Where Does ‘Cleanliness Next To Godliness’ Phrase Come From?
Ambo TV had some fun on the streets of New York City recently where we asked people if the phrase “cleanliness is next to Godliness” can be found in the Bible.
While the phrase isn’t found anywhere in scripture, it can be found in some other books. In 1605, English philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon wrote a similar quote in his book Advancement of Learning.
“Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God,” he wrote.
Over a century later John Wesley, the theologian who founded Methodism, preached about a similar concept in a 1778 sermon.
“Let it be observed, that slovenliness is no part of religion; that neither this, nor any text of Scripture, condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly this is a duty, not a sin,” an excerpt in the book Sermons by John Wesley states.“Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness.”
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the phrase can be dated back to the Babylonian Talmud which refers to cleanliness as godliness.
While the Bible does not explicitly mention the phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” it does liken physical cleansing to spiritual cleansing in several areas.
One example can be found in the book of Leviticus. Chapter 15 of that book speaks about the concept when it states,
“and when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall number to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean. And on the eighth day he shall take to him two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, and come before the LORD unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and give them unto the priest: And the priest shall offer them, the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD for his issue.” (Lev. 15:14-15)