Tag Archives: pointlessness

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.

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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?)


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.


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.

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?

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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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Why it makes no sense for God to forgive your sins because Jesus died

What belief is the most essential to Christianity? Probably the atonement: The idea that by sending Jesus to die, God has made it possible for your sins to be forgiven. Unfortunately for Christianity, nothing about that idea makes any sense.

How exactly does the death of Jesus make salvation possible?

Did Jesus bring forgiveness for sins, or did he pay for our sins? Those are not the same thing at all. If fact, they’re mutually exclusive. So why do people usually seem to talk about Jesus as if he had done both of those things? Which one did he actually do? It can’t be both. If the sins were forgiven, then there was nothing to pay for. And if they were paid for, then there was nothing to forgive.

If God decided to forgive people, why couldn’t he just forgive people? Why would someone still have to pay the penalty for everyone’s sins? The book of Hebrews says there can be no forgiveness without shedding blood, but it offers no explanation for that barbaric and absurd claim.

When you forgive someone, do you insist that there has to be some kind of bloodshed involved, or else you won’t really have forgiven them? Do you think the only way you can possibly forgive someone is by either having them tortured and killed, or having your son tortured and killed? Is that what Jesus expects us to do when he encourages us to forgive each other? Is he telling us to torture and murder our sons?

Why would God have to do anything before he could forgive people? Especially if he makes the rules, if he’s the ultimate authority on morality, as Christians like to say. If that’s true, he could have just declared that it was right for him to forgive sins without anyone having to be tortured and killed first, and it would be so. Or he could have just decided that none of the finite things people do make them deserve to be tortured forever in the first place.

An all-powerful God who can prescriptively define morality always has the option to NOT torture people forever, and a loving God who had a choice would never choose to torture people forever. That is not how you treat people you love.

According to one concept of atonement, what Jesus is taking away is “original sin”. That term refers to the idea that just by disobeying God once, Adam and Eve brought “sin” on all their descendants, making everyone guilty of “sin” regardless of what they actually do. (And so God decided to repay that insignificant offense with the infinitely disproportionate punishment of eternal torture for everyone.)

If that’s the case, even the reason atonement is needed in the first place doesn’t make any sense. People aren’t guilty because of what other people do. People can only be guilty because of their own actions. God even says so.

If God thought Adam and Eve’s descendants were all going to be “guilty” by default, why did he allow them to reproduce at all? Why not just start over with a new pair of humans? He said later that he was going to wipe out humanity with a flood and start over, but he didn’t actually do it. He kept a few of the sin-infected people alive, and then he let them fill the earth right back up with sinful people. He should have actually started over, with brand new sinless people. And he should have done it back before anyone had children. He could have separated Adam and Eve for the rest of their lives, and removed that pointless troublesome tree that he never should have put in the Garden of Eden, and then he could have made some new people in the garden.

Some branches of Christianity believe that Jesus and his mother were both conceived free from “original sin”. If God can make exceptions like this, if he can produce sinless people from sinful parents, why not just do that with everybody, and save Jesus the trouble of dying?

Early Christians thought they could explain why Jesus had to die. The generally accepted story in the early centuries of Christianity was something quite different from now: Satan had somehow gotten possession of everyone’s souls, and the only way God could possibly get them back was to give him Jesus as a ransom, because Satan demanded it. (Which makes God look pretty weak. And which ignores the fact that that sort of thing is against God’s principles. And the fact that the Bible says Jesus was a sacrifice to God, not to Satan.)

Then they decided that Satan didn’t even know who Jesus was, but for some reason he still agreed to trade many souls for what he thought was just one ordinary soul. So God tricked him into giving up all the souls, by giving him one that he didn’t realize he wouldn’t be able to keep. God somehow fulfilled the requirement of justice by just pretending to pay off his debt to Satan. That was the generally accepted view for several more centuries,1 till they decided that didn’t make God look very good either.

So after Christianity had existed for over a thousand years, theologians finally started coming up with accounts that didn’t involve God making a deal with the devil, and they ended up with the modern atonement doctrine, where our sin is a debt that we’re unable to repay. But this version doesn’t explain why God couldn’t just forgive everyone if he wanted to forgive them. St. Anselm thought that God just forgiving everyone without being “repaid” would go against God’s justice, but making someone who doesn’t owe God anything pay the debt for everyone else isn’t just either.

Penal substitution theory

Christians commonly say Jesus was punished in place of everybody else, so the requirement for justice was fulfilled, and now nobody else has to be punished. Except that’s not justice. Punishing an innocent person for what a different person did is absurdly unjust.

It doesn’t matter if Jesus was willing. That doesn’t make it just for God to punish the innocent, or to let the guilty go unpunished. Sure, someone could volunteer to, in effect, pay a fine for someone else, by giving them a gift of money which they could then use to pay the fine themselves. But that doesn’t work with other kinds of punishments. Guilt is not transferable. And even in the case of fines, let alone execution, none of the purposes of punishment are fulfilled if the wrong person is being punished.

