Thursday, April 3, 2008

Of Humor and Spirituality, Historically Speaking

From Ancient Humor: Raunch, Riddles and Religion, by Jennifer Viegas at Discovery News:
Lost in Translation

The link between spirituality and humor may extend to the Bible, but much of the book's sarcasm, irony and wordplay was lost when it was translated into Latin and other languages, according to Brooklyn College's Hershey Friedman, who published related findings in the journal Humor.

"Translating Hebrew into English results in the loss of the imagery and wordplays of the Hebrew," he told Discovery News.

One of Friedman's favorite passages is the "Book of Jonah," which, in the Jewish faith, is read each year on Yom Kippur. Jonah becomes such a successful prophet that people repent, fast and dress according to his guidance. "Even the animals fast," Friedman said.

He explained that Jonah was meant to be a parody for readers.

"In effect, God is saying, 'I sent the worst prophet I could find (Jonah) to the Assyrians, and he did not have to say very much, and they all repented. I sent numerous articulate prophets to the Israelites and they did not wish to change their idolatrous ways."

"There is humor here, but the humor is used to deliver a very potent message," he added. "The humor in the Bible has a purpose. It is used to mock the idolater and the wicked."
Now, if only they could tell me that all the "begatting" was at one time sexy smut too.

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