Jonah and the FISH

Pieter_Lastman_-_Jonah_and_the_Whale_-_Google_Art_ProjectThis morning my father sent me a link through stumble upon to an article from Listverse about ten biblical facts everyone gets wrong.

Check it out for yourself:

If you’ve read my humble little blog before, you know that I have a bad tendency to read the comments sections on sites like this. Despite how frustratingly disappointing comment sections are this is where I get most of my fuel to post here. Just a cursory glance at the comments and you have people simply making assumptions. Even Christians. All assuming and never taking any time to read or study anything. Then you have Atheists bust in and call every names while simultaneously reading or studying nothing. So now you have two groups of diametrically opposed people running on nothing but hearsay, speculation, and whatever a quick search on the internet or unverified information a television show might have told them about “religion.”

People who don’t claim to follow Yeshua or The Father I can begrudgingly give a pass to for making assumptions because they don’t want to do the work. They are “of the world.” I would love to talk with some of these people, but their hearts are so hard. Getting them simply to explore this avenue with no assumptions is difficult. There is a really slim chance that an atheist is going to take on a serious study of the Bible to discover the truth of the matter for himself irregardless of the outcome. Not impossible, but unlikely in todays world. They will hop on a bandwagon and spew out the same cliched sayings as everyone else in their clique.

However, a self professing Christian, all of them, should be taking on a serious study of the bible. There are no exceptions. Going to church and listening to a sermon for forty five minutes or reading just as ill informed feel good, self help from businessmen like Joel Osteen isn’t going to bring you closer to The Father. As a Christian, you need to read the Bible from cover to cover and you need to make an effort to understand what you are reading. Go after the original texts through free online resources like Blue Letter Bible. Check out resources, commentaries, dig, dig dig. Because the copy of the Bible you have is filled with translational errors (all versions) and those errors are only amplified by your assumptions about the text. But Christians think that after they take on the grace of our Lord that they don’t have to do anything. They will hop on a bandwagon and spew out the same cliched sayings as everyone else in their clique.

A perfect example of this is the Book of Jonah.

Where do we get the idea that the animal swallowing Jonah is a whale?

  • I have a direct copy of the original 1611 King James Bible and it doesn’t mention a whale. Ever. That’s the earliest version of the Bible I have access to, but by no means is that definitive.
  • If we go to Blue Letter Bible’s Book of Jonah and read this short book we don’t encounter the animal until Jonah 1:17. The original Hebrew is Däg which means fish according to the Strong’s concordance reference on the site. I cross checked it with my Strong’s Concordance, same results.
  • Inside Haley’s Bible Handbook [Twenty Fourth Edition 1965] the introduction to his commentary on the Book (surprisingly as i’m just reading this now), actually talks about the mistranslation of the word FISH to whale.
  • In the International Standard Version Bible they translate it as “large sea creature” which is basically verbatim of the original Hebrew.
  • In the last resource I have, Antiquities of the Jews in Chapter X, Josephus calls the animal a whale, although i don’t have any access to the original texts, but i would wager that the original is probably similar to the bible in using the word fish, or large sea creature. But that is 100% assumption on my part.

Four of five resources I’ve looked at call the animal something else besides a whale.

I’ve only been doing this for two years. I don’t have an extensive library to access and hard texts are getting harder to find (deliberately?). Just by reviewing my simple resources i’ve shown more evidence for not a whale. I didn’t look hard, this was probably twenty minutes.

My point being is that Christians still subscribe to the whale idea, I’m not saying it couldn’t be a whale, but what I’m saying is similar to what Chuck Missler says in his commentary on the subject: “We are victims of our sunday school coloring books.” This is true of almost any subject in regards to what the bible actually says. Christians are low on study and high on oral tradition or hearsay, a problem that Yeshua himself pointed out was a major problem amongst the Jews of his time.

Christians, because they don’t immediately see the purpose of something or can’t immediately rationalize the idea being talked about in a simple two dimensional way, in this case a giant fish creature swallowing a man, they seek to bend everything into broad assumptions where none are given. Sure a whale swallowing a man is hard to believe, but its easier to believe than a giant fish. They probably buy into this because they saw it in something like the Disney film Pinocchio.

Why do Christians feel the need to re-order everything? They justify some of the abstract imagery in the bible by calling it allegorical or symbolic with no real idea how the Jewish mind works in ancient writings. Simple subjects like how they expressed truth, their ideas on prophecy, and how they handled discerning between real people in real events and using stories about people and events as parables. These are just a few examples. But by changing what is intended vs. how we want to interpret it can undermine what the real, underlying meaning of the text could have. Jesus points to Jonah as being one of the most important prophets because, specifically, of this fish issue. We should probably strive to understand it throughly because it is a prototype of the death and resurrection of Christ. [That has larger implications for Jonah like: did he die in that fish?]

In a world where the Christian is constantly bombarded with claims that the Bible can’t be real and that it doesn’t fundamentally operate on the level we believe it does, they change what is written to suit their critics rather than taking up the burden of delving into it and discovering how and why things are like that for themselves.

There is a reason why the word is called the sword. If you aren’t trained in its use and understand and respect how its designed and operates, you can hurt yourself or those trying to fight with you.

Further Reading:

This article explains some of the extreme details I know of but didn’t want to touch upon in this article, such as Jonah perhaps dying, and being bleached white. Why the fish was important to the story in relation to Nineveh worshiping Dagon, a fish god. I wanted to focus on the Christian’s lack of diligence overall.

My comment on the Listverse article explains all of this in brief:

Jonah was swallowed by the fish because the god of Ninevah was Dagon, a fish god. Jonah was a very “patriotic” Jew, He refused God’s command to go there to Ninevah to repent because they were an enemy of the Jewish people. If they repented, which they ultimately did, then they would be spared. Jonah didn’t like that, he wanted them destroyed. God had Jonah swallowed by a fish, the symbol of the god of Ninevah, dragging him away. Jesus compares himself to Jonah, Jonah being the ultimate example of Jesus’ resurrection in the old testament. Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days, the same length as Jesus was in the grave. Jonah was probably dead in the fish and when spit out on the shores of Ninevah, was probably bleached white from the bile of the fish. This bleached look was most likely interpreted as a symbol to the people of Ninevah that they should listen to Jonah because the Jewish God overcame the “power” of Dagon (Dagon symbolizes the world as a further typological metaphor in Christ’s case).

Powerful stuff!