My Beautiful Wickedness

A thought I never thought before
October 22, 2008, 12:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Poor Christ. Once he got some followers and people began whispering that he might be the Messiah, they took every word that came out of his mouth literally. Imagine never being able to horse around with your friends, talk a little smack, joke around once in a while, especially when you knew that you were winding it down to die a gruesome and painful death.

Or what if he did? What if some of the “words” that are canonical were said in a moment of play? Certainly he had his human moments of anger…but why are we so willing to concede that he could be angry but not funny? Were those times just not written down or thought worth remembering? Did the shadow of his violent death overshadow the bright spots of laughter? Or are zealots just categorically less able to appreciate a good joke? Or maybe was the ideal of Jewish manhood among the artisanal class such that the scholar was not supposed to play around? I keep thinking about the moment where his disciples are trying to shoo the kids away, what a relief it must have been for him to have a group of kids who didn’t imbue every touch with celestial importance and could just play tag and laugh…

Anyhow, never thought about that before. Are there moments when a “funny” reading of the New Testament produces a thought-provoking result?


11 Comments so far
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There’s a lot of wordplay in the Talmud. It’s serious, in the sense that it concerns the Law, which is a serious topic, but it is definitely word play –puns, alternate meanings (this is quite easy to do in Aramaic, given the way words are formed), stuff like that. (Some of the really long hair-splitting discussions are also clearly humorous, in the “I can top that! I can parse the question even further!” sense.) And I know there’s at least one pun attributed to Jesus; his naming of Peter surely qualifies. Maybe there were more, and the Greeks didn’t get them?

Comment by nm

“It is his shoe!!! We must worship it!!!”

According to my old religion professor, the whole Peter quote was only the most famous of a bunch of New Testament puns. He didn’t give us any other examples though.

Comment by Gerald

Of course, the Essenes/Holiness Code folks, who were also an influence on Jesus, thought playing with kids was a distraction from the important stuff of life and spirit.

Comment by nm

The Talmud is chock-full of jokes and humorous stories…and we know Jesus studied Talmud….

Comment by Nick Dupree

Eh, well, there wasn’t any Talmud as we know it today when he was around. But the folks whose words are compiled as Gemara (the commentary part of the Talmud) were around, and he’s got enough direct quotes from some of them that we know he was aware of them.

Comment by nm


I read about the first paragraph and a half and got a picture of Lewis Black ranting on the edge of the Sea of Galilee.

The “Eight Beatitudes” would certainly have been different. Hey, maybe Lewis Black IS the messiah!!

Comment by democommie

Or George Carlin — the Seven Words You Can’t Say in Synagogue.

Comment by bridgett

The Seven Words You *Can* Say in Synagogue: SHT, PSS, CNT, FCK, CCKSCKR, MTHRFCKR, and TTS.

Comment by John Gruver

You crack me up.

Comment by bridgett

Lewis Black, my favorite crazy man. He just *never* *stops* *ranting*


Comment by imfunny2

I always thought that it was obvious that Jesus was a bit of a joker. I mean, look at the way he reveals himself after the Resurrection. Every instance only makes sense if you understand it as him taking great delight in surprising the people he sees.

Comment by Aunt B.

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