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The Book of Jonah

The Book of Jonah is the fifth book in a series called the Prophets or Nevi’im, which can be found in the Old Testament. The Book of Jonah is unique in that it relates the story of an obscure and initially inept prophet who eventually becomes one of the most significant prophets in the Bible. Writings such as the Book of Jonah have interested biblical scholars and those considering the Jesus tomb, since the inclusion of the text in historical writings has proved inconsistent.

The Story of Jonah

The Book of Jonah is centered around a major conflict between God and Jonah, initiated by Jonah’s resistance to obey God, who calls upon him to declare judgment in Nineveh. Jonah resists this calling and attempts to flee, only to be thrown overboard as a result of a storm inflicted by God. Jonah is then swallowed by a great fish sent by God.

Jonah remains in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, before reciting a prayer asking God for mercy. The previously relentless God answers Jonah’s prayer, and forgives him. Jonah then proceeds to fulfill the call of prophecy, and manages to turn 120, 000 people to God in Ninevah.

Historical Controversy

The Book of Jonah is believed to have been written after the exile period of 530 BCE as an account of an existing oral tradition. It is written in narrative form that distinguishes it from the poetic verse of the other Prophet texts.

The book has caused some controversy, since it was found in only half of the ten Minor Prophets manuscripts found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some believe this indicates the problematic interpretation that the text could have traditionally posed, since it favors one of the Essene sect’s historical enemies, the Assyrians of Nineveh.

Interestingly, the great fish of the Hebrew Bible later becomes associated with the whale. This is because the term "great fish" is used when referring to whales in Greek mythology.


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