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9 'Scriptures' Jamaicans Think Are In The Bible But Aren't

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

Holy Bible
Photo: The Holy Bible

Jamaica is a very religious, specifically Christian country, so it’s no surprise that the Bible is a very foundational book to most of us. Our daily lives are mainly dictated by what is taught to us at church or by our parents and grandparents. Our strong oral traditions have resulted in most of us believing some verses we heard can be found in the Bible. There is just one slight detail though...they were never there, to begin with. I’m sure some of these will surprise you as I was surprised myself. Here are 9 such verses:
  1. Cleanliness is next to Godliness - You must not have grown up in a Jamaican household if you’ve never heard this phrase. It’s every grandmother’s favourite line. It is almost hard to believe this didn’t come from the Bible but this verse has yet to be found.

  2. Spare the rod, spoil the child - This one! Used by parents all across the island to justify their creative ways to punish children for their shortcomings and to ensure they’ll never do it again. This is a loose translation on Proverb 13:24 which does say “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes”.

  3. God won’t give you more than you can bear - I have heard this so many times, it is hard to believe it isn’t actually a scripture. As a Christian, this phrase is used to comfort others and often times ourselves when times of trouble arise. We are constantly given more than we can bear, if we could manage everything on our own would we need God? 1 Corinthians 10:13 says “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it.” While in the scripture it does say He will not give us more than we can bear, it speaks to temptation and not personal difficulties and trials we have to face.

  4. God helps those who help themselves - This phrase apparently goes back to 1698 in an article called “Discourses Concerning Government” by Algernon Sydney. The concept of working for what you want as hard and as honestly as possible is something most Jamaicans live by. It is almost as though we are wired to be like that before we are born. This ‘Bible verse’ gives us hope that God will reward us for our hard work with blessings and while God will bless us, it isn’t always what we want nor do we receive it on our timeline. Also, the Bible speaks countless times of helping the less fortunate or those “unable to help themselves.

  5. This too shall pass - I’ve heard this being quoted as ‘from the Word of God’ countless times in my life. But it isn’t a Bible scripture at all. In fact, the first recorded use of the phrase is said to have come from a proverb by the Medieval Persian Sufi poet, Attar of Nishapur. It is common for Jamaicans to cheer their loved ones up with this phrase, that whatever they are going through currently, whether it be physical or emotional pain it will pass at some point. The truth is some “pains” never pass. God does comfort us in our time of struggle but He doesn’t promise to take away the pain entirely from us.

  6. God works in mysterious ways - This phrase was coined by an English poet and Hymnist who wrote "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" in a popular English hymn in 1773. It was not taken from the Bible, but if you ask many Jamaicans they’ll state with a resoluteness that it is based on scripture.

  7. Render your heart and not your garment - This is used often by Christians encouraging people to come to church in non-traditional church attire. At other times it's used for chastising others on the way they dress or justifying what is/was worn to church. The favourite response is usually, “The Bible says you must render your heart and not your garment”, which is understood as God cares more about your heart than what you wear. While this is true, the actual verse from Joel 2:13 says “And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.” Joel was merely trying to get across to the people that instead of tearing or changing their clothes as an outward show of repentance, they should instead change their hearts and completely surrender it to God.

  8. When men on earth on earth have done their best angels in heaven can do no more - I have personally heard this one many times as it is one of my grandmother’s favourite ‘scriptures’. It took a lot of convincing for her to finally believe it was indeed not taken from the Bible. There are actually two versions of this one. It is also said as When men on earth have done their best, angels in heaven will do the rest. It really is just a reminder though to be comfortable knowing that you did your best and not to be too dismayed if you did not achieve what you had initially started out to do.

  9. A whistling woman and a crowing hen is an abomination to the Lord - If you are a girl who grew up in a Jamaican household you would hear this if you ever tried to whistle. I was actually so afraid that I didn’t even try whistling until well into my teenage years (after I found out this was actually false). This one comes from an old European proverb ”A whistling woman & a crowing hen are neither good for God nor men". I’m not sure how it went from that to the damning scripture we’ve come to fear.
The funniest thing about these bible verses is that even after you know it isn’t true, it has been repeated so many times that it still feel weird doing it. I’m sure there was at least one that surprised you! I know there are countless more that I have not included so please share them if you can think of any.

I also recommend you read, 30 Classic Jamaican Quotes & Proverbs Timeless Words To Live By!.


  • 11 Things You Think Are in the Bible, but Really Aren't, Got Questions,
  • 10 Verses Everyone Thinks Are in the Bible...but Actually Aren't, Bible Study Tools,
  • Christian "Truths" That Aren't Actually in the Bible, Ranker,
    The Top 10 Verses People Think Are In The Bible But Are Not, Viral Believer,

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