The Bible is a very badly written book. Among many other flaws, it’s full of unintentional non sequiturs. It says things that have no logical connection to what came before, or that don’t make sense given what was just said. I’ve written about those before.
But there’s a worse kind of non sequitur in the Bible as well. Besides all those sudden little shifts in topic, the Bible also makes a lot of failed attempts at reasoning. It arrives at conclusions that are not justified by the reasons given. And it gives reasons for doing things, that aren’t actually reasons to do those things.
Job describes how the wicked are incredibly prosperous all their lives. And he says their prosperity is not in their own hands. So I guess he’s saying it’s God who is making them prosperous. Then Job concludes that he doesn’t want anything to do with the wicked. Which would normally make sense, but not so much after everything he just said.
Why doesn’t Job want to join them and prosper, with God’s blessing? Or even if he’s not saying God is actively rewarding the wicked, he is still saying there’s no connection between what you do and what happens to you. That is not a reason to avoid wickedness.
One of Job’s “friends” disagrees with some of the things Job said: Eliphaz claims that Job is wicked, and that the wicked don’t prosper. But then Eliphaz contradicts himself and says God makes the wicked prosper. And he too somehow concludes that he wants to stay away from those prosperous people.
Then some guy named Elihu comes out of nowhere and talks quite a lot. But nobody ever acknowledges he’s there, and even he can’t remember what point he’s trying to make. Elihu says God is perfectly just and never does anything wrong. Then for some reason he starts questioning how God got put in charge of the world. And bringing up the possibility that God could kill everyone. I’m not sure how any of that is supposed to support what he was saying about God being good.
God tells Abraham that four generations later, his descendants will come and live where he is now. And he says that will happen because… the Amorites aren’t yet as sinful as they’re going to be? What does that have to do with anything?
God tells Laban not to say anything to Jacob, and that’s why Laban TELLS Jacob he won’t harm him.
When Rachel gives birth to her last son, the midwife tells her she has a son now. Therefore, Rachel shouldn’t care that she’s dying.
Joseph needs a way to convince the Pharaoh to let Joseph’s family live in Egypt even though Egyptians hate shepherds. So Joseph advises his brothers to tell Pharaoh that they tend livestock for a living. How is that supposed to help? If anything, bringing up livestock should make Pharaoh want to know just what kind of livestock they intend to bring into his country…
Another Pharaoh apparently objects to Moses stopping the Israelites from working because… they’re numerous? So if there weren’t so many of them, then would this Pharaoh be okay with his slaves not working? Why is he bringing up the fact that they’re numerous?
Moses agrees to get God to remove a plague he had sent, and to do it on the day Pharaoh chooses. Because Moses thinks that will prove that there is no one like God. It won’t. At best, that might prove something about God, but it wouldn’t prove anything about anyone else. God being able to do that is perfectly compatible with other people being able to do it too.
God thinks he can teach people that “man does not live on bread alone”… by feeding them bread. (And then when Jesus quotes what God said about that, he acts like it was a command not to eat bread, or something.)
God makes sure his people understand that he thinks they’re evil. And he says he doesn’t want those other evil people living in the land, because they’re evil! Evil people don’t deserve to live in that land. And that’s why God is going to get rid of them, and give the land to these evil people instead.
Moses expects the other nations to rejoice because God is going to take vengeance on behalf of his own people. That is not a reason for the other nations to rejoice.
The Bible says the Israelites were able to kill 12,000 men and women because Joshua was holding out his javelin the whole time. There is absolutely no attempt to explain how holding out a javelin is supposed to have caused that. Or how the position of Moses’s hands is supposed to have influenced who was winning in an earlier battle.
When his people are accused of stealing land from the Ammonites, Jephthah tries to refute that by talking about the Amorites instead of the Ammonites.
Later, Jephthah informed his daughter of his plans to murder her for God. So she went out into the hills to mourn with her friends for two months. And then she returned to her father to let him murder her. And it says that’s the reason the young women of Israel have a tradition of going out for four days each year. Why four days? If Jephthah’s daughter is the reason they’re doing this, why don’t they go out for two months?
A Levite became like a son to Micah, because they agreed that the Levite would be his father. Another Levite explained that some men had raped and killed his girlfriend, and that’s why he chopped her up and sent the pieces all over the country.
David tries to convince Abiathar to stay with him, by pointing out that David knowingly got Abiathar’s whole family killed. And that the man who wants to kill Abiathar is also trying to kill David. Therefore, Abiathar will definitely be safe with David.
David speculates that one possible reason Saul is trying to kill him could be that some people convinced him to. And then David somehow concludes that those hypothetical people must have told someone to serve other gods.
The Jebusites were confident that even the blind and lame among them could keep David out of their city. David heard that, and started talking about the Jebusites like they were all blind and lame. And that’s how “The blind and lame will not enter the palace” became a saying, somehow. Even though nobody was talking about the Jebusites entering anything.
David is thirsty, so some of his best warriors risk their lives to get him some water. Then David refuses to drink it. Because those guys risked their lives to get it for him, and that somehow means he can’t drink it.
