6 comments on “Jonah lecture

  1. robjhyndman says:

    Hi Stephen. What do you make of Matthew 12:41 where Jesus appears to believe in the historicity of the events in the book of Jonah?

    • Stephen Cook says:

      Rob, a reference by Jesus to a literary character does not necessarily suggest he believed the story was historical, any more than a quotation of Lady Macbeth suggests one believes she was an actual historical character or that Shakespeare’s play was true in its historical details.
      In fact, I suspect that Jesus actually read Jonah the way it was intended, as a humorous parody, and that his comments in Matthew 12 are best understood against that background.

      • robjhyndman says:

        That’s pretty much the way I was reading it too. But Jesus refers to the people of Nineveh at the judgement seat, alongside the queen of Sheba, condemning the first century Jews for the lack of belief. It sounds like Jesus thought it was historical.

  2. Stephen Cook says:

    Rob, it’s good to know that we’re reading it pretty much the same way. There is a tendency I think for Christians to take things quite literally if they came from the lips of Jesus and hence to take such references as ‘historical’. However, few people, if any, would demand that the prodigal son, or the rich man and Lazarus, were actual people in any historical sense. Similarly, when Jesus referred to characters in Jewish literature he was probably referring to them as just that: literary characters, and not historic personages. For Jesus to say “the men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation” his words probably carry the same meaning as “the men of Nineveh stand as a testimony against this generation” and doesn’t necessarily refer to the eschatalogical resurrection or judgment. In fact, the expression “with this generation” almost certainly rules out the possibility that Jesus was referring to the final judgment, unless by that he meant that the entire ‘generation’ of people currently alive would be resurrected to stand at that judgement.

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