The phrase "cleanliness is next to godliness", is a very common saying. Most people, when asked believe that this phrase is from the Bible. And you probably have also been wondering to yourself if the phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” is in the Bible. You will find the answer below.
Contrary to what many believe, the phrase "cleanliness is next to godliness" is not from the Bible. Many people relate this phrase to the Bible due to the fact that it is very often heard in Christian homes.
In reality, the phrase is a very old proverb believed to be found in the Babylonian and Hebrew religious tracts. But the first expression or use of this phrase in the English literature was a modified version of the proverb in the writings of Sir Francis Bacon, a philosopher and a scientist in 1605.
Sir Francis Bacon wrote, “Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.”
Some years later, a popular Anglican cleric and theologian, John Wesley made some sort of reference to the expression in one of his sermon: “Slovenliness is no part of religion...cleanliness is indeed next to godliness.”
We are not sure where the connection between cleanliness and godliness came from. But over the years, different explanations from the Bible have been given to back up the phrase even though the phrase cannot be found in the Bible. But before we will look at the explanations from the Bible that might connect cleanliness to godliness, let us look at the definition of cleanliness.
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What is cleanliness?
Cleanliness is defined as a quality or state of being clean and also the habit of achieving and maintaining a clean state. Cleanliness can be seen as a moral quality of being clean and free from dirt. On a more practical level, cleanliness is attributed to a hygienic state and the prevention of diseases.
In the Bible, some of the laws of God to Moses and the Israelites had to do with the concept of “clean and unclean”. The laws or guidelines instructed them to avoid eating certain things which are termed as unclean. Also, different instructions as for washing and cleaning processes especially for an unclean person were given to them to follow before the person can be re-allowed into the community.
There were things that God termed as unclean and things that make people unclean, e.g. a woman in her period. They have to keep this laws and instructions of a clean state before approaching God. However, Jesus stated in the New Testament that we are not defined by what we eat or don’t eat or how well and often we wash our hands but by the things in our heart. Jesus was not trying to discard the laws related to cleanliness but said this in reference to the state of man’s morality, conscience, mind and spiritual state.
Therefore, we can say that even though cleanliness has nothing to do with godliness especially based what Jesus said, God is surely interested in humans being clean. And most of the instruction in the Book of Moses in the Old Testament can be compared to most of the hygienic standards and practices we have today. So, the phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” may not be in the Bible, but God surely wants us to live in clean and hygienic conditions.
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