Humor in the midst of Mark : an analysis of incongruity in Mark 4:35–6:6.
Since the rise of biblical criticism, there has been a steady stream of scholarship exploring the possibility of reading the biblical text as humorous. This has been especially true of Jesus-studies, where scholars and non-specialists alike have contended for a “humor of Jesus.” Only recently, however, has there been attention given to the potential use of humor by the Gospel writers themselves. While this is a welcome turn in Gospel scholarship, the Gospel of Mark remains underrepresented in this burgeoning field. There currently exist only a handful of treatments regarding humor and its potential use by the Markan evangelist. In the present study, I seek to address this desideratum by offering the first monograph-length study of “Markan” humor. Using the General Theory of Verbal Humor, an incongruity-based theory implemented widely in Humor Studies, paired with humor-oriented primary sources from the Greco-Roman world, I analyze Mark 4:35-6:6a for its potential humor in this series of miracle stories. After such an analysis, a profile of Markan emerges. Application of the GVTH to the miracle stories reveals a consistent use of humor located in and around the question of Jesus’ identity. The Evangelist interweaves two humorous threads throughout the miracle stories by raising questions about Jesus’ capacity as a wonderworker and the consistent misunderstanding of his identity by those around him. These threads are supplemented by more subtle forms of humor. This intentional use of humor augments the narrative by yielding key physiological, psychological, sociological, and pedagogical effects that emerge from affective states that correlate to humor. In sum, the present study answers the question “Is Gospel of Mark humorous” in the affirmative, demonstrating a consistence use of humor located around incongruities involving Jesus’ identity.