The Humor of Apostle Paul

A cutting rebuke

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The humor of the Apostle Paul is almost always subtle and usually requires in-depth research to appreciate it fully. His writings, which can be hard to comprehend (2Peter 3:16), means that the funny, albeit usually sarcastic, side of his personality is sometimes hidden. This is likely because Paul's humor was shaped by his early education and practice in the strict religious teachings of the Pharisees (Philippians 3:5 - 6, Acts 23:6, 26:5). The Jews, and especially their religious leaders, were known for their sarcasm (see Mark 15:29 - 32).

This article discusses the cutting humor of Paul as it relates to the first century controversial topic of circumcision. His rebuke of false teachers troubling the churches in Galatia is the best example, in the New Testament, of his sometimes confrontation and caustic personality. Before proceeding with our Galatians 5 example of Paul's humor, however, a little background needs to be covered in order to understand the context of his statements.

The belief that circumcision was necessary for salvation was firmly held by some in the early church. This issue came to a head in 49 A.D. when Paul and others hotly opposed, in Syrian Antioch, those promoting this doctrine (Acts 15:1). The Jerusalem conference, held to settle the matter, concluded that God did not require circumcision for salvation (see Acts 15:10 - 11, 19 -20). The Apostle Paul not only attended the conference but also was active in the debates that took place.

The humor of Elijah
Where is the TRUE church located?
Map of cities visited by Paul

Paul, after the conference, conducts his second missionary journey where he visits the churches in Galatia he founded in order to strengthen their faith. It is soon after this journey that we encounter his biting sense of humor. He writes the book of Galatians upon discovering that those among whom he labored in preaching and teaching the truth are now adopting a FALSE version of the gospel!


French court jester
French court jester
Jean Froissart, 1470 - 72

Paul's palpable anger and amazement at what is happening in Galatia builds as we progress in his epistle (Galatians 1:6 - 9, 3:1 - 4, 4:9 - 11). It reaches a crescendo in chapter 5 when he directs sarcastic humor toward those pushing the necessity of circumcision for salvation. The apostle states, "I would that they (those spreading this false doctrine) would even make themselves EUNUCHS . . ." (verse 12, HBFV)! The Living Bible renders this verse, "I only wish these teachers who want you to cut yourselves by being circumcised WOULD CUT THEMSELVES OFF FROM YOU and leave you alone!" His humor is now evident!

Circumcision is the cutting away of a male's foreskin, an act Jewish converts experienced shortly after birth. The zeal of those already circumcised to push ADULT Gentiles in the church to partake of the painful practice, which does not change one's standing with God (Galatians 5:6), is unacceptable to Paul. His humor rebukes the false teachers by stating they should redirect their energy away from having someone else's foreskin cut to (since they are already circumcised) cutting off their own testicles! Lastly, while they are doing that, they should also cut themselves away from bothering God's people in the church!

Additional Study Materials
Map of second missionary journey
When did the apostle write his books?
Was the prophet Daniel a Eunuch?
Life of Paul Bible trivia!

The Best Bible Humor!

Humor of the Apostle Paul - References
Holy Bible a Faithful Version
Life and Epistles of Apostle Paul
(Conybeare and Howson)


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