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Donna Perugini Children's Author

Where Did the Saying Cleanliness is Next to Godliness Come From

 

I always thought that saying came from my mother!     

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Millions of mothers have used this saying around the world and for countless generations to get their children to clean up.

Various writers have assumed the proverb came from the American Puritans, the Bible or Ben Franklin in his Poor Richard’s Almanac. The saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness” actually comes from the writings of Phineas ben Yair, a rabbi whose writings can be found in the Talmud written this way:

“The doctrines of religion are resolved into carefulness; carefulness into vigorousness; vigorousness into abstemiousness into cleanliness; cleanliness into godliness.” As you can see, in the quote, ‘cleanliness’ is literally next to ‘godliness.‘ Yes, as simple as that!

John Wesley, wrote in a 1778 sermon, “Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness” and put the words in quotes indicating that he had borrowed /changed them from another source. John Wesley said he “looked upon all the world as his parish.”

His Rule of Conduct was:

Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.”

This one phrase has been used in so many ways! Rabbi Phineas ben Yair may have written the thought, but John Wesley gave it a life of its own.

How have you heard this used in your lifetime? Leave your comments, we’d all love to know! Taken from the Henry Holt Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson  

10 Responses to “Where Did the Saying Cleanliness is Next to Godliness Come From”

  1. 1
    Becky says:

    I have heard that one over the years. I was so relieved when I figured out that it didn’t come from the Bible! Ha ha! :)

  2. 2

    We don’t use it here but I had heard it before. Trust me I would be so far from godliness if that were the case!
    Sarita Edgerton recently posted..OOOOOI Love a Love StoryMy Profile

    • 2.1

      Good one, Sarita!

      There are days my ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ would be in question too due to clay all over my clothes, hands and face. I become totally involved in my clay portrait sculpting!

  3. 3

    Ms. Donna, Thank you so much for dropping by my blog and for your encouragement! I am a visual person and I have to say your illustration (of driving to a new place) is superb! I totally get what you’re saying and have to admit I have done that very thing many times. I second guess myself quite a bit and get uncomfortable when my destination is unknown and I think I have missed something along the way. I am thankful for the words that were placed on your heart which I needed to hear… to not spend time back tracking but rather press forward knowing I have completed each instruction as directed. Praise God. So thankful for you.

    Also, I really enjoyed this post. I am, of course, familiar with the saying but never bothered to find its origin. I like fun facts. Thank you.

    Kindest regards,
    Brook
    Brook (Matt5verse6) recently posted..Overcoming Doubt and Pressing OnwardMy Profile

    • 3.1

      I really hate it when I second guess myself. I think it’s all about fear of getting my instructions wrong for getting there.

      It’s so much easier if you have ‘a point of reference’. Applying that to faith, ‘a point of reference’ would put me in the ‘Thomas’ category when he asked to see, touch and hear Jesus before he believed.

      And here I am once again learning to lean on, trust in and adhere to my Lord!

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