It’s the world’s most shop-lifted book! 50 copies are sold every minute. It’s the global #1 best-seller. It’s the most quoted and most influential single-volume library. It’s also the most misunderstood. The Bible.
For fun I I thought I’d compile a list of the 8 most famous Bible passages. Then some I think should be famous! And I’ll also throw in a few “Bible quotes” that aren’t actually in there!
The 8 Most Famous
1. Psalm 23. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want…” An enduring classic. Usually in the old King James Version.
2. John 3: 16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Curious fact: Who said it? Was it Jesus? Or was it the Gospel writer? The text doesn’t really tell us.
3. Deuteronomy 6: 5 and Leviticus 19:18. Greatest commandment. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The first is a part of the daily ‘Shema in the Jewish community. Jesus quotes both passages in tandem several times as the greatest commandment(s).
4. 1 Corinthians 13. Love poem. “Love is patient; love is kind… And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” The writer, Paul, wasn’t really talking about the romantic kind of love, but a popular one for weddings nevertheless.
5. Exodus 20: 2-17. The 10 Commandments. A man once said he didn’t believe in God but that he lived by the 10 commandments. It’s a bit strange since the first four are about honouring God! The commandments have defined our understanding of ethics. The first four toward God, the last six toward others. The “up-then-sideways” principle, just like the Lord’s Prayer.
6. Genesis 1: 27. The creation of humans. “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” You are not random. You are a DNA fingerprint of a beautiful, purposeful and gracious God.
7. Exodus 21: 24. “An eye for an eye.” Unfortunately this made the list. I think of placards outside jails and news cameras. With this one we usually forget that in ancient context the plea for equality of punishment (that fit the crime) was actually an appeal for mercy given many customs of exacting harsher punishment than the crime deserved (like death for stealing some bread); and also that Jesus calls us to something greater: to love our enemies.
8. Matthew 5 and beyond. The sermon on the mount. This famous mountain-speech includes horizon-shaking wisdom like the Beatitudes; the Lord’s Prayer, and the Love your enemies teaching.
Most Famous Misquotes
I thought I’d throw a few of these in here just for fun.
“God helps those who help themselves.” Sorry, not there. The author was Benjamin Franklin.
“Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Thankfully, nope.
“God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Not there either. But the principle is probably from 1 Corinthians 10:13: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” Paul is speaking to the Corinthians but we hope to download this principle to our own situations.
Some That Should Be Famous!
Wow, this is super hard. I’m trying to think of good general Scriptures that are widely applicable and not just to me (I’ve got my own personal list too). And I know that after I publish this I’ll think of better ones and kick myself. But here is what I’m thinking of now.
1. Life. Mark 8:35. “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Jesus)
2. Money. Hebrews 13: 5. “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.””
3. Love. Romans 8:38-39. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
4. Rest. Matthew 11:28-29. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jesus)
5. Radical love. Matthew 5:44-45. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Jesus)
6. Character. Galatians 5: 22-23. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
7. Growth. Romans 5:3-5. “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
8. Created. Psalm 139: 14. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”
9. Humility. Proverbs 15: 33. “Humility goes before honour.”
10. Strength. Philippians 4: 13. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
11. Transformation. Romans 12: 2. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
12. Re-creation. Revelation 21: 1, 4. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
13. Renewal. Lamentations 3:22-23. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
14. Joy. Psalm 118: 24. “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
15. Peace. Psalm 46: 10. “Be still, and know that I am God!” Hebrew linguist Robert Alter translates “Be still” as “Let go.” Exhale.
There is so much that can be said about the Bible. In the 19th century Charles Spurgeon said that the way you defend the Bible is the same way you defend a lion—just let it loose! I’m not so sure about that. Yes, it has pregnant power. But lions have a way of eating people. I think today I’ll leave the final thought with American Will Willimon: that the truthfulness of Scripture is in the lives it is able to produce.
What’s your favourite passage?