Humor in the Bible

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One aspect of the Bible which is frequently overlooked (particularly by those who read it only to criticize it) is that it is replete with examples of humor. This is unsurprising; the authors of the Bible, in addition to being inspired by God, were also complex human beings, members of cultures as rich and faceted as any today. Their writing reflects this complexity; at times it is poignant, at times tragic, and at times, very funny. Indeed, it would be surprising not to find humor in the Bible; after all, the Bible is a work of joy and of celebration. Dr. Hershey H. Friedman notes this, arguing that "Humor brings God closer to humankind. For instance, God seems more understandable and less aloof when he is sarcastic. We mortals note that even omniscience and omnipotence do not prevent one from being hurt by straying children. Humorous stories and exaggerations make the moral lessons of the Hebrew Bible more memorable ... "[1]


Examples

  • "The door turns on its hinges, and the lazy man on his bed" (Proverbs 26:14). [2]
  • "If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse." (Proverbs 27:14)
  • "It is better to be living in an angle of the house-top, than with a bitter-tongued woman in a wide house." (Proverbs 25:24)
  • "Even one of their own prophets has said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.' This testimony is true." (Titus 1:12-13) (A wry invocation of the liar's paradox.)
  • Sarcasm in the Bible: "Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years" (Amos 4:4)
  • "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18)--the root for Peter and the root for Rock are the same--this is a pun of sorts, and one inscribed inside the dome of St. Peter's Basilica
  • Some consider the Book of Jonah to intentionally include some satirical exaggeration. For instance, the King of Nineveh declares that not only should the people wear sackloth in a symbol of repentance, but so should the animals in the City. (Jonah 3:8, KJV)

References

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