Ever thought of the Exile as a 40-year timeout? Did you know Mary Magdelene’s pet peeve is artists who paint her as “that kind of woman”? And has it ever occurred to you that it would be cool if the Salome said to have been at Jesus’ tomb was the very same Salome who bumped off John the Baptist?
The authors of “Crazy Book” have put a lot of thought into questions like these.
This “not-so-stuffy dictionary of biblical terms” was written by assistant religion profs Hans Wiersma and Karl Jacobson, and Karl’s brother Rolf, an associate professor at Luther Seminary.
Why take time out of a busy college teacher’s/pastor’s/parent’s schedule to engage in this kind of scholarship? “The standard biblical dictionary is very dry,” Wiersma says. “We share the belief that irony and sarcasm are spiritual gifts.”
As pastors and college professors, the authors all try to inject humor into their work. “This is just a natural outflow of our preaching and teaching.” All three also contributed to “Crazy Talk: A Not-So-Stuffy Dictionary of Theological Terms” published by Augsburg Fortress in 2008 and to the Lutheran Study Bible.
“Besides,” he adds, “there are just some damn funny stories in the Bible.”
Each of the Crazy Book’s characters has a status a la Facebook, like “Judas is wondering why nobody calls their child Judas, what with the popularity of Bible names and all.” Many also have professions—Judas’ is treasurer—pet peeves, and favorite TV shows or celebrities. Mixed in with the witty commentary is a lesson. In Judas’ case, it’s not about right and wrong but about accepting that God is who He is, not who we want Him to be.
In addition to learning more about the crazy characters and stories in the Bible, “Crazy Book” gives the user an opportunity to make connections to modern life in order to gain a better understanding of the text. Wiersma says it ties in nicely with the ELCA’s emphasis on getting people to study and learn the Bible.
Though they did not have a particular audience in mind for “Crazy Book,” the authors said they have been pleasantly surprised with the response from readers their age and younger. Sharing that his father had been using the book as bathroom literature, Wiersma added, “Our dads think it’s funny.”