More than once over the years, I’ve stumbled across the assertion that the Bible contains the phrase “Don’t be afraid” 365 times. Lots of Christians take that number to be a meaningful sign of God’s love for humankind. The Almighty soothes our fears and anxieties every day of the year, they marvel.
Here’s an example (courtesy of FOX News contributor Tomi Lahren) that’s recently been doing the rounds on social media again:
"Don't be afraid" is written in the Bible 365 times- a daily reminder from God to live everyday fearlessly.
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) March 26, 2017
“Don’t be afraid” is written in the Bible 365 times— a daily reminder from God to live everyday [sic] fearlessly.”
Isn’t that wondrous? It’s a Biblical Easter egg! God is so cool!
Except that multiple times when the Bible tells readers not to be afraid, it is to set up one tribe of puny humans against another — and sometimes this comes in the context of genocide, murder, or warfare that God’s chosen people are expected to cheer and/or participate in. For instance,
“Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.” — Ezekiel 2:6
“Do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them.” — Numbers 14:9
“Do not be afraid as you go out to fight your enemies today.” — Deuteronomy 23:5
Now, is “don’t be afraid” really in the Bible 365 times? In the interest of fairness, I searched Biblehub.com not just for that phrase, but also for variations that mean the same thing: “do not be afraid,” “be not afraid,” “do not fear,” and “fear not.” Total score after eliminating double and triple hits attributable to the Bible’s many translations and editions: 57 mentions.
If that’s correct, and you were so unwise as to produce a tear-off calendar with a Biblical “no fear” quote for each day, your year would be over before the last day of February.
Even this minister’s wife, who, to her credit, was prudent enough to factcheck the “365” assertion, discovered that it’s nonsense. She comes up with different numbers than I did, but reaches the same conclusion:
I was so intrigued when I learned that “Fear Not” was in the Bible 365 times. I thought, “Wow! How awesome is that!” … While it’s a great idea to think that God comforted us with “Fear not” 365 times, it’s simply just not true.
Religion is rife with fabrications, myths, and cock-and-bull stories. This is just another one.