Friday, May 21, 2010

"30 Rock" and Scripture: "Come on, Bible, Help a Lady Out"

I'm behind on my 30 Rock, but when I finally got around to watching last week's episode, "Emanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land," I was reminded once again that Tina Fey is the funniest television writer alive.

Near the end of the episode, Fey's character Liz Lemon attends an ex-boyfriend's wedding, at which she is asked to deliver a Bible reading. Halfway through, her boss Jack (Alec Baldwin) sends her a text asking her to stall the ceremony; she panics and starts reading random Bible quotes, each of which is more embarrassing than the last. Here's the video--just skip ahead to the last two minutes for the money shot ...

The clip's hilarious as it stands, but a little funnier if you know the Biblical context.

Liz's first reading is the chestnut of Bible wedding passages, Paul's long disquisition on love in 1 Corinthians 13.

The second, ad hoc reading references the story of Onan, from Genesis 38. Onan gives us "onanism," an archaic term for masturbation, and God kills Onan for "spilling his seed" on the ground and failing to impregnate his wife.

The third is from Exodus 4, in which Moses's wife Zipporah hastily circumcises her son to stop God from killing her husband. Why circumcision works? Nobody really knows. But Tina Fey does love penis jokes.

Last, I'll admit that even I had to look up the fourth quote: "For he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money." This is a shared quote by Leah and Rachel--wives of the third patriarch, Jacob--speaking in Genesis 31:15. (Yes, polygamy is fine in Genesis.) They are giving their husband permission to take them away from their father, Laban. I have no idea what Fey's trying to do here. But it's hilariously random.

The scene fades to black with Liz Lemon, frustrated: "Come on, Bible, help a lady out!" I couldn't agree more.


  1. I know this is old, but if you're familiar with 30Rock, you know that there is a running joke in a lot of episodes where they say something just as Lorne Michaels' name pops up. Kenneth naming the birds, Tracy reading the phone book, other random things they say to lovingly make fun of Lorne Michaels.

  2. for he has sold us and indeed devoured our money is not random but a flirting with christian antisemitism

  3. "This is a shared quote by Leah and Rachel--wives of the third patriarch, Jacob--speaking in Genesis 31:15. (Yes, polygamy is fine in Genesis.)"

    One of the story lines in this episode is Jack trying to choose a monogamous relationship. Perhaps the final quote is alluding to that?


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