Tag Archives: pointlessness

The Story of Jonah and the Fish
It was This Big!

God told a prophet named Jonah to go to the Assyrian city of Nineveh and announce that it would be destroyed soon. But Jonah knew God well enough to know that he wouldn’t actually do what he said he would do. Jonah didn’t think it would be right to deliver a false prophecy, so he ran away from God and hid on a ship that was going somewhere else.1

But God sent a storm, which nearly wrecked the ship. The sailors found out that Jonah had angered his God and brought a storm on their ship. So Jonah suggested they throw him overboard, to divert God’s wrath away from the ship. But the sailors didn’t want to kill him. They tried to sail back and return him to land, so he could resume his mission.

But God liked Jonah’s idea better, so he made the storm worse and prevented them from getting back to land. So the sailors reluctantly threw Jonah overboard, and the storm stopped. God sent a huge fish, which swallowed Jonah and then threw him up on land three days later.

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It was This Big!
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Why it makes no sense to pray for anything

Jesus says believers can ask him/God for anything they want, and he will do it. As long as you have even the tiniest amount of faith, nothing will be impossible for you, not even moving mountains. Whatever you ask for in prayer will be yours, if you believe it will be.

Well, some parts of the Bible suggest that you might have to ask in the name of Jesus, and have somebody else agree with you on what you’re asking for. The Bible says the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective, so just make sure you have a clear conscience, and you can get anything you ask for. As long as it’s God’s will, anyway…

But actually, the Bible says God gives generously to all without finding fault, so forget about all those apparent preconditions (belief, righteousness, agreement, asking in Jesus’s name, aligning with God’s will, etc.). None of those things are even required before God will give you what you ask for. If you don’t have what you want, it’s only because you haven’t asked God for it. Jesus agrees: he taught that everyone who asks receives. God even gives good gifts to evil people if they ask.

Of course, Jesus and the Bible are wrong, as usual. In reality, nobody ever gets what they want because they prayed for it.

Testing the claim

Scientific experiments

Since Jesus makes such a strong claim, that you can ask for anything in prayer and God will always give you what you ask for, all it takes to disprove that claim is to observe one single case of someone not getting what they prayed for. But we can do better than that. Even the weaker claim that prayer sometimes gets results can be disproved. When people have tried actually rigorously testing the hypothesis that prayer has a healing effect, most of the studies have found no healing effect.

Why only most? A few false positives are to be expected by chance, even if there is no real effect. But usually when a study seems to show that prayer works, it’s because that study is flawed. The more a study is well-designed, the less effect of prayer it finds.

In some of the studies, the subjects all knew they were being prayed for, which is the only reason they felt better afterwards. As shown by other studies that found that people felt better when they thought people were praying for them, not when people actually were praying for them.

(Although not even that placebo effect consistently works. Some well-done studies have found that the patients who didn’t know they were being prayed for had worse outcomes than the ones who weren’t being prayed for at all, and the people who knew they were being prayed for ended up even worse off than that.

Maybe that knowledge gave those patients performance anxiety, or maybe the patients interpreted doctors resorting to prayer as an indication that their situation was hopeless. Or maybe there’s no real effect here either way, just minor random variation.)

Then there’s this study, where there weren’t enough subjects involved, and the statistical analysis was done by a biased person without sufficient blinding (a problem other prominent prayer studies have had as well), and they claimed success based on outcomes other than what they were originally supposed to be testing for, and they failed to control for which patients had health insurance, and they didn’t distinguish between prayer and other supernatural healing methods, and it’s not clear whether actual prayer was even involved at all.

And that’s not the worst one that has been done. Another study on prayer had an even smaller sample size and no control group, and was not double-blinded. And it was funded by the Templeton Foundation, which gives the researchers a corrupt incentive to report results in favor of religion regardless of what they actually find.

Even the few prayer studies that are pretty well designed and still get so-called positive results show much more limited effects than you’d expect from an all-powerful God. If the difference in outcomes between groups in those studies was really caused by God and not chance, why would that difference merely be something like 14% of patients in the prayer group getting a bad outcome vs 22% in the control group? And why would most of the outcome variables measured show no effect of prayer, including variables like “recovering quickly” and “not dying”, which were outcomes that people were specifically praying for?

