Sunday, February 22, 2009

Humor in the New Testament

I was recently asked in an email why the Bible isn't funny. "Why isn't there any humor in there?" I could think of two instances that I actually find really funny:


1) Luke 11:5-7 : I find this scene funny, whether it's intended to be or not. A friend arriving at midnight, asking for three loaves of bread, is silly. But the excuse the man indoors gives is even funnier. He yells back from inside and tells his neighbor that he can't get up because he and his family are in bed. In other words, the man is yelling from the bed outside, telling his friend to go away lest he wake his family.

2) Acts 12:14-16 : Peter is miraculously released from prison and arrives at John Mark's mother's house. Inside, a group is praying for his release. He knocks on the door and a slave girl (Rhoda) recognizes his voice. Instead of letting him in, she runs back to the others and they debate whether it could actually be Peter. After Peter kept knocking, they finally let him in. This is hilarious to me. One can imagine Peter hearing Rhoda's voice, and then hearing her run away back into the house. The scene inside is a bunch of people debating over whether it could actually be Peter outside or not - the easiest way to resolve the debate, of course, is to just go outside and check.

6 comments:

Nathan Brasfield said...

This verse is a matter of interpretation, and it also depends on one's definition of "funny," but I find Paul's sarcasm quite amusing. After going on about "the Judaizers" in Galatians, his frustration comes to a point in 5:12, where he implies that they should just go all the way and become eunuchs. It got a laugh in Greek class.

Tremonti said...

Good post! haha. I don't know if this one counts as funny but here goes.

I was leading a group in bible study through the gospel of Luke and we were reading this particular passage Luke 2:21-40. As we were discussing stuff on the passage someone in the group said "what if we imagine that right after Simeon had spoken his words of prophesy on Jesus he simply collapsed dead! because it said in this verse that
'Lk 2:26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.'...that would really make a scene". We all had a good laugh depicting that image in our minds that night

John Anderson said...

From the Hebrew Bible perspective, I have always found the Jacob cycle to be utterly hilarious.

For instance, Gen 25:27-34. Esau the adept hunter (v. 27) comes in from the field, famished and claiming he is near death (vv. 29, 32). His portrayal--which I would characterize as not only short-sighted but also overly-dramatic (compared with the calm, cool, collected Jacob)--is a riot to me. Robert Alter translates v. 30 as "let me cram my maw." The fact also that Esau cannot even conjure up the name of the dish Jacob is preparing, calling it only twice by its color, "Red, red" (I can imagine a panting Esau pointing, mouth agape, at the stew).

The Jacob/Laban cycle of stories are absolutely rich with humor.

Aaron's response to Moses in Exod 32:22-24 is also one of my favorites, especially the last half of v. 24. Moses interrogates Aaron regarding the golden calf; Aaron's response is quickly to blame the people ("you know the people, that they are ben ton evil," v. 22). He then describes his request for gold from the people. This line is priceless: "so they gave it [gold] to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!'" Aaron's attempts to avoid blame are uncannily funny, and his claim that voila, a fully-formed golden calf popped out of the fire is one of my favorite images.

Thoughts?

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Danny Garland Jr. said...

I always think it's funny that Jesus gives James and John the nickname "Sons of Thunder" after they want Jesus to call down fire on Samaria.

brian said...

Amos is funny too - lots of puns and stuff - but in the Hebrew.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a lot more humor in the New Testament than people realize. Even a slapstick sense of humor! For instance, prior to the scripture you quoted in Acts, Peter is rescued while in a sleep walking state. The angel has to hit him in the side, raises him up, and reminds him to dress. Peter didn't even "come to himself" till after he was free! Now that's one sound sleeper! (Acts 12:7-11). Also in Acts, Paul can kill a man with boredom. Depending on your sense of humor, that can be pretty funny (Acts 20:9-12). And don't forget Jesus' satire when deflating the pompous Pharisees.