Word is often treated, there are things that were not specifically written down but very well may have happened because of how other scenarios went or because of something God teaches in His Word.

  2. Hi, Brittany,

    Challenging Article. Just a few thoughts. Jonah antedates 'mammal'. 'Trinity' is a Catholic Nicene Conference summation concept that probably predated 325 AD; it was never claimed to be a quote per se'. Notwithstanding your article is very good. Thanks.

  3. Your writing is of great importance to humankind. I am just in the beginner's lessons. My knowledge may be small in the Holy Bible. I do sincerely thank you for your guidance and the notes you have written.

  4. We commonly think that Noah built the ark in a desert, but if he were in a desert, where would he get enough wood to build a boat of any kind? Again, it's another misconception because people think that the Middle East looked the same in Noah's day. However, the great flood changed the topography of all the earth,

  5. Awesome, I've forwarded to many other people. Spread the word and help others to grow into God's love. Thank you for sharing and caring about others.

  6. First, I am not a Christian. But, according to what I just read in your article – some rules don't apply because they were meant for Israelites. So, does that mean the other rules don't apply either? Who decides which rules are for the Israelites and which are for the modern Christians? Just because it is difficult to be a Christian – does not mean you don't follow the mandates of God. You can't be a little bit pregnant. Either you are or you aren't. A humble view from an outsider.

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective. Christians are called to follow God and be obedient to Him. We look to the Bible for guidance as well as Bible teachers, pastors, and Bible scholars.

  7. I disagree with you on the issue of tatooes. The bible passage you referenced is clear enough. The law is not just for israelites. Leviticus 19:28 (Amplified), “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”

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