There was one study on prayer (for increasing fertility) that did find quite a significant effect size… but that study turned out to be completely fraudulent.

Keep in mind that these specific studies I’m mentioning here are just the few where prayer appeared to get fairly good results. The vast majority of studies on prayer have found no significant effect at all.

Anyway, maybe studies on prayers for sick people shouldn’t be taken as evidence for or against the effectiveness of prayer, because prayer is awfully hard to control for. Most people who are sick are already going to be praying and/or having others pray for them, so it would be hard to be sure you actually had a non-prayer group of patients to compare with. It’s probably better to assess the effectiveness of prayer by looking at something that people aren’t going to be praying about already.

Informal experiments

Most people don’t even bother keeping track of which of their prayers were or were not successful, and as a result they only remember the times when they got what they asked for. But if you do try keeping track, you’ll find that most of your prayers actually go unanswered.

You can also try keeping track of the same things you would have asked God for, but without praying. Or you could try praying to a jug of milk or something instead. It won’t make any difference. You will get about the same success rate as when you prayed to God, because all the “answered prayers” you’ve experienced were just coincidences. (Of course, to make it a fair comparison, you have to make sure that the way you evaluate the results of praying to the milk jug is just as biased as the way you evaluate the results of praying to God.)

An even easier way to test whether prayer has any effect is to try asking God to do something that unambiguously could not possibly happen without supernatural intervention. After all, if you believe you have access to an all-powerful prayer-answering God, why limit your requests to things that can happen without God’s help? Jesus promised that believers can pray for things that seem impossible, and they will get what they ask for.

So ask God to do something like moving a mountain, or making a coin land the same way 50 times in a row. Or if you prefer, try asking him to do something more useful, like restoring an amputated limb, or eliminating all cases of a common disease. And to make sure that what’s happening is unambiguous, ask him to do it instantly and without help from humans.1

When you ask for something unambiguous like that, you never get it. It doesn’t matter how good a reason you have for wanting the miracle to happen.2 It also doesn’t make any difference if you make sure to fulfill all the conditions that the Bible sometimes says (and sometimes doesn’t say) are required for your prayers to be answered.

If the only way it can happen is with God’s help, it will never happen. You only get “results” from prayer when you ask for something mundane, something that can happen even though there’s no God listening to you.

Consider the massive amount of evil that is constantly happening in the world. There must be so many people praying all the time for God to stop those things from happening, yet they continue to happen. God clearly isn’t answering prayers. And if he’s not willing for whatever reason to do anything about all the world’s big important problems, do you really think he’s going to take your trivial personal requests? The little things you ask for and get are just things that would have happened anyway.

When one or a few people pray during a disaster and end up being the only survivors, this is taken as evidence that prayer is effective. But were those people really the only ones who prayed? Most people are religious, so probably not. You just don’t hear about the rest praying, because dead people don’t get to talk about what happened when they prayed, so everyone ignores them. But most of the people affected by the disaster likely did pray, and most of those people who prayed didn’t survive. So no, that is not evidence that prayer is effective.3

Similarly, lots of extremely ill people pray for recovery, and lots of them don’t recover. But the few who do recover are the only ones you get to hear talking about what happened when they prayed. So if you don’t actively look into the numbers, you can easily get a very distorted impression of the effectiveness of prayer. In reality, prayer has no effect on death rates.

You don’t even have to test it to know that prayer won’t get results

Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?

God

What happens if you pray for something that requires other people to do something? Either God doesn’t respect people’s free will and will force those people to do things just because you asked him to, or the outcome of your prayer depends on those people’s decisions rather than on God.

Or what happens if two people pray for incompatible outcomes? They’re not both going to get what they asked for. Jesus’s claim that all prayers will be answered isn’t even logically possible.

But why should prayer even be needed? A good God would protect everyone from harm all the time, not just when they prayed. So why pray? Do you think God doesn’t already know what you need? If an all-knowing God hasn’t helped you already without you praying, it’s because either God is not good, or helping you isn’t actually the right thing to do. Either way, praying isn’t going to make any difference.

