10 scripture verses that aren't scripture verses

President Barack Obama speaking in Nashville, Tennessee, where he appeared to misquote the Bible, December 9, 2014.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Barack Obama's opponents have seized rapturously on an apparent mangling of biblical metaphors during a speech he made in Nashville about immigration this week. The President said: "The good book says don't throw stones at glass houses, or make sure we're looking at the log in our eye before we are pointing out the mote in other folks' eyes." Arguably it is a very slight error – simply reversing the order of the two quotations would make it clear that the one was just illustrating the other, so to speak – but these are hot-button issues among conservative evangelicals who have never been entirely sure of Obama's faith anyway (that suspicious middle name Hussein, now ...)

However, finding scripture where it isn't is easily done. Here are 10 Bible verses that aren't in the Bible:

1. Money is the root of all evil.

The popularity of the saying indicates that at some level that might be true, but it isn't what 1 Timothy 6:10 actually says: it is the love of money, not money itself. Unless you are way off the socialist/anarchist political scale, society needs some way of exchanging goods and services. Money is a good tool, but a bad master (that isn't in the Bible either).

2. Cleanliness is next to godliness.

It has a vaguely religious tone to it, but it isn't scriptural – though Methodists might argue that it very nearly is, as the phrase was coined by their founder John Wesley in the 18th century. Wesley founded Kingswood School, which was run on very strict lines; the saying has the ring of advice to boys to wash behind their ears.

3. God moves in a mysterious way.

He does indeed, but it was the poet William Cowper who said it, not a biblical writer. It is the first line in one of his Olney Hymns, written with converted slave-trader John Newton, which runs: "God moves in a mysterious way/ His wonders to perform/ He plants his footsteps in the sea/ And rides upon the storm." Lots of scriptural imagery, but it's not scripture.

4. To thine own self be true.

This saying ticks all the boxes for modern pop psychology, which is all about self-realisation and finding our true selves; a lot about Self and very little about God. Add in a quaintly archaic "thine" and it has to be scripture, doesn't it? Alas, no: it's Shakespeare's Polonius, giving wise advice to his son Laertes in Hamlet. Like all sons in such situations, Laertes can't wait to be gone and ignores everything his dad says.

5. Moderation in all things.

This one is not in the Bible but is a key tenet in the philosophy of the great Aristotle. "Temperance" is one of his four Cardinal Virtues; the others are Prudence, Courage and Justice. It is in his Nicomachean Ethics.

6. Hate the sin but love the sinner.

Again, it sounds biblical, but is actually attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. There are plenty of verses in the Bible about hating sin, and plenty about loving sinners, but none that actually puts the two ideas together. Actual sinners sometimes argue that the difference between the two is not actually all that great in practice, but the principle is sound.

7. Charity begins at home.

No, it doesn't – at least the Bible doesn't say so in these words. However, there are Bible verses that imply it, for instance 1 Timothy 5:8 which says "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Another interesting possibility is that the idea comes from Charles Dickens: in Bleak House, Mrs Jellyby pours all her energies into an African charity while completely neglecting her own children.

8. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

A biblical principle to a certain extent, but not biblical. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22, "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." The quotation itself, however, first appears in mediaeval Latin and is attributed, improbably, to St Ambrose.

9. The devil makes work for idle hands to do.

It has a sort of Wesleyan ring to it – those poor Kingswood schoolboys again – though its origins are unknown. It does have a biblical mandate of sorts, though: the book of Proverbs is very down on laziness in general, and in 19:15 it says: "Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry."

10. This too shall pass.

It's more stoically philosophical than scriptural, a phrase used when things are pretty bad but likely to be only temporarily so. One suggestion for its origin is an Old English poem of the 10th century by the minstrel Deor, but this seems unlikely given its obscurity; more probably it's just a pithy bit of common sense.