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Ancient Biblical Satire

Thomas Jemielity

Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405119559.2007.00005.x


He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. (Psalm 2: 4, Authorized Version ) Asked to name the world's funniest book, few would mention the Bible. Yet, somewhat perversely perhaps, I have for many years thought that one of the funniest scenes I have ever read occurs in the Gospel of John when Jesus has a lengthy conversation with the Samaritan woman at a well where she has come to draw water (John 4: 4 — 42). The woman is amazed that Jesus should ask her for a drink, since, as John notes, “Jews and Samaritans … do not use vessels in common” (4: 9). When Jesus asks her to get her husband and return, she says, “I have no husband” (4: 17). Jesus agrees, but adds, with an intense look most likely, “although you have had five husbands, the man with whom you are now living is not your husband” (4: 18). To which the Samaritan woman replies, “Sir… I can see that you are a prophet” (4: 19). From my high-school days, I have always found that a very funny response, an apparently thorough non sequitur covering an embarrassing moment in a talk that has turned decidedly personal and intimate. At an older period of my life, I know now that the woman's comments were not as off the point as I had once thought. Like many readers of the Bible, I had assumed that a prophet was in the business of prediction, foretelling the future. What could the Samaritan woman ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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