They say God has a plan, and everything that ever happens happens for a good reason, since it’s all part of God’s perfect plan. This idea is incompatible with the idea of a prayer-answering God. Not everything people want is going to be part of God’s original plan, so any prayers that don’t happen to fit into the plan are going to have to go unfulfilled.

What else could God do? Do you really expect God to change his plan just because a human asks him to? Why would you even want him to? Do you think you know better than God? To ask God to do what you want is to say that you think his own plan isn’t good enough. Prayer is blasphemy.

Either he was already going to do what you think he should do, so asking him to do it is pointless, or he already decided it wasn’t the best thing to do, which means you are asking God to do something bad. Do you think God is going to agree to do something bad for you? Do you think just because you think the alternative course of events would be bad, God is going to prevent it, and thereby prevent all the greater good consequences that he knows it will have?

Because according to a popular theistic argument, every seemingly undesirable event that ever happens was planned by God for a reason. It must have some awfully important planned consequences, if God was willing to intentionally plan for that unpleasant event to happen, just so those consequences could happen. So God is certainly not going to let you disrupt his perfect plan and prevent all the good that was going to happen because of that event, just because you said so. He’s going to ignore your prayer.

If God is all-knowing and all-good, then he doesn’t need you to tell him what to do, and he isn’t going to let you. Or, if God does let imperfect humans influence his actions, then God is imperfect.

Making excuses for God

Believers have plenty of explanations for why God doesn’t answer prayers. It’s easy to come up with excuses for God when you’ve had so much practice because God has been constantly disappointing you all your life.

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The Story of the Two Prophets
An Expensive Meal

During the reign of Jeroboam, God sent a prophet to deliver a message to the king. After ignoring the prophecy, the king invited the prophet to his home for a meal. But the prophet refused Jeroboam’s offer, because God had told him not to eat or drink until he got back to his own home.

On the way home, the prophet met an old prophet. The old prophet also invited him to have a meal, and the younger prophet explained again that he had to wait till he got home to eat. But the old prophet lied and told him that God wanted him to eat and drink with him. So the younger prophet went to the old prophet’s house and ate and drank. Then the old prophet declared that the younger prophet had disobeyed God and would be punished. The younger prophet tried to go home, but God sent a lion after him, and it killed him.

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An Expensive Meal
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The Story of King Solomon
The Wisest Man in the World

When King David was old, he had trouble staying warm. His attendants solved that problem by finding a hot girl to lie next to him in bed. Her name was Abishag, but he didn’t shag her. One day, David’s wife Bathsheba came to his room with a complaint.

She said David had promised that her son Solomon would be the next king. But now another son of David, Adonijah, had made himself king. Then David had Bathsheba come to his room, and he declared Solomon to be the new king of Israel.

When Adonijah heard about that, he was afraid Solomon would kill him. Solomon decided not to kill his brother for trying to become king. But then when Adonijah tried to marry Abishag, Solomon did kill him, because he thought that meant Adonijah was trying to become king. After David died, Solomon also killed a man David had sworn would not be killed, because Solomon was a wise man.

One night, after Solomon sacrificed at an unauthorized altar, God offered to give him anything he wanted. Solomon asked for wisdom, because he was young and inexperienced and ignorant and didn’t know right from wrong. God was so pleased that Solomon hadn’t asked for money that he made Solomon the richest king of all time, and he also made him the wisest person of all time. Solomon later asked God to let him live as long as the sun and moon endured. But apparently God didn’t like that request as much.

After he became wise, Solomon suggested cutting a baby in half. Then he wisely decided not to let the baby be raised by a prostitute who thought his idea was a good one. (He gave the baby to a different prostitute instead.)

King Solomon ruled over many other kingdoms in addition to Israel. During his reign there was peace for Israel, except when there wasn’t. He wrote thousands of songs1 and proverbs, and studied plants and animals. People came from all over the world to hear his wisdom. But wisdom was beyond him.

Continue reading The Story of King Solomon
The Wisest Man in the World
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The Story of David’s Census
Morning by Morning He Dispenses With Justice

God was feeling angry at his people, and needed an excuse to punish them. So he told David to take a census of Israel.1 David’s commander Joab thought God’s idea was repulsive for some reason, but he helped David count the Israelites anyway.

