, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 57–80 | Cite as

What’s So Funny About Arguing with God? A Case for Playful Argumentation from Jewish Literature

  • Don Waisanen
  • Hershey H. Friedman
  • Linda Weiser Friedman


In this paper, we show that God is portrayed in the Hebrew Bible and in the Rabbinic literature—some of the very Hebrew texts that have influenced the three major world religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—as One who can be argued with and even changes his mind. Contrary to fundamentalist positions, in the Hebrew Bible and other Jewish texts God is omniscient but enjoys good, playful argumentation, broadening the possibilities for reasoning and reasonability. Arguing with God has also had a profound influence upon Jewish humor, demonstrating that humans can joke with God. More specifically, we find in Jewish literature that humor’s capacity to bisociate between different domains of human experience can share a symbiotic relationship with argumentation’s emphasis on producing multiple, contested perspectives. Overall, once mortals realize that figures such as God can accept many perspectives through humor, teasing, arguing, criticism, and in at least one case, even lawsuits, a critical point emerges: citizens should learn to live, laugh, and reason with others with whom they disagree.


Argumentation Play Humor Religion Bisociation Dissoi logoi 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Don Waisanen
    • 1
  • Hershey H. Friedman
    • 2
  • Linda Weiser Friedman
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Public Affairs, Baruch CollegeCUNYNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Finance and Business Management, School of Business, Brooklyn CollegeCUNYNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Zicklin School of Business, Baruch CollegeThe Graduate Center of CUNYNew YorkUSA

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