Never one reluctant to ask for more, David Ker has rightly pointed out that I did not explain how/why Ecclesiastes 10:5-15 is (and was meant to be) funny. So here goes… (( If I had the hubris I’d title this podcast: “An artist’s reply to just criticism”, but that would be most unfair to poor David 😉 ))
Oh, don’t worry, this won’t be a dull dissection or a boring breakdown, I’ll just show you how several of the signs of humour are present, and in doing so hopefully reveal (without analysing to death) the humour in this passage!
So, here’s the audio: Humour in the Bible: 21B: Ecclesiastes (again)
David is dour – he has never read my translation of Qohelet. I hooted my way through this droll book. (I know researching Dr. Seuss was also fun) – here though in chapter 10 verse 1 is a funny bit too
A dead fly makes a stink in a bowl of perfumer’s oil
from shrewdness, from glory – a little foolishness
Between the two of you, you have almost convinced me that (after Jonah) I should try my hand at an Ecclesiastes commentary… The book is so profound and funny, it is a great combination.
Thanks for this. Maybe I just needed a reminder of the elements of OT humor. As I’ve said before OT scholars are way cooler than NT scholars. Maybe funnier, too.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading of African authors. They really do seem to lean toward cause and effect, fatalism, consequences, and grim endings. I remember a decade ago collecting stories in Mozambique and they all read like Hillaire Belloc cautionary tales. Maybe that’s one of the attractions of the OT for Africans and they might even like the shorter ending of Mark.
I don’t think they are “elements of humour” that list would be way different, and would include the deceived husband, the fool, and the rest of that (fairly but not entirely international) cast of stock characters, there would be quite a bit of overlap, e.g. pretension would appear on both lists. BUT an elements of humour list would certainly be very culturally influenced and therefore quite different in different places/times.
I’m making the more ambitious claim that these items are “signs of humour”. When many of them are present a text is likely to have been intended to be funny. The advantage of this approach (if it holds water) is that once we have decided a text is meant to be funny we are free to laugh (or smile) with it, without the fear of causing cultural offense!
On the short ending of Mark, how could anyone NOT prefer it, so dramatic, openended and mysterious. It is just so much stronger than the more pedestrian versions. And the very fact that lots of people think it incomplete is a bonus 😉
[…] Are Hebrew Bible scholars cooler? July 25, 2011 tim No comments 0 OT scholars are way cooler than NT scholars. Maybe funnier, too. (David Ker in a comment on my podcast Humour in the Bible: 21B: Ecclesiastes (again)) […]