Narrative :: Jonah: Introduction Notes on ch:  3  4  

Study Notes on Jonah (including Hebrew narrative) by Tim Bulkeley


Jonah: Historico-critical Issues

The psalm in ch.2 has been often seen as an addition to the book. One could omit it (with perhaps a short summary of a prayer for deliverance) and the text would read smoothly. 

However:
  1. the language of the psalm has a number of parallels with that of the rest of the book
  2. Jonah elsewhere uses traditional and liturgical language especially in the mouth of the eponymous prophet (1:9; 4:2)
  3. the psalm, despite its unexpected genre, can be understood well in its context
  4. there is no evidence from the history of transmission of the text that this chapter was ever missing
  5. some means is necessary to get Jonah from the sea to Nineveh - there is no sign in ch.1 that he will repent of his own accord, even the storm has failed to change him.

The use of Adonai, God, and Adonai God in ch.4 has led to attempts to discover differing sources underlying this material. While this usage cries out for explanation such source critical attempts are not convincing (cf. Wolff 1986, 79).  

More serious are the issues around the historicity of the events described in the story. many attempts have been made to support the plausibility of the tale of a man swallowed by a sea creature, or to discredit them. Much scholarly time has been poured out on the issue of Nineveh's reported size (3:3; 4:11) and even a customary mourning for animals has been proposed. Prior to discussing such questions however the genre of Jonah must be identified. For if Jonah is some form of historical report then such questions are vital, if however it is some form of didactic story (like perhaps that of the Unforgiving Servant, Mt 18:23ff.) then these questions are of much less importance.

For recent support of historical plausibility of Jonah one can read for example Stuart's commentary in the Word series.


© Tim Bulkeley, 2003