After taking the census, David decided that Joab was right, that what he had done was foolish and sinful, and God agreed. God sent a prophet to ask David how he would like to be punished for obeying God. David didn’t fear God as much as he feared men, so he said he would prefer God to punish him himself, rather than sending David’s enemies to punish him.

Continue reading The Story of David’s Census
Morning by Morning He Dispenses With Justice
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The Bible is disgusting

Good news: According to the Bible, you don’t ever need to worry about what you will eat. You can just let God take care of you, and he’ll provide you with all the food you need! He’ll drop it all over the ground and make you pick up unknown substances off the ground and eat them.

If a man suspects his wife might be cheating on him, God’s solution is to force her to drink some water contaminated with dust from the floor and ink from a scroll. God claims that this will only harm her if she’s actually guilty.

If you want to be a Nazirite for some reason, then when you’re done being that, somebody’s going to have to place a boiled shoulder in your hands.

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The Story of the Mighty Warriors
The Ungrateful Jerk

One day, while David was fighting the Philistines, he complained that he was thirsty. There was a well over near where the Philistines were encamped. So three of David’s best warriors risked their lives to bring him some water from that well. But then David refused to drink it, claiming that they had brought him blood instead of water. He poured the water out on the ground.

The end.

The moral of the story

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The Ungrateful Jerk
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The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 7: Rambling

This is the seventh in a series of posts about unnecessary repetition in the Bible. To conclude this series, I’ll be listing some passages that go on and on, only to keep saying more or less the same thing.

Like this description of Noah’s flood: The flood kept coming on the earth, the waters increased high above the earth, the waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, they rose and increased greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains were covered. After that was over, it says God told Noah and his sons to be fruitful, and increase in number, and fill the earth, and then he told them to be fruitful, and increase in number, and multiply on the earth, and increase upon it.

Then God said he was establishing his covenant with them and their descendants and all the animals. He said he was establishing his covenant with them. His covenant was a promise that all life would never again be destroyed by a flood, and that there would never again be a flood to destroy the earth.

He said the sign of the covenant he was making with them and their descendants and all the animals was a rainbow, which would be the sign of the covenant between him and the earth. Whenever the rainbow appeared, he would remember his covenant with them and all the animals. He said the waters would never again become a flood to destroy all life, because whenever the rainbow appeared, he would remember his covenant with all the creatures on earth. And he said that was the sign of the covenant he was establishing with all life on earth.

Later, God made another covenant. He told Abram that he would be the father of many nations, and that his new name would be Abraham (Father of Many), because he would be a father of many nations. He also said he would make him very fruitful and make nations of him. A few chapters later, there’s a little argument between Abraham and the Hittites where they just keep saying pretty much the same things: Abraham wants them to sell him a burial site, and they want to give it to him for free.

Abraham’s great-grandsons also had a monotonous argument: Joseph kept saying his brothers were there to spy on Egypt, and his brothers kept saying they were brothers, so they couldn’t possibly be spies. When he sent them home, they told their father that the man in charge of Egypt had said they wouldn’t see his face again unless their youngest brother was with them. They told their father that if he would send that brother with them, they would go to Egypt again to buy more food, but if he didn’t send him, they wouldn’t go, because that man had said they wouldn’t see his face again unless their brother was with them.

1 Chronicles tells the names of the sons of Jacob’s grandson Merari, which you’d think would mean all of them. Then it says someone named Beno was the son of Jaaziah, whoever that is, and it makes it sound like there are no other sons of Jaaziah. Then it once again starts to tell the sons of Merari, but it says these are “from Jaaziah“, whatever that means. And it lists some sons, one of which is Beno again. (Is Jaaziah a wife of Merari or something?)

Post-exodus

After bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, God told Moses that he would dwell among them and be their God, and that they would then know that he was the Lord their God, who had brought them out of Egypt so he could dwell among them. And he also said he was the Lord their God. Later, he said it some more.

God dwelt among his people in the form of a cloud. Once the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. That’s how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. When the cloud moved, the people followed it, and when it stopped, they stopped. They set out at God’s command, and they encamped at God’s command.