No court would accept someone who had nothing to do with a crime offering to be executed in place of the criminal. And any judge who intentionally had an innocent person physically punished for someone else’s crime would lose his job.

Some people have made analogies attempting to show that we do normally accept guilt being transferred from one person to another. But those alleged examples are all flawed: Either the person who ends up being held responsible was already in fact at least partly responsible for what happened, or no actual punishment was ever going to be required in the first place,2 or the responsibility can at best only be transferred in the wrong direction.

God even says that at least some sins can only be atoned for by the blood of the one who committed the sin, so that rules out the possibility of anyone else’s blood atoning for them. So do the passages in the Bible that say that no payment can ever be enough to ransom or redeem someone’s soul so they can have eternal life. God says the one who sins is the one who must die. If God executes anyone other than the guilty person, God is violating his own law.

Some Christians say Jesus took on everyone else’s sin, so that God considered him guilty and everyone else innocent. That would mean either that Jesus (who they believe is God) was actually incredibly sinful, or that God was wrong, neither of which seems compatible with what Christians believe God is like.

Was Jesus even punished in our place at all? Not really. If he was, he would be in hell. Yet the Bible says he’s in heaven. Jesus would have to spend eternity in hell if he was really taking the punishment for humanity, but the Bible says all he had to do was die. And even that wasn’t an eternal punishment, since he’s an immortal God that can’t truly die. Because Jesus wasn’t damned, the best his “death” could be expected to accomplish would be to save us from having to die… and he didn’t even accomplish that.

Other theories of atonement

The death of Jesus is often described as a sacrifice. Which kind of sacrifice would that be? God has specific rules for these things, you know. If Jesus was female, or if he was a goat or a bull, then maybe he could be a sin offering. Or if he was just one year old, then maybe he could be a Passover lamb. But Jesus wasn’t any of those things, so why would God accept him as an offering?

If Jesus is God, this sacrifice would be God sacrificing God to God. I can comprehend someone sacrificing himself. But how can you make a sacrifice to yourself? You would end up still having whatever you were supposed to give up, and then you wouldn’t have actually sacrificed anything. Or how about sacrificing someone to himself? Can you make any sense of that? “I’m going to sacrifice you to you. By killing you. Hope you appreciate the sacrifice I’m making for you!”

If we ignore all the parts of the Bible that portray God as sacrificing someone else, and just say that God paid the price for sin himself, does any of this make more sense that way? Well, if you forgive a debt that was owed to you, you are giving up that value. So by forgiving humans, you could say God is paying the price… to the people who were supposed to pay him? That’s backwards; that doesn’t actually fulfill anyone’s obligations.

And God isn’t who people are really indebted to, anyway. Do you know how Jews think about sin and forgiveness? It makes so much more sense than what Christians believe. People are sinful because they actually commit sins, not just because they were born. Sins that harm other people are sins against those people, not sins against God. As the Bible says, your actions don’t affect God; they only affect other people.

So Jews say God is conditionally willing to forgive sins that were actually committed against him. But God can’t forgive you for sins that you committed against other people. Only the actual victims can do that. What kind of jerk would declare that you were forgiven for harming other people, without even bothering to ask those people what they thought about it?

Maybe rather than punishing Jesus in our place, God punished us by harming Jesus? Like a whipping boy. It could reasonably be considered a punishment to know that someone you care about is suffering or dying. But harming an innocent person because of what someone else did would still be outrageously unjust.

If the innocent person willingly agreed to be harmed, then maybe this could be an acceptable thing to do. In that case, it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t deserve punishment, since he’s not actually being punished. He’s just being treated the way he willingly chose to be treated. But it doesn’t exactly sound like Jesus was willing to be tortured and killed.

There are more problems with vicarious punishment: It vicariously harms people who don’t deserve to be punished, since the wrongdoer will probably not be the only person who cares about the proxy person. It’s unnecessary, since doing wrong will already have natural consequences that the wrongdoer can feel bad about. Hearing what happened to somebody else is not that much of a punishment for people who never actually met the guy or saw what happened to him. If the person really doesn’t mind being treated that way, that’s even more reason not to feel bad for him. And feeling bad for someone else is way too small a punishment to substitute for eternal torture.

Some people have tried to make sense of what Jesus accomplished in terms of a barbaric archaic concept of “honor” that doesn’t make any sense morally to begin with.

Christians have to keep trying and trying to explain how killing an innocent person is good and removes the need to punish guilty people, because none of those attempts have ever succeeded, because their core tenet just doesn’t make any sense.

Embracement theory: Humans committed the worst possible sin, and God… decided to just let them? And that somehow makes it okay, and means sin doesn’t matter anymore?

Shared atonement theory: Jesus is God, and the universe can’t exist without God. So when Jesus died, God died, and the universe died, and everyone died. And then they all came back with Jesus, so now everyone has already been punished, I guess? Except everyone didn’t die. Other people were clearly still alive in the Bible when Jesus was dead. And if nobody even noticed anything happening to them, that wasn’t a punishment. Also, this wouldn’t affect people who weren’t living at the time.

