I always thought that saying came from my mother!
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