Did Jesus, St. Paul, & the Prophets Use Sarcasm? Yes

Did Jesus, St. Paul, & the Prophets Use Sarcasm? Yes June 12, 2019

This is a vastly misunderstood area of Christianity and the Bible. Every time I use sarcasm or satire or parody (as I do, not infrequently), I hear complaints. People have this misguided notion in their heads that all sarcasm and satire and pointed humor is sinful and wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I would go so far as to observe that if someone thinks Jesus didn’t use sarcasm and satirical-type humor, and quite often at that, that they have only a dim understanding of Jesus’ teaching methods. Not to be rude or anything, but it is quite uneducated about a major motif in Scripture.

I think the main reason for this widespread misconception is that many people are unable to distinguish between legitimate satire, that attempts to make a serious point, and plain old insults and calumny. The two are not the same. Statements can be very pointed or provocative or acerbic, or rebuking, but not sinful, if what they convey is true.

In a similar or analogous way, there is a common notion that all rational argument reduces to a “quarrel.” People don’t distinguish between the two. For them, any discussion where there is strong disagreement is a bad thing, and will inevitably descend to wrangling and fighting and quarreling.

Often it’s a background thing: if one grew up in a house with constant quarreling between the parents, where every honest difference of opinion became a nasty, malicious fight, with intent to hurt and belittle the other, they received the strong impression that all disagreements come down to a free-for-all; a mud pie fight. They have no model for anything different.

And how people carry on online reinforces this. We’re now in a culture that is rapidly losing a sense that dialogue is a way to learn more truth: to have one’s ideas challenged, or to challenge others, as the case may be. Free speech itself is under attack. No one can disagree with anyone else, because opinions are now subjectively equated with people, so that to disagree with a person is to be “against” them, and that’s bad, so we mustn’t disagree!

I found four great articles about sarcasm in Scripture:

“Jesus Uses Sarcasm? Yes He Does”

“What does the Bible say about satire and/or sarcasm?”

Yes, Jesus was Sarcastic… and it Worked”

It’s Not Wrong to Tell Wrong People That They’re Wrong (aka “The Not-So-Nice Jesus“) [John Martignoni, National Catholic Register, 8-17-16]

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Here are several of my own related articles:

Christianity, Sarcasm, Satire, Irony, Jesus & Paul [1999 and 6-2-07]

Blaise Pascal on Ridicule & Sarcasm Regarding Sin & Folly: Sanctioned by God; Many Biblical Examples Provided [12-29-11]

Atheism: A Remarkably Strong, Impervious Faith in “Atomism” [8-19-15]

Clarifications Regarding My Atheist Reductio Paper (referring to the immediately preceding, vastly misunderstood satirical piece) [8-20-15]

Inept Satire Case Study: Dr. Edward Feser’s “Lexicon” [2-2-18]

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(originally 8-16-17 on Facebook)

Photo credit: Christ and the Pharisees (c. 1660), by Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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