The Bible contains a wide array of different literary styles. Much of it is narrative history has settings, plots, and characters not unlike the literary style that you would read in a history book. Other sections of the Bible are long passages of laws written out in exacting detail. There’s poetry, prophecy, passages of comfort and hope, and passages of anger and wrath.
But are there any jokes in the Bible? Yes and no. On the whole, the Bible is an intensely serious book, detailing the relationship between God and the people who worship him. However, within that context are passages that, written in their original language and understood in their original cultural contexts, might have elicited a chuckle. There are also a couple of passages that even modern readers might crack the slightest of grins at — if they’re in the right frame of mind. Examples of humor in the Bible include teasing, pranks, absurdity, and hyperbolic wordplay, among other types of comedy. Here is a not-comprehensive list of jokes in the Bible.
There's some comic absurdity in the Old Testament
One of the earliest “jokes” in the Bible is an example of comic absurdity. Imagine if you punished your pet dog, and in response, he opened his mouth and asked you what the heck that was about. Well, something similar happens in Numbers 22, when the prophet Balaam was having a bad day and took it out on his donkey, repeatedly beating the poor beast with a stick. The donkey has enough of it and talks back: “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”
Along the lines of comic absurdity, back in Genesis 17-18, God promised Abraham and Sarah, an elderly man and woman, that they would have children. Although both laughed, God was not laughing, as Aleteia explains. Similarly, in Numbers 11, the Jews are hungry and complain, and in response, God promises them so much food that it will be coming out of their nostrils.
In 1 Samuel 24, we have a prank of sorts. David’s enemy, Saul, had gone into a cave to “relieve himself,” and David crept up on his adversary and cut a corner off of his robe while he was doing the deed. There’s no word on whether or not David stifled giggles while doing so, but it bears noting that David felt bad about it afterward.
There's a joke about genitalia in the New Testament
Perhaps the funniest joke in all of the Bible occurs in the New Testament in the form of hyperbolic, dare we say comedic, wordplay.
To set the scene: As Andrews University notes, at the time there was a conflict between Christians who came from the Jewish tradition and those who came from the Greek tradition, which had its own customs. Specifically, there were some Jewish Christians who insisted that it was necessary for Greek (male) converts to Christianity to be circumcised in order to be Christian, and it was causing problems in certain congregations. In Galatians 5, Paul writes that he’s having none of it. “As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” he wrote.
In the next chapter of Galatians, Paul brings out the comic hyperbole again. Continuing on with the discussion of circumcision, Paul tells the audience, before he gets into his narrative, that he wants their attention: “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” The joke was doubtless funnier to the people who could see the actual document Paul wrote, with its big letters.
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