What Would Jesus Say on Jay Leno?

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My oldest daughter first saw the movie, Toy Story 3, while studying abroad. She thoroughly enjoyed the flick, but had to admit that, when viewed in Spanish, some of the humor was lost in translation.

Sometimes I wonder if the same thing doesn’t happen with the Bible. The Bible was composed originally in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and includes almost every genre of literature we know—poetry, history, biography, legal commentary, drama, philosophical treatises, personal correspondence, and just flat-out good storytelling.

But what about humor? Does it get lost in the translation? Or were the biblical authors, a gang of disgruntled prophets, detached journalists, and pious poets who couldn’t be bothered with a bit of well-timed jesting?

Surely an accomplished storyteller like Jesus knew how to use a wisecrack or two to home in on a point or to grab the audience’s attention with a good set-up line. Maybe he said something like: “A Pharisee and a tax collector walk into a bar. . .” Or, as the original has it, they walk into the Temple.

So I wonder if, when Jesus seizes upon a teachable moment with, “Whereunto shall I liken this generation?” his disciples craned their necks and turned their ears toward his words as much for the entertainment value as for the instruction. “What are they like?” he continues. And maybe at this point he takes a pregnant pause. Picture here some nearby children at the marketplace chanting one of their playful sing-song games, and Jesus points to them as we hear these words: “A wedding song we played for you, the dance you simply scorned. A woeful dirge we chanted, too, but then you did not mourn” (Luke 7:32 International Standard Version).

Maybe this relatively obscure version called the International Standard Version captures what is otherwise lost in translation. I wonder if Jesus went on a little riff here, pointing out that the religious leaders of the day were like kids who had trouble sharing their sandbox with others. And then after a Jay Leno-like grin, did he draw the lesson about the curious differences between their whispering campaign against John the Baptist versus that against Jesus Christ?

If a Jay Leno or a P.J. O’Rourke can paint hilarious caricatures through verbal and expressive means, then surely Jesus could do the same.

And then Jesus says, “Ah, but wisdom is vindicated by all her children!”

People have puzzled over what this little proverb means, but maybe he was simply reminding us that the puffery of adult hypocrisy is easily deflated with a rhyming lance of a children’s ditty.

Lenny Cacchio


Lenny Cacchio

Lenny Cacchio resides in Lee's Summit, MO, a suburb of Kansas City, with his wife Diane, who are the parent of two daughters, Jennifer and Michelle. They attend with of the Church of God Kansas City. Lenny is the author of two books, Morning Coffee Companion and The Gospel According to Moses: The Feast Days of Leviticus 23. You may visit his blog at: morningcompanion.blogspot.com.

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Image Credits: Joel Montes de Oca