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Ed. Rowan, Sr. wrote:

Hi, guys —

Our priest says the story of Jonah, as it relates to the conversion of Nineveh, is a fable.

  • Would he be referring to the part about being swallowed by a whale or the entire story?

Thanks for your help.

Ed. Rowan, Sr.

  { Is the entire story of Jonah a fable or just the part that relates to the conversion of Nineveh? }

Bob replied:

Dear friend:

Your priest-friend has given you merely his opinion (which is consistent with popular modern scholarship today).

However, there is no dogmatic statement as to the character of the said Scripture, be it fable or historical fact.

That being said, anything with God is possible, therefore every detail of the story is possible. Furthermore, Jesus cites the incidence in one of His sayings, which may give further credence to it as historical. (See Matthew 12:41)

In any case, while we may never know for certain, don't let modern scholarship undermine your faith when it is speaking beyond its ability.

Too often, modern scholars try to rationalize everything in Scripture that seems miraculous or fantastic. Just file away their opinions and don't worry. Much of modern scholarship is valuable, but don't be alarmed, they don't know everything and some things are better left to wonder.


Bob, BK

John replied:

Hi, Ed —

To say that Jonah is a fable really does not do justice to the purpose of this book.

This piece of Hebrew literature is counted among the minor prophets and tells the story of a city that repents at preaching of God's Word.

Secondarily, it speaks volumes as to the responsibility of the prophet!! Having said that, the story itself may use literary forms that may not be historically accurate.

This is speculation, usually the product of modern scholars, who have nothing better to do than to sit around the room and exchange brain farts!!

I have no reason whatsoever to doubt the historicity of this book, including the account of the big, big fish.

I would say that Christ refers to the sign of Jonah as being His sign — a sign that He would perform for the doubting generation.

Jonah spent three days in a fish; Christ three in the tomb.

I, like Scott Hahn, believe that Jonah died in the fish and was spit up and resurrected by God. The prayer of Jonah which is from his time in the fish, actually hints at this. Jonah says to God that he is praying from the depths of Sheol, the place of the dead.

The priest is free to hold that it is not historically accurate, but he is not free to tell others they cannot believe it literally.

Hope this helps,


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