Logic in the Scriptures: Invalid Inferences

1. Will John die or not?

Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following (the one who also leaned on His breast at supper, and said, Lord, who is he who betrays You?) Seeing him, Peter said to Jesus, Lord, and what of this one? Jesus said to him, If I desire that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me. Then this saying went abroad among the brothers, that that disciple should not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him, He shall not die, but, If I desire that he remain until I come, what is that to you? (John 21:20-23)

What is the invalid inference and why is it invalid?

The invalid inference: John is a person who will not die. A similar inference appears in the otherwise excellent Voice of the Martyrs film entitled “Jesus: He Lived Among Us.” The Latter Day Saints Church (Mormons) also teaches that the apostle John will not die (Nephi. 28:6–7; Doctrines & Covenants 7)
Reason: Ignoring the text
This inference is invalid because the sentence from which it is derived is in the interrogative mode and not the declarative mode. Only sentences in the declarative mode can confer a meaning that is propositional. Furthermore, only propositions are true or false, hence, the proposition that John is a person that will not die cannot follow from the interrogative: If I desire that he remain until I come, what is that to you?

2. To whom much is given, much is required. Really?

And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:42-48)

“If I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense,” he said. “But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.’ – President Barack Obama

What is the invalid inference and why is it invalid?

The invalid inference: People that are extraordinarily blessed are people that should pay more taxes.
Reason: Ignoring the context
This inference is invalid because there is nothing in the context of Luke 12:42-48 that suggests Jesus is referring to wealth or taxes; the context is the judgement at the return of Christ. Specifically, this passage’s purpose is to convey that there are degrees of punishment (for the unbeliever) which are based upon the knowledge of God that each one has received. Therefore, this verse has absolutely NOTHING to do with one’s wealth and everything to do with what that person does with the knowledge of God that their lifetime has afforded them with. For more information see (To whom much is given, much is required. Really)

3. When the Last Day is not the last day

And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (John 12:48)

“At the last day” – not 7 or 1007 years before the last day as Hunt believes.  Jesus says: “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words. That very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” (John 12:48) Hunt needs to accept the word of Jesus when He says “at the last day.” Jesus says: “The hour is coming when all who are in the graves will hear my voice and come out. Those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28-29) Hunt inserts 1000 years between Jesus’ call and ignores the word “all”. See 2 Peter 3:10-13 for a description of the last day. The rest of the Bible agrees with Jesus not Hunt. – Mike

What is the invalid inference and why is it invalid?

The invalid inference: The Last day spoken of in scripture is literally a 24 hour day
Reason: Ignoring the greater context
In scripture, or any literature for that matter, the greater context is defined as any information that is not within the proximity of a particular word or sentence but still influences its meaning. In Revelation 20:4-15 there are a series of events that are revealed in a chronological order: first, there is a resurrection of those saints that died during the great tribulation (Rev 20:4), secondly, there is the 1000 year reign of Christ (Rev 20:6-7), third and finally, there is the resurrection of the unbelievers (Rev 20:11-15). The first event in Revelations 20 is what John 6:40 refers to, while, the third event is what John 12:48 refers to. Both of these events occur on the last day, but we are also told that these events are separated by a second event that lasts precisely 1000 years; therefore, the last day that is referred to in both John 6 & John 12 must be a non-literal or figurative day that represents a much longer period of time.

4. Jonah and the whale.

And Jehovah had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.  (Jonah 1:17)
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale‘s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  (Matthew 12:40)

What is the invalid inference and why is it invalid?

