A "Do Not Be Afraid" for Every Day of the Year?
Jun 22, 2012 David Lang

A "Do Not Be Afraid" for Every Day of the Year?

InternetMeme1 Okay, I admit it! I'm a bit of a skeptic when it comes to information I receive over the internet. In my mind, forwarded e-mails and social media posts which relate exciting, interesting, or shocking "truths" are always guilty until proven innocent by a little fact-checking. I regularly turn to snopes.com to uncover internet hoaxes, and if I'm sent some fact about the Bible, I try to verify it using Accordance. Such was the case the other day when a friend posted something to Facebook which claimed that the phrase "Do not be afraid" appears 365 times in the Bible: a "daily reminder from God to live every day fearless."

While this is a nice sentiment, I couldn't help but switch to Accordance to see if it was true. I searched my default Bible, the HCSB, for "do not be afraid" and got just 29 hits! That didn't bode well for the internet meme.

Okay, so maybe the HCSB translates this phrase in other ways, such as "don't be afraid" or "do not fear". I added the OR command by using the keyboard shortcut shift-command-O and entered "don't be afraid." Then I added another OR command and typed "do not fear." While I was at it, I also added "don't fear," "be not afraid," and "fear not." Because Accordance accepts any group of words as a phrase, there is no need to enter quotation marks for this search, which now looks like this:

InternetMeme2

As you can see, even with all these different variations, the HCSB only returned 119 occurrences—far less than the 365 claimed by the internet meme.

Yet before I was ready to declare this myth "busted," I decided to search all my other English Bibles to see if some other translation actually had 365 occurrences of "do not be afraid." The easiest way to do this is simply to right-click (or control-click) the search entry field, then choose the group of modules you want to search from the Search All submenu. I've already predefined a custom group of modules containing my English Bibles, but if you haven't done this, you can simply choose [All Texts].

InternetMeme3

A Search All window will then open showing each English Bible and the number of times these phrases appear.

InternetMeme4

As you can see, none of them even comes close to the claimed number of 365 occurrences. I'd say the myth is busted, which either means we can only "live fearless" for about a third of the year, or, as I prefer to think, we don't need the Bible to say it 365 times in order to heed the message every day.

Before I leave this post, however, I want you to notice something about the results of my Search All: many popular translations, such as the KJV, NRSV, and NASB, are not represented at all! I have those Bibles installed, and surely they contain at least one instance of one of these phrases, so why weren't they found by my search?

I'll give you the answer in my next blog post, but in the meantime, I'll award a ten dollar Accordance credit to the first person who leaves a comment correctly explaining why the search failed for these Bibles. Be sure to include your first and last name and e-mail address when you post your comment so we can award you your credit. (Your e-mail address will not be seen by anyone but us.) Good luck, and have a great (dare I say "fearless"?) weekend!

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Archived Comments

Brandon Crowe

June 22, 2012 12:04 PM

I think it is b/c that is a group of English Bibles you set up, so if you did not add them to the group, then they would  not show up.


David Lang

June 22, 2012 12:37 PM
Good guess, Brandon, but I'm afraid that's not it. Those Bibles are included in my group.

Hans Christian Kley

June 22, 2012 12:41 PM

They phrase:

'Be not afraid' 

 

— no chance to find it with the search you tried.


Hans Kley

June 22, 2012 12:44 PM

Ah nah nonsense...


John Guthrie

June 22, 2012 12:47 PM

Those translations do not [don't :-)] have contractions in their dictionary lists so you get a dialog box trying to find the word you are looking for.


Hans Kley

June 22, 2012 12:47 PM

Now:

The ' in don't is blocking the other translations.


Herbert

June 22, 2012 10:23 PM

The keywords fear and afraid are not be enough in the search. If I add: do not be terrified, not revered, etc, I can get some more result. So, I believe we need to add more conditions with different English words in order to get the 365 result.


