The Humorous and the Biblical

I think that we take life a bit too seriously. Indeed, I think we often take our religion much too seriously. By that I mean, we leave little room for humor in our religion. The preacher cracks a joke and no one laughs -- because you don't do such things in church.

The question has been asked about humor in the bible. Why isn't there any? Or if there is, how do we know? I think biblical humor is a bit like British humor; you have to understand the way it works. Once you do, well you love it.

The problem for us is that humor is culturally relative and conditioned. What may seem to us quite unhumorous, could be to an ancient quite humorous. Indeed, Jesus' parables are full of humor. Years ago Elton Trueblood wrote a book called The Humor of Christ (Harper & Row, 1964), which helps us understand that humor (don't have a copy with me, unfortunately).

So, it may be a bit like "you had to have been there," but there is humor present-- maybe not of the Monte Python variety, but if we're willing to look for it. Indeed, once we start laughing, we might realize that the joke's on us! At least that's usually the way it worked back then.


Mystical Seeker said…
I think the character of Jonah is quite comedic.

I also think the story of the demons named Legion going into the pigs is a bit of political parody from the first century (imagine, as I think James McGrath once suggested, a story of demons in Nazi Germany named "Panzer Division")
John said…
I thought the notion of driving evil spirits into a bunch of pigs was pretty funny.

Unless, of course, you're a pig farmer!
Mystical Seeker said…
Well, I think some of the humor in that story had to do with the fact that pigs were considered unclean. :) I can imagine that the idea of demons which have a name associated with the instruments of Roman imperial power, and which then go off taking control of pigs and then dying, might have brought peals of laughter to a people who were subject to forced occupation by said imperial power.
Mystical Seeker said…
By the way, the analogy I meant to make with "panzer division" was not quite right. The idea I meant to convey was to imagine this story being told in, say, occupied France, with a demon calling itself "Panzer Division".
Anonymous said…
I recently had my eyes opened on Luke 15.. first, picture the stage in vs 1&2.. Jesus hanging with the sinners as the religious looked on. Now.. this is a dinner and there is probably wine and its loud.. think what a bunch of sinners must look like. Then Jesus tells these three stories... which of course includes the Prodigal son.. but what is interesting is how each story ends.. with a party. So you imagine this loud bunch as Jesus tells these stories.. what happens when he finds the sheep, THEY PARTY.. finds the lost coin, THEY PARTY.. when the son comes home.. THEY PARTY!

Anonymous said…
I've heard upstanding Catholics (my parents) tell some pretty heavy "gallows humor".

Rather than type them and risk offending anyone. See the link and the joke

“Whoever is without sin?”

They don’t have the joke that ends with “I can see my house from here!”

This link is interesting because it includes reactions to the humor.

Last but not least, if you’re old enough to remember .
This is worth a watch at any rate. The religious one start at #3

I love the “Catholic Baptist”

David Mc
Anonymous said…
Hey Chuck,

If some didn't have an problem with it, it would be fun to read the bible quotes on alcohol.

The utube link above has a kid talking about the wedding story and its moral.

David Mc
Anonymous said…
This is worth being copied to here-

If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.
Oscar Wilde
Anonymous said…
Here's a link to one of your commentor's cartoons-
Anonymous said…
I am conservative.. but I think its crazy to say there is no alcohol in the Bible. I would imagine Jesus was involved with some wild parties and events.. like his first miracle. Don't want this idea stretched too far... as I have heard, one glass is fine in moderation, but 12 is another story. B/c we are all sinful, we tend to self indulge beyond simple enjoyment on things. Sadly, the counter is rather that teach moderation is to teach elimination.

Anonymous said…
I'm an old hippie, but I agree

There’s plenty there Chuck. Some say yes, some say no.

Safer bet with herbs?

I'll have to study this some more-
David Mc

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