The Wit of the Carpenter

In 1964, the Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood published a short book called The Humor of Christ (Harper and Row). In it he challenged “the conventional picture of a Christ who never laughed.” He rightly observed that there is far more laughter in the gospels than is generally recognized. Further, he makes the excellent point that “there are numerous passages in the recorded teaching which are practically incomprehensible when regarded as sober prose, but which are luminous once we become liberated from the gratuitous assumption that Christ never joked” (p. 10).

At the back of his book, he lists “Thirty Humorous Passages in the Synoptic Gospels.” I’ve reproduced the list here for those who wish to peruse them:

  1. Automatic rewards, Matthew 6:2, 5, 16
  2. No need to borrow trouble, Matthew 6:34
  3. The price of judgment, Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:37
  4. Speck and log in the eye, Matthew 7:34, Luke 6:41
  5. Pearls before swine, Matthew 7:6
  6. Figs and thistles, Matthew 7:16, Luke 6:44
  7. Dead undertakers, Matthew 8:22, Luke 9:60
  8. The insatiable critics, Matthew 11:16-19, Luke 7:31-35
  9. The success of your sons, Matthew 12:27, Luke 11:19
  10. The circumvention of the law, Matthew 15:5, Mark 7:9-13
  11. Blind guides, Matthew 15:14
  12. Bread to the dogs, Matthew 15:26, Mark 7:27
  13. Simon’s new name, Matthew 16:18
  14. Get behind me, Satan, Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:33
  15. Big and little debts, Matthew 18:28
  16. Camel through needle’s eye, Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25
  17. Begrudging generosity, Matthew 20:1-16 [corrected]
  18. Follow preaching not practice, Matthew 23:3
  19. Broad phylacteries, Matthew 23:5
  20. Dogs in the manger, Matthew 23:13, Luke 11:52
  21. Straining a gnat and swallowing a camel, Matthew 23:24
  22. The outside of the cup, Matthew 23:25, Luke 11:39
  23. Whitewashed tombs, Matthew 23:27
  24. The gathered vultures, Matthew 24:28, Luke 17:37
  25. Preparation for the thief, Matthew 24:43, Luke 12:39
  26. A lamp under a bed, Mark 4:21
  27. The good old wine, Luke 5:39
  28. Successful pestering, Luke 11:8, Luke 18:5
  29. The unjust steward, Luke 16:1-9
  30. Rulers as benefactors, Luke 22:25

(See also L. M. Hussey, “The Wit of the Carpenter,” The American Mercury, Vol. V, page 329-36.)

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One thought on “The Wit of the Carpenter

  1. Nice. The humor in the Unjust Judge parable (#28 on the list) struck me a few months ago when my Bible study was discussing it. Imagine Jesus taking the part of the judge – “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, because this widow keeps _bothering_ me I will give her justice . . .”

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