The invalid inference: A whale is the fish that God prepared to swallow up Jonah.
Reason: Hasty Generalization
Which fish is great enough to have swallowed Jonah whole and allow him to dwell inside it for three whole days? Of all the big fishes out there in the ocean, it is easy to see how someone could generalize that the whale is among the the biggest (if not the biggest) of the fish family but is this sufficient warrant to conclude that the great fish spoken of in Jonah 1:17 must have been a whale? Some bibles, children’s books, etc. have hastily generalized that the great fish was in fact a whale but this conclusion is not a necessary one since there could have been (and still are) many other “great fish” in the ocean. Also, the other passage in scripture that refers to this event, Matthew 12:40, uses the term whale to describe the fish that swallowed Jonah but the Greek word kētos from which the word whale is interpreted mainly means huge fish and does not necessarily have to mean whale so it seems like some of the interpreters out there (including my beloved KJV interpreters) are also guilty of making a hasty generalization.

5. Three days and Three nights

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  (Matthew 12:40)

What is the invalid inference and why is it invalid?

The invalid inference: The amount of time Jesus will spend in the heart of the earth are three literal days and three literal nights.
Reason: Equivocation
Equivocation is an error in reasoning where two distinct definitions of the same word or phrase are confused for one another. Of course, most words and many phrases have more than one meaning, but context determines which meaning is in scope. If the phrase “three days and three nights” is taken literally to mean seventy-two hours then there would be a contradiction with the many places in scripture that state that He would rise (or that He rose) on “the third day” (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 20:19; John 2:19; 1 Corinthians 15:4; etc.). The scriptures in Matthew 28:1 and elsewhere indicate that Jesus was crucified on Friday (before the Sabbath) and rose on Sunday, so the first of the three days was already coming to an end when the countdown to the resurrection began.  In the Jewish parlance, the phrase “day and night” is an idiom that can refer to any portion of a day or night. In fact, it is used this way at least 3 other times in scripture (See 1 Samuel 30:12-13; Ester 4:16; Ester 5:1; Judges 14:17-18, Matthew 27:63-64 etc.). So, since we know that Christ also said that He would rise from the dead on the third day (Luke 9:22), we understand His utterance in Matthew 12:40 as an idiomatic one, not a literal one.

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2 thoughts on “Logic in the Scriptures: Invalid Inferences

  1. Mr Lynn Alan Heath says:

    This is a most interesting article of which I do wholeheartedly agree with one exception. You have yourself come to a conclusion about “the last day” based on a false understanding of Revelation 20. Based on Revelation chapter 1 and verse 1 which reads: “The Revelation of Jesus the Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants–things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified by His angel to His servant John.”
    Two items of note here, first “must shortly take place” implies events that took place during the time of the original addressees (i.e., the seven churches of Asia of the first Century). And secondly, “signified,” what John relates is in signs and not to be taken literally. As we turn our attention to Revelation 20, what you mentioned (Christ’s 1000 year reign) is not even in the text. Verse 4 says “And they (the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness) lived and reigned….the thousand years.” It is not Christ’s reign, the “with Christ” is incidental.

    • 1john22 says:

      Thanks for your feedback. If the phrase “must shortly take place” implies that the events detailed in Revelations 20 actually took place during the “time of the original addressees” then when Christ in the same book of Revelations (Rev 3:11, Rev 22:7, Rev 22:12, Rev 22:20) says “behold I come quickly”, your logic demands that we must believe Christ has already returned (during the “time of the original addresses”). Is this a conclusion that you are willing to accept? I hope not! Peter mentions in 2 Peter 3:9 that “The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”; this is said to convey that in terms of eschatological events “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)”

      Let’s reconsider Revleations 20:4
      And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
      (Revelation 20:4)

      In regards to the term “signified” and your suggestion that it requires the book of Revelation to be taken figuratively, hopefully, you don’t think that the words in Revelations 4:11 are figurative as well since this is the conclusion that we must reach if we apply your hermeneutics consistently. How do you decide which parts of Revelation are figurative and which parts are literal? If Revelations 20:4 is figurative, what is the phrase “liv[ing] and reign[ing] with Christ a thousand years” supposed to represent? Your assertion that “Christ’s 1000 year reign” is not in the text worries me greatly because I’m not sure how John one could have revealed this proposition in any clearer way. I mean, if you were trying to tell the world that Christ and His followers were going to reign for 1000 years how would you have crafted the proposition?

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