Amy Leung

June 23, 2012 9:32 AM

To search the KVJ and get results you need to use King James English.  Something along the lines of "thou shalt not..."   ;)

Not sure what the story with the other two translations is, have you reached the limit?  Accordance Help says that "Up to 50 verses of a text, or 50 paragraphs of a tool are displayed" on the Right Pane. :)


Amy Leung

June 23, 2012 10:54 AM

Okay, I found the answer.  For King James, you need to use something like "fear not".  :)

For the others, the word "dont" does not occur in their text and any search with words that do not exist would return no hits.  E.g. "zzzz" <OR> "do not fear" on any resource that hasn't got a word "zzzz" will somehow return no hits.


Bambang Theo

November 09, 2012 12:58 AM

Ah. the most important to me is how we do it into the life. Shall we be affraid or surrender to His protection to overcome the fear . No matter how many time the bible says about it.


Kimster

December 29, 2012 3:43 PM

Good Job, David! It's good to know there are some people out there who still do a little research and don't just believe everything they see on the internet, especially when it involves the Bible! Hats off to you sir for doing your homework.


Binu Thampi

March 11, 2013 11:08 AM

I heard a sunday school teached rattle of the above statement last sunday and was quite amazed at the thought of it. 

Unlike you I very lazily did a searched an internet search engine and came upon your article. I did feel sad that the wrong information is being spread. I wondered how the little children would think once they found out that they were given wrong information. 

Thanks for the info!


jenz b

May 25, 2013 4:34 PM
God promised, never He will leave us nor forsake us. the wisdom of man is foolishness in the sight of God. When He said "fear not" or don't be afraid/ do nor be afraid, He meant it. To be skeptical in His words renounces who He is. Jesus loves you all. God bless.

Dusty Delafield

June 01, 2013 7:53 PM

I use "Bible Explorer 4" for my personal study because I have bought commentaries I use with that program.  I did a search in that program for:

"fear not" OR "do not fear" OR "do not be afraid" OR "don't fear" OR "don't be afraid" OR "be not afraid"

in the 1984 NIV (not the newest 2011) and it found 412 occurrences in 110 sections.  The NASB turned up 341 occurrences in 99 sections. 

An example in Numbers 14:9 where there are 2 occurrences in 1 section, 9 "Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they shall be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them."

I'm not sure if the program you were using separates occurrences from sections.  That might account for the lower numbers.  My NIV occurrence number was 110 which is very close to your 115 in the picture posted on this article. 


David Lang

June 02, 2013 5:53 PM

Dusty, Accordance Bible Software counts both the number of times one of these phrases is found, along with the number of verses displayed. When I do this search in the 1984 NIV, I find 115 occurrences of the phrase in 110 verses. The difference in number is accounted for by verses like Numbers 14:9 where "do not fear" appears more than once in a single verse.

I suspect that the much higher number of occurrences returned by Bible Explorer 4 has to do with the way occurrences are counted. Accordance counts each occurrence of the ENTIRE phrase, while Bible Explorer is probably counting the total number of words found. Thus, Accordance would count the first occurrence of "do not fear" as 1 hit, while Bible Explorer is likely counting it as 3 hits.

It is interesting that the number of occurrences returned by programs that count each word rather than each phrase happens to be in the 300-400 range. Perhaps that's how this "myth" got started. Someone did a search for "do not be afraid" using a program that counts each word and saw that there were 365 occurrences. But it is the number of occurrences of the entire phrase that needs to be considered, not the total number of words in the phrase.


Gary Sellars

June 06, 2013 4:22 PM

The myth, fantasy, lie, or what ever you want to call it, began far before the Internet began.

I suspect it began by the simple question "I wonder if God put 'Fear not' (since the KJV had the widest use) in the Bible 365 times, once for every day of the year?"

Knowing how little so many people appreciate the value of integrity, I suspect that morphed into a statement and too many people thought the benefit of the encouragement was worth the cost of a bit of exaggeration.

I've heard it stated by many preachers as a fact over my 41+ years of listening to too many preachers that do not fully appreciate God's disdain for misrepresentations.

I looked it up before and found what you found. It's simply a lie. Worse, it undervalues the authority of God's Word, which plainly declares that "every fact is to be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses."

 




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