The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - February 15

Scholars of Christian literature and theology at a three-day conference in Turin on "Laughter and Comedy in Ancient Christianity" insist the Old and New Testaments are riddled with humor and clever wordplay. They hope to show that humor, far from being considered sinful, had an important place in early Christianity and in the Bible itself, said Clementina Mazzucco, a professor of Ancient Christian Literature at Turin University.

"There is a prejudice that states that humor and Christianity are incompatible," Mazzucco said. "On the contrary, there are many episodes and dialogues in the Scriptures where irony and sarcasm are being used."

Mazzucco, who opened the congress on Monday, said the church's later tendency to condemn humor could have resulted from a strict interpretation of the Gospel's discouraging exaggerated laughter and derision. "In the past, the tradition of a strict ascetic Christianity prevailed. Now, the relationship between Christians and the world has evolved and recently some studies started to focus on Jesus' sense of humor."