A native of Ft. Payne, Alabama, and educated in the public schools of Orange County, Florida, and Dekalb County, Alabama, Mark E. Biddle holds degrees from Samford University, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Rueschlikon Baptist Theological Seminary, and the University of Zurich. In addition to editing the Reading the Old Testament series, he is the author of Deuteronomy in the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series and Judges in the Reading the Old Testament series. His new book is titled A Time to Laugh: Humor in the Bible.
How would you describe your new book, A Time to Laugh: Humor in the Bible?
In A Time to Laugh, I try to accomplish three things at once. As a seminary Old Testament professor, my vocation centers on helping my students read the Bible with greater clarity and depth. People often fail to see the Bible’s skillful portrayal of authentic human experience. They “flatten” Scripture, so to speak. First, then, I hope that A Time to Laugh helps readers see the Bible with new, more perceptive eyes. Second, in order to achieve this objective, A Time to Laugh demonstrates how to read the Bible more perceptively by means of specific example texts. Third, the fact that the Bible employs humor invites theological reflection on the significance and function of the comic in the life of faith.
How did you come to write a book on humor in the Bible?
I discuss this in the book, of course, but I can summarize the account. The genesis of the book goes back over a decade to when I was teaching at the undergraduate level and had an unexpected experience in the classroom that caused me to ask whether there might be humor in the Bible. Years later, after thinking and reading about the question, I began to teach a course on “Humor in the Bible” at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. It has been very popular with students; two of my students have published papers written in the class in academic journals and gone on to PhD studies in the field; churches in the Richmond area frequently ask me to speak on the topic. I am convinced that recognizing the humor in the Bible enriches our experience of the text, and apparently my students and church folk are too. I wrote the book because I want to make the insights I’ve gained through studying and teaching on the subject available to a broad audience.