As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they stayed where they were. When it stayed still a long time, they stayed still a long time. When it stayed still a short time, they stayed still a short time. When it stayed still a shorter time, they stayed still a shorter time. They moved with the cloud, whether it was day or night. However long it stayed, they stayed, and then when it lifted, they set out. They set out at God’s command, and they encamped at God’s command. And they obeyed the Lord’s order.

After God did a miracle that he was sure would make his people stop complaining, his people complained that they were going to die, they were lost, they were all lost, anyone who went near the tabernacle would die, and they were probably all going to die.

In Numbers 33, you can see the stages of the journey of the Israelites, because Moses recorded the stages in their journey, and what’s written there is their journey by stages.

God said his people shouldn’t think he was giving them the promised land because they were righteous, because it was really because the people who already lived there were wicked. He told them they weren’t going to take that land because of their own righteousness. Instead, God was going to get rid of the other nations on account of their wickedness. He wanted his people to understand that it wasn’t because of their righteousness that he was giving them the land.

Before Moses died, God told him that the people were going to embrace foreign gods, they would forsake God and break his covenant, and he would get angry and forsake them. He would abandon them and they would be destroyed, and many disasters and calamities would come on them. They would realize that the disasters came because God wasn’t with them, and God would hide from them because they turned to other gods. Then he told Moses that the people were going to turn to other gods and reject him and break his covenant, and many disasters and calamities would come on them.

God told Moses’s successor Joshua to be strong and courageous. Then he told him to be strong and very courageous. Then he told him to be strong and courageous, not to be afraid, and not to be discouraged. And at the end of that chapter, the people tell Joshua to be strong and courageous.

When the Israelites were luring their enemies away from the city of Ai so they could ambush it, it says all the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. None of them stayed in Ai and didn’t go after them; they left their city vulnerable and went in pursuit of Israel.

Post-settlement

When a Canaanite commander was fleeing from the Israelites, a woman let him take refuge in her tent. But then she murdered him in his sleep, which somehow caused him to fall to the ground. Then some people sang a song about it, containing a very repetitive verse. That verse says twice that he sank at her feet, and it says twice that he fell. It also says that he lay there, that where he sank was where he fell, and that he was dead. The song then portrays another woman as speculating in a redundant manner about what plunder the commander’s men might bring home.

A woman who was giving birth heard that the ark of the covenant had been captured and that her father-in-law and husband were dead. She named her child “no glory”, because she said the Glory had departed from Israel, because of the capture of the ark and the deaths of her father-in-law and husband. And she said the Glory had departed from Israel because the ark of God was captured.

Saul was afraid of David because God was with David. Saul gave David command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns, which were always successful, because God was with David. When Saul saw how successful David was, he was afraid of him, but the people loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.

After God made his deceptive promises to David, David informed God that God was God, and that he had promised those things to him. He said God had blessed the house of David so it would continue forever, because he, God, had blessed it, and it would be blessed forever.

King David’s dead best friend’s disabled son’s dishonest fraudulent treacherous steward Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” What a pointlessly cumbersome way to talk.

After God killed David’s innocent baby for the sins of its father, David realized the child was dead. He asked his attendants “Is the child dead?” And they replied, “Yes, he is dead.” Later, David’s commander Joab killed another of David’s sons, Absalom, who had wanted to kill David. David was a lot more upset about this son’s death, saying “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! …O Absalom, my son, my son!

1 Chronicles says David’s army had 12 divisions that took turns, with one division being on duty each month. Each division consisted of 24,000 men. Then it says the guy in charge of the first division, for the first month, had 24,000 men in his division, and that he was in charge of all the army officers for the first month. And then it goes on to tell who was in charge of each of the other divisions, each time saying there were 24,000 men in his division.

David gave his son Solomon plans for building the temple, specifying the weight of gold for all the gold articles to be used in various kinds of service, and the weight of silver for all the silver articles to be used in various kinds of service. That included the weight of the gold for the gold lampstands and their lamps (with the weight specified for each lampstand and its lamps), and the weight of silver for each silver lampstand and its lamps (according to the use of each lampstand), etc.

Solomon made two cherub sculptures for the temple, and their total wingspan was 20 cubits. One wing of the first cherub was five cubits and touched the wall, and its other wing was five cubits and touched the other cherub’s wing. That other cherub also had one wing that was five cubits and touched the wall, and another wing that was five cubits and touched the first cherub’s wing. The wings of those cherubim extended 20 cubits.

