|Humour||Discovery||Human nature||Observation||The sympathetic|
|Wit||Throwing light||Words and ideas||Surprise||The intelligent|
|Satire||Amendment||Morals and manners||Accentuation||The self-satisfied|
|Sarcasm||Inflicting pain||Faults and foibles||Inversion||Victim and bystander|
|Invective||Discredit||Misconduct||Direct statement||The public|
|Irony||Exclusiveness||Statement of facts||Mystification||An inner circle|
|Cynicism||Self-justification||Morals||Exposure of nakedness||The respectable|
In this post I’d like to add to Fowler’s table with some suggested (Hebrew) Bible passages that (I suggest) reflect that sort of humour:
|Device||Motive or aim||Province||Method or means||Audience||Bible example|
|Humour||Discovery||Human nature||Observation||The sympathetic||Ruth 2|
|Wit||Throwing light||Words and ideas||Surprise||The intelligent||Is 5:7|
|Satire||Amendment||Morals and manners||Accentuation||The self-satisfied||Is 5:22|
|Sarcasm||Inflicting pain||Faults and foibles||Inversion||Victim and bystander||Jer 22:14|
|Invective||Discredit||Misconduct||Direct statement||The public||Judges 5?|
|Irony||Exclusiveness||Statement of facts||Mystification||An inner circle||Jon 2 esp. v.8|
|Cynicism||Self-justification||Morals||Exposure of nakedness||The respectable||XXX|
Some are fairly straightforward like Ruth 2 as I suggest in Humour in the Bible: 8 Ruth: Ruth is from Moab, Boaz is from Bethlehem. Here gentle pointing out of the social and cultural differences between semi-nomadic Ruth and peasant farmer Boaz leads to some smiles and a richer sense of the characters involved in the story. I think this example fits Fowler’s “humour” category neatly, through the observation of human nature our sympathy with the characters is enhanced.
But is Isaiah’s punning “he expected justice (mishpat), but saw bloodshed (mispach); righteousness (sedaqah), but heard a cry (sea’qah)!” (Is 5:7 NRSV) wit, for there is certainly surprise and light thrown by words and ideas, but the aim is surely amendment (the goal of “satire”).
Though Is 5:22 “Ah, you who are heroes in drinking wine and valiant at mixing drink…” (Is 5:22 NRSV) is fairly straightforwardly satire.Yet goals are tricky, if the goal here is arguably change in Jer 22:15 “Are you a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him.” One doubts the intent is a change of behaviour, and so suspects sarcasm…
In Jonah’s psalm (Jonah 2) there is plenty of irony, note especially “Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty.” (Jon 2:8 NRSV) on the lips of a prophet fleeing God while pagan sailors offer sacrifices to Yahweh above him in the ship. But is there any exclusiveness or mystification here?
This post has taken too long, and anyway its goal is to encourage you to comment and enter a conversation on the topic so I will leave it to you to either propose answers to my questions, or candidates for cynicism and the sardonic (I suspect Job and Ecclesiastes might be fertile hunting grounds…).
My conclusion so far is that these characteristics of different varieties of humour will be helpful in discussing biblical humour, but that they are far from the neat and clear classification that they seemed at first glance!
Into what category though does something like the ironic presentation of Sisera’s mother and her ladies gloating over Sisera and his men enjoying the Israelite women they capture as booty in Judges 5 fall?2 There IS irony, since at the time elsewhere Sisera is lying dead struck through the head by a tent peg driven by Jael. Yet there is no mystification or exclusiveness to the telling… Nor does it fit “satire” since the goal is hardly amendment, or sarcasm since the Canaanites wil hardly hear the song… Perhaps “invective fits best?