I bet I could come up with a much more coherent account of what the death of Jesus accomplished. How about this? God tried to save mankind from hell by killing the guy who was going to judge them and send them there. (And then God defeated his own plan by resurrecting him, so now most people won’t be saved after all. Whatever. Still makes more sense than any of the standard explanations. No matter what good the death of Jesus was supposed to do, it’s negated if he gets to just come right back to life like that.)

Or how about this? God is the author of human nature. God is the one who programmed our nature into our brains. Therefore, God is the one who is actually responsible for everyone’s sins. God knew exactly what humans would do if he made them the way he did. If he didn’t like it, he could have designed them differently. Since God somehow ended up designing humans so badly, and since he was so bothered by humans behaving exactly the way he designed them to, God had to punish himself. He never actually needed to punish us, because our nature is his fault, not ours.

Continue reading Why it makes no sense for God to forgive your sins because Jesus died
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The Story of David and Abigail
David Expects to be Treated Like a King Prematurely

David sent messengers to a rich man named Nabal, asking him to give David and his men something, anything he could find. David thought Nabal owed him something in exchange for not harming Nabal’s employees. But Nabal chose not to give David anything, since he didn’t even know who David was. So David took 400 men with him and went to attack Nabal and murder all the men who worked for him.

Continue reading The Story of David and Abigail
David Expects to be Treated Like a King Prematurely
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The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 6: Saying the same thing in different ways

This is the sixth in a series of posts about unnecessary repetition in the Bible. This time we’re looking at unnecessary and excessive use of synonyms.

The Bible says Abraham lived 175 years. Then he breathed his last, and he also died. He died at a good old age. He was an old man. He was “full of years”. And then he was “gathered to his people”.

God told Abraham’s son Isaac that Abraham had obeyed him, and that he had done everything he required of him. Abraham had done that by keeping God’s commands, and his decrees, and his instructions, too.

Isaac’s grandsons threw their brother Joseph into a cistern, which was empty. Also, there was no water in it. Pharaoh’s cupbearer didn’t remember Joseph, he forgot him. And when there was a famine, Joseph’s father Jacob told his other sons to go buy some grain from Egypt so they would live, and so they wouldn’t die.

After the descendants of Israel moved to Egypt, they were “exceedingly fruitful”, they multiplied greatly, they increased in numbers, and they became so numerous that the land was filled with them.

God gave his people a list of “unclean” animals, and instructed them not to defile themselves by them, or to make themselves unclean by means of them, or to be made unclean by them.1 He said you shouldn’t have sex with your sister, which he clarified means any daughter of either your father or your mother. Then two verses later, he said you shouldn’t have sex with your father’s wife’s daughter, who is your father’s daughter, who is your sister. And he told the people not to lie, or to deceive one another, or to swear falsely.

God told his people to keep all his decrees, and all his laws, and also to follow them. He told them what would happen if they didn’t listen to him and carry out all those commands, or if they rejected his decrees and abhorred his laws, or if they failed to carry out all his commands and violated his covenant. And the Bible concludes that discussion of God’s rules by stating that those are the decrees, the laws, and the regulations that the Lord established.

When some people were trying to replace Moses as the leader of Israel, Moses had them stand outside their tents with their wives and children, and also with their little ones (so God could kill them all).2 Then when Joshua was about to actually replace Moses as the leader of Israel (with his approval this time), Moses told the people to be strong and courageous, and not to be afraid or terrified, because God would go with them, and wouldn’t leave them, and wouldn’t forsake them, either. Then he told Joshua to be strong and courageous, and not to be afraid or discouraged, because God would go before them, and be with them, and never leave them, and never forsake them.

The daughter that Jephthah promised God he would murder was an only child, and he had no son nor daughter except for her. A wise lying woman told David she was a widow, and that her husband was dead. After the king of Babylon captured Jehoiachin, he gave him a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death.

When Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men couldn’t answer his question, he decided to kill them all, because it made him so angry and furious. Then when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to obey his order, he decided to kill them too, because he was so furious with rage.

Esther told her husband the king that Haman was plotting to destroy, kill, and annihilate her people. Jesus said much will be demanded from those who have been given much, and much will be asked of those who have been entrusted with much.

Paul said he ought to do something, and rightly so. It’s right for it to be right for him to do that! He said he was telling the truth, and that he wasn’t lying.

The epistle to the Hebrews says a will can’t be carried out unless you can prove its writer is dead, because a will is only in force when the person has died, and it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.

Continue reading The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 6: Saying the same thing in different ways
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The Story of the Hunt for David
David Joins Israel's Enemies

David went to the Philistine city of Gath to escape from Saul. But the people there thought they recognized him as a notorious Philistine slaughterer. So David pretended he was insane,1 and then he ran away and hid in a cave.

Then he went into a city and fought the Philistines who were attacking it. But God told him that Saul was coming, and that the people of the city would hand him over to Saul to keep him from destroying their city. So David left the city, and what God predicted didn’t happen.

Continue reading The Story of the Hunt for David
David Joins Israel's Enemies
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