After Jeroboam took over most of Israel from Solomon’s son, he instituted a festival on the 15th day of the 8th month, and offered sacrifices on the altar. He made those sacrifices in Bethel to the calves he had made, and in Bethel he installed priests at the high places he had made. On the 15th day of the 8th month, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had made at Bethel. And he instituted that festival, and went to the altar to make offerings.

In Asa’s days, the country was at peace for ten years. Asa did what was right in the eyes of God. He removed the foreign altars and high places. He told the people to obey God. He removed the high places and altars, and the kingdom was at peace. He build up the cities, because the land was at peace, and no one was at war with him, because God gave him rest. And he told the people to build up the towns, because they could, because they had pleased God, and he had given them rest. So they built them.

The ramblings of Jesus

Jesus made three statements in a row about what he thinks makes you not worthy of him, and then he rambled a bit about the consequences of welcoming different people.

He said soon the world wouldn’t see him, but his disciples would see him. He said they would live, because he lived. He said they would realize that he was in his Father and they were in him and he was in them, whatever that means. He said whoever keeps his commands loves him, and his Father will love whoever loves him, and he’ll love them, too.

In Jesus’s description of the last judgment, he goes on for 12 verses just quoting his future self listing the things that he claims people did or didn’t do to him, and then having those confused people repeat the list of things that they don’t remember doing or not doing to him.

Jesus stated that the one who comes from above is still above, and the one from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks like he’s from earth, and also the one who comes from heaven above is above. He said the Son was glorified, and God was glorified in him, and if God was glorified in him, then God would glorify the Son in himself, and he would glorify him at once.

Jesus corrected people regarding who bread from heaven comes from. He said his Father gives you the “true” bread from heaven, because the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. And he declared himself to be the bread of life. He said he had come from heaven to do God’s will, not his own will, and God’s will was that he wouldn’t lose any of the people God gave him, and that he would raise them up at the last day. God’s will was also that everyone who believed in Jesus would have eternal life, and that Jesus would raise them up at the last day.

The Jews didn’t like him claiming to be bread from heaven, so they grumbled and questioned his claim that he had come from heaven. Jesus didn’t like them grumbling about that, so he told them to stop grumbling. He stated again that he would raise his people up at the last day, and also that believers would have eternal life, and that he was the bread of life, again.

He mentioned that people who had eaten actual bread from heaven had died, but he claimed that anyone who ate this “bread from heaven” wouldn’t die. He clarified that he was the bread that had come from heaven, and stated again that whoever ate that bread would live forever. And he said the bread he was talking about was his flesh, which he was going to give for the life of the world.

When the Jews started arguing about whether he could really give them his flesh to eat, Jesus declared that anyone who didn’t eat his flesh and drink his blood had no life in them, while whoever did eat his flesh and drink his blood would have eternal life, and he would raise them up at the last day. He insisted that his flesh and blood were real food and drink. He said that he and whoever ate his flesh and drank his blood would be in each other, whatever that means.

He said anyone who fed on him would live because of him, just like he lives because the living Father sent him. And he said again that this was the bread that came from heaven, and that the people who actually ate bread from heaven had died, but that whoever fed on this bread from heaven would live forever.

Continue reading The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 7: Rambling
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Non sequiturs in the Bible

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.

Old Testament stories

After God promises not to kill everyone and everything again, his next statement starts out sounding like he’s going to be expanding on that. Or maybe making another promise, or at least saying something important. He ends up just saying that seasonal cycles and stuff aren’t going to stop as long as the world exists. Who said they would? That wasn’t ever in question, was it? Why bring it up?

Job is trying to convince his friends of how severe his hardship is. Then he decides to start talking about food he doesn’t like, that he refuses to eat. That doesn’t seem relevant, and it doesn’t help his case. Later, after he’s been trying to convince his friends that God is unjust, Job randomly starts arguing against his own position.

