"I never went to free school nor any other college, But... I will tell you how the world was made in the twinkling of a crack. Walk in, walk in, walk in I say, go in the parlor and hear the banjo ring." Sundry observations about the creation and the Bible
Not to be confused with a fiddle tune of the same name. - PJS
The chorus of this song varies quite a bit; the Lomax version is "Young folks, old folks, everybody come, Join our darky Sunday School, and make yourself to hum. There's a place to check your chewing gum and razors at the door, And hear such bible stories as you never heard before." The Pankakes have something similar, but less racist. (Their version is also incredibly full -- 21 verses! If they didn't conflate it, someone else did.)
It is quite likely that these versions originated as separate songs, and I thought about splitting them. But the only distinguishing feature is the choruses. Under the circumstances, it seemed better to place all listings in the same place.
I initially excluded Randolph's "History of the World," partly by accident, as just too distinct from the versions I had seen. It's now clear that it's the same song.
Those who wish to know more are referred to Cox's extensive notes on songs of this type. - RBW
Among the sundry references in this song:
"Jonah... took a steerage passage in a transatlantic whale": The Bible says "fish," and the fish never left the Mediterranean, and Jonah wasn't planning on entering the Atlantic either.
"Esau... sold [his farm] to his brother for a sandwich and a beer": In Gen. 25:29-34, Esau came back hungry from hunting, and sold his birthright (probably pasturage, not a farm) to his younger fraternal twin Jacob for "bread and lentil stew."
"Noah was a mariner... with half a dozen wives and a big menagerie": Although many of the patriarchs had multiple wives, Noah himself seems to have had only one (cf. Gen. 7:7).
"Elijah was a prophet who attended county fairs, He advertised his business with a pair of dancing bears": hardly worth refuting, but it is worth noting that Elijah was a solitary prophet at a time when most prophets came in groups ("the sons of the prophets"). He spent much of his time trying to be left alone, not advertising his services (cf., e.g., 1 Kings 19:3-4, 2 Kings 1:9fff.)
"Ahab had a wife, and her name was Jezebel... She's gone to the dogs... Ahab said he'd never heard of such an awful thing": Jezebel was indeed Ahab's wife, and was eaten by dogs (2 Kings 9:30-37) -- but Ahab had been dead for a dozen years by the time she was killed.
"Salome was a chorus girl who had a winning way": This is textually complicated. All accounts say that a girl captivated Herod Antipas by dancing for him, and that he executed John the Baptist as a result. Matt. 14:6 says that the girl was "the daughter of Herodias"; the best manuscripts of Mark 6:22 call her his [Herod's] daughter Herodias. But nowhere is she called "Salome"; we learn this name from Josephus.
"Now Joey was unhappy in the bowels of the soil": Refers to the selling of Joseph into Egypt (Genesis 37). Joseph, however, was not a farmer but a herdsman, and there is no evidence he was unhappy; he spent his time dreaming about ruling over his brothers.
"Samson was a husky guy from the P.T. Barnum show": While Samson probably belonged in a circus (it's hard to imagine someone so thoroughly inept; had he not been a strong man, he would have been a joke), the Bible tells his story "straight" (Judges 13-16).
"Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego": The Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3).
"Methuselah was crabby 'cause he couldn't save a joke": Methuselah lived longer than any other figure in the Bible (the Hebrew of Gen. 5:25-27 lists him as living to the age of 969), but gives no indication of his character or the length of his whiskers.
"Pharaoh kept the Israelites to make his cigarettes": This is almost accurate, in that the Israelites did, in effect, go on strike in Exodus. However, tobacco was not known in Egypt at the time (it grows only in the New World); the Israelites "struck" for the right to worship in their own way, plus better living conditions.
"David was a fighter, a plucky little cuss": 1 Samuel 17.
"Daniel was a naughty man, he wouldn't mind the King" -- Formally, Daniel defied the king, but it was actually the King's counselors who came up with the law Daniel defied (Daniel 6). - RBW