Humour in the Bible 2.2: Humour in narrative texts – Telling funny events

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The book of Jonah is interesting in a number of ways, not least how it continually subverts our expectations. It is found among the prophetic books (in both Hebrew and Greek canons) yet contains only five words that we could classify as prophetic speech. Jonah son of Amittai appears to be a known and true […]

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Humour in the Bible 2.1: Humour in narrative texts – Introduction

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Beginning by considering humour in narrative texts is an attempt to deal with what is probably the most straightforward case first. In everyday life we perceive certain events as funny. When recounting such events we tell them in ways that highlight their humour.1 There is little or no difference between the manner of such recounting […]

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Humour in the Bible 1.4 Introduction: Signs a text contains humour

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The attempt to investigate humour in the Bible is even more impacted by the differences of time, place and above all culture that make most biblical interpretation less than straightforward. For recognising, let alone understanding, humour across cultural difference is always difficult. Anyone who has lived in a culture other than their own (or perhaps […]

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Humour in the Bible 1.3 Introduction: Locating humour

The simplest useful definition of humour has to be: “Humour is present when people laugh”. However, this simplicity masks real problems. For a start as we saw people laugh for other reasons than just that something is funny, embarrassment and being tickled are obvious (and pretty cross cultural) examples. But also sometimes people ‘laugh at’ […]

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Humour in the Bible 1.2 Introduction: Theories of Humour

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Theories of humour are generally classified under three approaches1 Superiority Incongruity Relief Superiority Perhaps the majority of classical philosophers who considered humour at any depth had the cutting humour of satire and the like significantly in mind, so it was perhaps natural to suspect (intellectuals are good at suspecting) that a sense of superiority was […]

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Humour in the Bible 1.1 Introduction: History and definition

Humour’s bad rap Humour has not been popular with intellectuals in the Western world. From Plato and the Bible until quite recently their focus seems to have rested more on sharp cutting humour than on gentler wit. The overpowering loss of control that extreme laughter can produce also made it suspect. The critical probing nature […]

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