After that, Elihu insists that God is perfectly good and just… and then for some reason he brings up the possibility that God could easily kill everyone. Then God sarcastically asks Job if he knows where light and darkness live. He implies that to know that, Job would have to have been “already born“. He doesn’t explain when he thinks Job would have to have been born. Or what Job’s age has to do with whether he can know about something that’s happening right now.

When Jacob is in the middle of giving blessings (and curses) to his sons, he randomly tells God he’s looking for his deliverance.

1 Chronicles begins with some genealogies. It seems like these are supposed to consist of lists of the sons of someone who it already mentioned in a previous list of sons. But a lot of times, it will list the sons of people who it never mentioned before. It never explains who these people are, or how they fit into the genealogy.

It does this with Seir, Jahdai, Etam, Kenaz, Caleb son of Jephunneh, Jehallelel, Ezrah, Hodiah’s wife, Shimon, Shelah son of Judah,1 Abihail son of Huri son of Jaroah son of Gilead son of Michael son of Jeshishai son of Jahdo son of Buz,2 Shemida, Helem,3 Jether, Ulla, Shimei, and Jeroham. It does the same thing again later in the book, too. It says Beno and others are the sons of Jaaziah, whoever that is.

God appears in a burning bush and tells Moses that he has “indeed” seen the misery of his people in Egypt… even though no one had brought that up before he said that.

God says he normally speaks to prophets in dreams. Then he says that’s not how it is with Moses, and as part of the same sentence, he mentions how faithful Moses is. As if that was part of the contrast with all God’s other prophets.

When Joshua is in the middle of announcing a miraculous sign that’s about to happen, just before he gets to the part about the actual miracle, he tells the people to choose twelve men. As far as I can tell, that doesn’t have anything to do with the miracle.

Later, the two tribes descended from Joseph point out that Joshua has only given them enough land for one tribe. Joshua tells them what they can do if the hill country isn’t enough for them. The descendants of Joseph then ignore what Joshua just said, and inform him that the hill country isn’t enough for them.

When Abishai offers to kill Saul for David, instead of telling him why Abishai shouldn’t do it, David gives reasons why David shouldn’t do it himself, when nobody had said he should.

There’s a Bible verse that tells the backstory of Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul… inserted in the middle of a story about a different son of Saul, that has nothing to do with any of those people.

Solomon reports that God has said he would live in a dark cloud. Then as part of the same sentence, and without a “but”, Solomon says he has provided a new place for God to live. He says this as if he was affirming what God had just said he would do, rather than disregarding and contradicting it.

After Elisha tells his servant to go to the Shunammite’s home, the Shunammite says she refuses to go. But she’s not the one he told to leave. Then it says Elisha gets up and follows the Shunammite. How can he follow her if she’s not going anywhere?

The queen of Sheba story is interrupted for two verses to inform you that somebody had brought Solomon some stones and wood at some point.

Jeremiah 52 tells the story of the fall of Jerusalem, but interrupts it to tell us the details of what was in the temple (which we already heard about a long time ago).

The book of Daniel says the four smart Jews who were taken to serve the king of Babylon were given new names, “but” Daniel didn’t want the royal food. It had mentioned the food before, but that was way back four sentences before the “but”.

New Testament stories

Part of Mary’s response to the announcement that God is going to impregnate her is to declare something irrelevant about secretly proud people getting scattered.

Just a few verses after John baptizes Jesus, it mentions that John is in prison, with no explanation.

The gospel of Matthew says Jesus told his disciples not to tell anyone who he really was. And it says the reason for that was to fulfill a prophecy from Isaiah… which says nothing about keeping secrets.

Jesus is constantly making non sequiturs. He expresses his amazement at how much faith someone has. Then suddenly he’s talking about many people getting into (and other people getting thrown out of) the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus describes the things he’s doing for various people. He says he’s taking away the problem each particular disadvantaged category of person has… until he gets to the poor. Instead of actually doing anything about their situation, all he does is “proclaim good news” to them. And then right after listing the good things he’s doing for people, he says something different that suggests that something bad could happen to people because of him.

Jesus starts to answer a question about when everything will end. But he ends up just stating whether certain things will end. When people ask Jesus where his father is, instead of answering, he just tells them that they don’t know his father.

