As I recently read the gospels in the Scholars Version of the Bible [The Five Gospels by the Jesus Seminar] I was struck by the humor of Jesus! In fact as I found myself rolling on the floor at the verses in Matthew 7:3 through 7:5, I asked my self why I had never found these funny before. I had never noticed anyone laughing the scores of times I have heard them read in church. Why now? So I got out some other translations and compared them. Here are those same verses from Matthew from three Bible versions:
My problem with the KJV is obvious - I just don't hear people speak that way. It sounds very much like someone transliterated from Greek to English. It is couched in traditional religious language. My mind was looking for moral instruction. Biblical words like hypocrite and brother are religious buzz words bringing specific associations. Thou and thine elevate to the spiritual. One hardly expects to find 'beholdist' in jocular material.
The problems with the New English translstion are more subtle. Hyprocrite and brother are still religious buzz words. Speck of sawdust and great plank are somewhat foreign.
The Scholars version tells it in the style that one expects to hear a joke in. It was their deliberate intention to translate in such a fashion that the reader would think that the author was telling a story to one using the authors unique style of narrative. I think the authors recognized the inherent humor and took this in to consideration in their translation. Subtleties of language and timing are necessary to impart humor.
Here are some other examples; all are taken from Matthews gospel:
I think most people would not find humor in that last quote. Most people assume that the message is that rich people are likely to go to hell. While the quotes given above are regarded by the Fellows of the Jesus seminar to be close to the actual words spoken by Jesus, they suggest that the evangelist Matthew added his own words following the above verses to soften a harsh text. He attributed these words to the disciples: The disciples asked "Well then, who can be saved?" He attributed these words to Jesus: For mortalís this is impossible; for God everythingís possible.
In stripping away layers of Christian theology that have been mixed into the dialogues of Jesus in the scriptures, they suggest the idea that Jesus was not of an apocalyptic mind set. Jesus spoke most characteristically of God's rule as close or already present but unobserved. In this sense Jesus' remarks would be seen not as a condemnation but rather the inability of the rich to get with it. This type of exaggeration is characteristic of Jesus.
Some of the sayings of Jesus while not explicitly funny are nearly so. Here are a few. There are many other examples. In fact when you have all the authentic words of Jesus gathered together his personality shines through.
Here Jesus is not talking literally. He is suggesting how to react differently to acts of aggression.