Certain People of the Book

Certain People of the Book

Certain People of the Book

Certain People of the Book

Excerpt

I MUST BEGIN by dispelling the popular notion that there is no humor in the Bible. I am not speaking of ironical passages here and there, or of figures held up for the complacent derision of the godly. I am speaking of sustained comic writing and of deliberately comic figures, of which there are many varieties: comics as fools, as dolts, as knaves, as grotesques, and even as beneficent gnomes. I shall present them in turn between the serious personalities; and I open with Ahasuerus the Emperor.

The humor of the Bible is deadpan. The narrative never abandons the stately rhythms that come through to us even in the translations, and an implacable solemnity seems to brood over individuals and incidents: let me say a suspiciously implacable solemnity, because it is inconceivable that the whole Biblical world should have lived its life in such a sustained severity of mood. Long ago I suspected that in many places the majestic façade only half concealed an invitation to mirth: a progressive mirth, developing from a startled and timid grin into a joyous chuckle to explode at last into a con-

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