When Peter asks him who he’s talking to, it says “Jesus answered” …but he doesn’t actually answer the question. Jesus instead asks something about the story he was telling. That’s not an answer. And when Peter asks him where he’s going, he doesn’t answer that either. He just says his disciples can’t follow him there. This guy is not good at answering questions.

When asked for a sign, Jesus gets annoyed and declares that he’s not going to give anyone a sign… right after doing a miracle in front of thousands of people.

Do you see this woman? Jesus came into Simon’s house.

Jesus warns his disciples in a confusing way about the Pharisees. Then instead of explaining himself, the next thing he says is a repeat of what he said four chapters ago, that in the future there will be no secrets. And it was a non sequitur that time, too.

Jesus acts like he’s just done a miracle and healed a man, and he claims that people are angry at him because of that. Even though he hasn’t done any healing miracles since two chapters ago. And that wasn’t in the presence of the people he’s talking to now. And these people aren’t angry with him about anything yet.

Jesus gets a “dead” girl to stand up and walk around and she’s twelve years old. Yes, it says that last part as part of the same sentence in the Bible. If they needed to mention her age, they should have done that at the beginning of the story, not at the end.

Jesus’s response to a man begging him to restore his son’s sanity is to get angry at his whole generation. He wishes he didn’t have to live among them anymore, that he didn’t have to put up with them wanting help with their health problems. Oh, and he thinks this has something to do with all those people being “unbelieving”? Then that man declares that he believes… so he asks Jesus to help him overcome the unbelief that he doesn’t have.

When Jesus tells his disciples that the least of them is the greatest, they have no response to that (which is understandable I suppose). Instead, the next thing they say is that they tried to stop someone from driving out demons.

Jesus explains that by driving a demon out of a man, he has actually made that man much worse off… and someone thinks that’s a good reason to bless his mother for giving birth to him.

Jesus knows that he was sent by God, and that everything is under his power. So he gets up from the table and takes his clothes off.

Caiaphas acts like he’s disagreeing with the other chief priests, when he’s actually agreeing with what they just said (that Jesus must be stopped in order to save the Jewish nation). When Pilate asks the Jewish leaders what their charge against Jesus is, they just say they wouldn’t have handed him over if he wasn’t a criminal. Nobody had said he wasn’t a criminal.

The high priest asks Stephen if the charges against him are true. They’re not, but instead of answering, Stephen decides to recite the history of Israel. As if the priests didn’t already know about that. After Stephen gets himself killed with all his stupid answers, the remaining disciples are persecuted and expelled from the region… and then they’re filled with joy, for some reason?

Continue reading Non sequiturs in the Bible
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The Story of King Ish-Bosheth
The One Where Nearly Everybody Gets Killed, But It's Not God's Doing for a Change

After Saul and his whole family died, his dead son Ish-Bosheth succeeded him as king of Israel. But David was made king of the tribe of Judah. The commander of the army of Israel was Saul’s cousin Abner, and the commander of the army of Judah was David’s nephew Joab.

These commanders thought it would be fun to see some men stab each other to death. So they made two dozen of their soldiers stab each other to death. But Joab’s brother Asahel didn’t like that, so he chased Abner. Abner didn’t like that, so he stabbed Asahel to death. Joab didn’t like that, so he chased Abner, too. But then Abner suggested not chasing him. So Joab stopped chasing him.

King Ish-Bosheth offended his commander Abner by accusing him of sleeping with Saul’s girlfriend. So Abner decided to desert Ish-Bosheth and help David take over Israel. When Abner offered to help David become king of all Israel, David agreed to let him do that… but only if he did David a favor first.

By this time David had married at least four women. But Saul had taken back his daughter Michal, David’s first wife, and given her to somebody else. David had Abner steal Michal back for him and make her other husband go away. After doing that, Abner went off to convince the Israelites to make David their king.

But David’s commander Joab didn’t like Abner, who had killed Joab’s brother. Joab thought Abner must have only come there to spy on David for Ish-Bosheth. So Joab found Abner and stabbed him to death. David didn’t like that (even though he had previously declared that Abner must die). So David put a curse on Joab’s family, and later had his son kill Joab.

Continue reading The Story of King Ish-Bosheth
The One Where Nearly Everybody Gets Killed, But It's Not God's Doing for a Change
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