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Humor in the New Testament with Peter as the Comedian

Posted by on Apr 11, 2011 in scripture | 5 comments

Humor in the New Testament with Peter as the Comedian

My 17 year old son, Jeremy, is reading Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales for school. As part of an assignment on that book, he had to write a paper on humor, specifically about how Matthew used Peter in a humorous way (specifically ironic humor) in Matthew 16 and Matthew 26. Many of his classmates could not understand the irony in these passages as humor.

After thinking about this, Jeremy decided that the problem was the context. Since the context of Matthew 16 and Matthew 26 was so serious, it was difficult to recognize the irony as a type of humor. So, Jeremy retold the stories in a way that would lighten the mood. In this way, he was hoping that his classmates would better recognize the humor.

Here is his paper. What do you think?

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What makes the character of Jesus’ disciple Peter humorous (Matthew 16:17-23, 26:34)?

Matthew 16 says something like this: It was late one night, and Jesus and Peter were sitting on the couch just chilling. There were a few other guys there too, ten or eleven; all of them just listening to Jesus and thinking about how cool this guy was. Then Jesus said, “So, boys, who do you think I am?”

Peter immediately said, “Pshh, you’re like God’s son, Jesus. You’re the coolest. You know like everything!”

A few seconds went by, and Jesus looked up at Peter and said, “You’re pretty cool yourself, Peter, and because you said this I’m going to make you my right hand man! I’m going to give you like the master key to the heavens, and you’ll be livin’ like a king!” And with that Jesus gave Peter a big hug. “It’s just too bad I’m going to be killed pretty soon,” Jesus said in somewhat of a regretful tone.

Peter jumped up from the couch and exclaimed, “Jesus! Why do you always have to be such a downer? We ain’t never gonna let someone hurt you. And if they try…they’re gonna have to get through ME first!” All the other guys there shook their heads in agreement.

“Peter, Peter, Peter, you are such a funny guy, but you still don’t understand yet,” Jesus said with a smile on his face.

Matthew 26, if I’m remembering correctly, goes something like: “Let’s play ‘LET’S TRY NOT TO DENY CHRIST,’” Jesus shouted in unison with the crowd around him. “So this is a game show where you try not to deny me…Christ! You have three lives. Each time you deny me you loose a life! And with each loss of a life you loose $150,000,000! The game is over when the roster crows! Now let’s meet our first contestant…Simon Peter are you ready to play?”

“I’m ready Lord. I would die before I deny you!”

“Ok Peter…get ready…get set…GO!”

Peter ran into a courtyard. Everything was quiet at first, but then, all of a sudden, there was a little girl, and she asked, “Hey, don’t you know Christ?”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” Peter said without thinking.

The crowed booed as Jesus announced over the intercom “There goes one life and $150,000,000!”

Peter got himself back together, walked over to the gateway, and prepared for the next round to begin. Without warning the young girl was there again, this time yelling, “I saw you before with Jesus of Nazareth.”

This time Peter shouted, “I promise I don’t know him!”

“It is not looking good for Peter. Two lives down and there goes another $150,000,000. You have one try left.” Jesus said.

Peter was beginning to sweat. The last round would be the hardest. He watched as a whole crowed of people approached him all yelling, “You must know him! We all saw you!”

Then Peter cracked. He was yelling and screaming, “I don’t know him!” He began swearing and many in the audience gasped. They thought that he would soon become violent. Then there were three loud roster crows. The game was over.

Jesus walked out on the floor and shook Peter’s hand firmly, saying “Better luck next time, Peter. Well let’s meet our next contestant!”

So this is obviously not really Scripture, and contains a different type of humor, but I want to use these two stories to show the humor in the passages and then also show the differences between the text that I have given and the Scriptures. In both of these passages Peter is shown as being very ironic. First he admits the truth of Jesus, saying that he is the Son of God, and then instantly tells Christ that he doesn’t know what is going to happen. (Jesus also uses a play on words, saying that Peter would be a rock.) In the second passage Peter is doing the same thing. Peter tells Christ that there is no way he would ever deny him, even though Jesus insisted that he would. This shows a lack of faith that Peter has. He says that Christ is the Son of God, but his actions show a grave lack of trust and faith. Many of Chaucer’s characters (i.e. the Monk) in The Canterbury Tails show this same type of ironic humor. Monks are not generally allowed to own land but the Monk in the story raves about his home outside the monastery.

The big difference I see between my stories and the Scripture is the context in which the ironic humor is found. This humor could also be seen as hypocrisy. In the context in which I wrote my story, Jesus’ responses and attitude toward Peter’s hypocrisy is very casual. This is because they were placed in a casual setting. On the other hand in the Scriptures Jesus is shown to deal very harshly with Peter’s hypocrisy. This is because of what is at stake. It is not a casual time or place. Similarly, Chaucer and his fictional character, the Host, do not find their companions to be very humorous. So perhaps those who are present cannot appreciate ironic humor, but instead those who already have knowledge of the ending to the story can enjoy the ironic humor.


5 Comments

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  1. 4-11-2011

    Nicely written! I love the game show theme of the three denials! I can just picture “Jesus” talking in one of those cheesy game show host voices and wearing some awesome suit from the 70s!

  2. 4-11-2011

    Dan,

    Yes, I thought he did a good job also. I think he gets his sense of humor from his mother.

    -Alan

  3. 4-11-2011

    Alan, you might not be able to tell from my comments (I’m not big on “Me too!” posts), but I think you write a lot of good stuff and have been edified by this blog.

    However, this post sends shivers down my spine.

    It falsifies the Word of God and strips Jesus of His holiness. Humor is not an excuse for misrepresenting the character of the LORD God (Proverbs 26:18-19, Ephesians 5:4). Moreover, from the true text the Lord obviously did not find his disciples betraying him amusing.

    The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and this truth did not change with the cross. The very sight of Jesus in his glory caused the apostle John to fall down as dead; He is still the same God who killed Uzza just for touching the Ark of the Covenant.

    “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19

    God is merciful and longsuffering, but he warns us repeatedly not to tempt Him. God’s Word is not a toy; you’re playing with a consuming fire.

  4. 4-11-2011

    Tom,

    My post and my son’s paper were both written in a way to show that what was re-written was NOT Scripture and was not an historical representation of Jesus. Instead, it was written so that people who could not understand the ironic humor (which was in Scripture) because of the seriousness of the situations, could recognize a different type of humor by making the situations less serious.

    Again, we do not consider this God’s Word at all.

    -Alan

  5. 4-12-2011

    I understood that you don’t intend people to take it seriously when I wrote my comment. That doesn’t change the fact that you’re taking the Lord’s name in vain (emptily, for no true, good purpose) and using it to describe a false god.

    This kind of thing has spiritual effects on the audience whether you intend it to or not. It encourages a lack of fear and a flippant attitude toward God and His Word.

    If you point a real gun at me and act like you’re going to shoot me with it, you’re still being reckless even if you insist it’s not loaded and you were just playing a game. Some things just aren’t toys. Guns are one, and God’s Word is another.

    Please, consider that our God today is the same God who struck Nadab and Abihu dead just for making an offering that was not commanded. Do you think this Holy, Holy, Holy God would have reacted differently if they had decided to play frisbee with the bowls for the altar instead?

    Biblically, making a false god is worse than rape. You would be very disturbed if you saw someone in your church making a game out of pretending to rape someone. Why then are you not disturbed by someone making a joke by inventing a false Christ?