A psalmist thinks if God fulfilled his promises to people, that would be a good way to make people fear him. What’s so scary about someone keeping promises they made to you? And then there’s Solomon, who thinks you should fear God because dreaming and talking too much is meaningless.
Solomon’s brother wants to marry the girl who used to platonically share a bed with his father. And Solomon thinks that’s the same as wanting to rule the kingdom. Solomon also thinks that by building a temple for God, he’s fulfilling what God said when God said he never asked for a temple.
Solomon says officials have a hierarchy among themselves. So he thinks you shouldn’t be surprised if they unjustly oppress the poor. He says God is the cause of both good times and bad times. And he thinks that’s why you can’t know the future. He tells about a wise man who was forgotten, and he concludes that wisdom is better than strength. And he thinks youth is meaningless, and that’s why you shouldn’t be anxious or troubled.
Elijah asks God to kill him, because Elijah isn’t better than his ancestors. I didn’t know being superior to all your ancestors was a requirement for getting to live, did you?
The people of Judah were afraid of the Babylonians, because an Ammonite sent a Hebrew to kill the leader that the king of Babylon had appointed for them. That might be a reason to be afraid of the Ammonites, but it’s not a reason to be afraid of the Babylonians.
Nebuchadnezzar sees that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego has rescued them. And he concludes that no other god can do the same thing. Even though he hasn’t actually tried executing followers of all the other gods to see if their gods rescue them too. He also concludes that he should kill anyone who says anything bad about this God. That doesn’t in any way logically follow from either of those things.
Daniel’s enemies convince King Darius to make a law against praying to anyone but Darius. Then they report that they saw Daniel praying. So they tell the king that Daniel is breaking the law. Even though Daniel could have been praying to Darius, for all they know.
If you get persecuted the way the prophets were persecuted, Jesus expects you to be happy about it. Because that somehow means you’re going to be greatly rewarded. Even though you didn’t necessarily do anything good.
If God knows how to give you a good gift, Jesus thinks that’s a reason to follow the Golden Rule. Jesus also tells people to be good and loving and generous to their enemies. But he says the reason to do that is because God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. That is not a reason to do that. It’s a reason to be ungrateful and wicked.
Jesus gets mad at towns because they don’t repent when they see him do miracles. I’m not sure why he expected them to. How is seeing miracles a reason to repent?
Jesus’s disciples ask him why he talks to people in parables. His non-answer is that it’s because the people don’t understand what they see and hear. Unclear messages are not going to help with that problem. Jesus also implies that he doesn’t really want all those people to know “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” for some reason. If that’s the case, that’s still not a reason to speak in confusing parables. If you don’t want them to know, why talk to them at all?
Jesus makes a terrible analogy about fish and afterlives. And he says that’s why teachers of the law who become disciples are like an owner of a house who brings out new and old treasures. Then he tells Peter that 77 is how many times Peter should forgive his sibling. And that’s why the kingdom of heaven is like a king who makes slaves of the families of people who can’t pay their debt.
Jesus thinks the least of his disciples is the greatest. And that’s why if they welcome some kid, they’re welcoming Jesus and God. I’m not sure what those things have to do with each other. Is he trying to get them to welcome that little kid to be a disciple, so the kid can be the least and the greatest disciple? That would mean Jesus and God would also become disciples of Jesus… This isn’t making any sense.
Jesus attempts to convince people that they should give up everything they have… using stories about people who clearly would be even worse off if they did that. The people in the stories need more of what they have, not less. So Jesus is saying you should give up everything you have “in the same way” that these people… shouldn’t??
A man thinks it’s remarkable that the Pharisees don’t know where Jesus came from, “yet” Jesus was able to cure the man’s blindness. How would the Pharisees knowing where Jesus was from make it any easier for him to cure blindness?
Jesus thinks hired hands, unlike their employers who actually own the sheep, have no reason to care about the sheep’s survival. But why wouldn’t a hired hand care? If he fails to care for the sheep, he’ll be a fired hand.
Jesus says he’s going to kill himself, but only temporarily, and that’s why his father loves him. How is that a reason to love someone?
Jesus loves his friend Lazarus. So when he hears that Lazarus is sick, Jesus stays right where he is for two more days and lets Lazarus die.
Jesus talks to God, and he points out that he really didn’t need to say what he just said to God. And he explains to God (needlessly) that he was actually saying it so the people watching him would believe that God had sent him. How are they supposed to conclude that? Nothing he just said gives them a good reason to think that.
Pilate says Jesus hasn’t broken any Roman laws, and he tells the Jews to crucify Jesus themselves. Then instead of reminding Pilate that the Roman law doesn’t allow Jews to do that, Jesus’s Jewish enemies agree that Jesus broke a Jewish law, not a Roman law… and that’s why they’re insisting that the Romans have to punish him??
The centurion is described as praising God when he declares that Jesus was a righteous man, after watching him get tortured and killed. Why is he praising God for letting a righteous man be tortured and killed?
Peter acknowledges that the money Ananias has earned belongs to Ananias. But he thinks that somehow supports his idea that Ananias has done something wrong by keeping a little of his own money for himself.
Continue reading Logical non sequiturs in the Bible