JONAH † HISTORICAL OR FICTION?
A PAPER SUBMITTED TO
DR TAN HOCK SENG
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF
THE REQUIREMENTS OF
TAN JOO LIAN
22 JULY 2008
I. Arguments for Narrative Fiction 4
III. Arguments for Historicity 6
For a long time, the book of Jonah was interpreted in a strongly historical vein. Jewish, Roman Catholic and Christian interpreters believed that the Book of Jonah was historical based on traditional Jewish understanding, the authority of the Church Fathers and the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ who referred to Jonah as a historical person and to his experience as real (Matt. 12:38-42; 16:4; Luke 11:29-32) and even used the “fact” that “as Jonah was in the whale's belly three days and three nights, “so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.”, alluding to his own salvific ministry of death and resurrection in three days.
However, since the rise of critical scholarship in the nineteenth century, many writers and teachers now believe that the events recorded in this book were not historical. Their arguments are drawn largely from investigations on the historical accuracy of the content through meticulous dating of the work and comparison of details with known historical facts, as well as thorough literal analyses of the book in terms of language, form and genre.
This paper will focus on the literary analyses and in particular the discussions on genre, as identification of the book’s genre is important to the interpretation of the text so as to establish whether the writer wish the book to be regarded as in some sense a work of fiction, or as history. This paper will provide a brief survey of the different genres proposed by the writers who are against historicity and the counter arguments proposed by scholars who uphold...