I am planning to be at the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) International Meeting in Berlin Germany this coming August. If anyone who reads this blog also plans to be there I’d love to meet up.
I will be presenting a paper on my research in Jonah:
“Should not I pity Nineveh?” – the concluding conundrum in the book of Jonah
Abstract: The book of Jonah is one of only two biblical books which end with a question in most English translations. Arguably, the most sophisticated theology in the book is also expressed in the form of a question (“Who knows? God may turn and relent …”).
But do the translators interpret the concluding verse correctly? As the phrase lacks the usual interrogative markers some scholars have challenged this common reading and have argued that it is declarative. This paper looks at the function of questions in the book of Jonah, and examines whether the conclusion is best read as interrogative or declarative within this context. It has been argued that a declarative reading of this phrase would reverse its meaning and the theology of the book of Jonah and that this alone would invalidate an affirmative reading. However, the use of irony in a work frequently acknowledged to be replete with irony, satire and comic elements should influence our reading of the conclusion. If the conclusion to the book is an affirmation, rather than a question, could God’s lack of concern for Nineveh be read as a further irony?
This paper looks at the use of irony, satire and comic elements in the book and how an affirmative conclusion works in this context, and offers an interpretation of the theology and message of the book which is consistent with an affirmative conclusion.