Cover image for The Bible and the comic vision
The Bible and the comic vision
Whedbee, J. William.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xii, 315 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library BS1199.W58 W44 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This study explores in a comprehensive and provocative way the presence of comedy in the Hebrew Scriptures. Apart from the occasional recognition of comic forms or motifs in biblical dress, the vast majority of interpreters have usually discounted or even disdained the possibility of the Bible having any significant place for the comic vision. This book attempts to make amends for this short-sighted, prejudicial perspective. Using a broad, eclectic view of comedy, it offers an in-depth analysis of such richly diverse biblical texts as Genesis, Exodus, Esther, Jonah, Job and the Song of Songs. Showing how comedy oscillates between the poles of attack and affirmation, critique and celebration, this exploration brings to light the biblical appropriation of the comic vision as a vital strategy to overcome death and despair and to revel in life and laughter.

Author Notes

J. William Whedbee is the Nancy M. Lyon Professor of Biblical Literature and History at Pomona College

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Whedbee (Pomona College) brings together a lifetime of scholarly thought on a subject he has written about extensively. While concentrating on Genesis 1 through Exodus 15, he also explores the comic dimensions of Esther, Jonah, Job, and the Song of Songs. Whedbee focuses on two related features found in many biblical texts: they contain what Northrop Frye calls a U-shaped plot, "which typically moves from fragile harmony to conflict and estrangement and finally to reconciliation and restoration"; and they commonly express humor either by using stock characters like the trickster and the dupe, or by employing stylistic strategies like punning and parody. Whedbee's nuanced readings reveal how a story like Israel's exodus that "falls into the domain of comedy" includes tragic dimensions that are "transcended without being fully eliminated." While Whedbee does not fully unpack the theological ramifications of biblical humor, he does demonstrate how it aims at "subversion often serving to undercut and clear away obstacles to the realization of fertility and forgiveness; and celebration finding expression in festivals of freedom and hope." An important book for the literary study of the Bible, for general readers and undergraduates through faculty and researchers. J. S. Kaminsky; Smith College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. viii
Note on translation and transliterationp. xii
Introduction: An Anatomy of Comedy in the Biblep. 1
Part I The Genesis of Comedy-the Comedy of Genesisp. 15
1 The Comedy of Creation (Genesis 1-11)p. 19
2 Domestic Comedy in the Household of Faith (Genesis 12-50)p. 64
Part II The Drive to Comic Regenerationp. 127
3 Liberation and Laughter: Exodus and Estherp. 129
4 Jonah as Jokep. 191
5 The Comedy of Jobp. 221
6 Paradox and Parody in the Song of Solomonp. 263
Conclusion: A Comprehensive View of Biblical Comedyp. 278
Bibliographyp. 289
Index of Authorsp. 301
Index of Biblical Referencesp. 304
Index of Topicsp. 312

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