Reclaiming Jesus’ sense of humor
Here’s a serious question about levity: The Bible clearly paints a picture of Jesus of Nazareth as a clever guy, but he never seems to laugh, much less crack a smile. Did Jesus really have no sense of humor; didn't he ever laugh?
Well, one difficulty with finding humor in the New Testament is that what was seen as funny to those living in Jesus' time may not seem funny to us.
For someone in first-century Palestine, the premise (or “setup” as a comic would say) was probably more amusing than the punch line. "The parables were amusing in their exaggeration or hyperbole," Amy-Jill Levine, a New Testament scholar at Vanderbilt University, said in an interview. “The idea that a mustard seed would have sprouted into a big bush that birds would build their nests in would be humorous."
People in Jesus’ day would probably have laughed at many of his intentionally funny illustrations: for example, the idea that someone would have lit a lamp and put it under a basket, or that a person would have built a house on sand or that a father would give a child stones instead of bread.
But contemporary Christians may be missing the humor that Jesus intended and that his audience understood.
Father Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, professor of New Testament at Boston College, agrees. "Humor is very culture bound," he told me. "The Gospels have a lot of controversy stories and honor-shame situations...
Article first found on the CNN Belief Blog.