The Apple Of God's Eye

April 13, 2009

Was Jonah In The Belly Of A Whale, Or A Great Fish?

Editor’s Note: In this article I introduce two scriptures (Jonah 1:17 and Matthew 12:40) to answer “apparent incongruities” (seemingly impossible scenarios) and to apply apologetics (a reasoned defense of the faith) in affirming the trustworthiness of the Bible.

imagesbible.jexiste.fr/.../Ang_Jonah.htm

imagesbible.jexiste.fr/.../Ang_Jonah.htm

The “apparent incongruity” is the account of a reluctant prophet named Jonah who was swallowed by a fish and yet remained alive in its belly for three days.

 The Book of Jonah has been described as a parable, an allegory, and a satire. However, this is an extremely faithless approach to the scriptures. A large proportion of all modern criticism of the Bible comes from the assumption that miracles do not occur. Skeptical theologians explain every miracle in Scripture away by either tacit rejection or naturalistic explanation. This leads to such ludicrous, varied, and contradictory explanations that the biblical scholar finds ever further justification in the miraculous over the ridiculous!

There are plausible explanations for questions, but we must look at this event with knowledge of God’s miraculous power. Could He have prepared a great fish to be in the vicinity of the floundering ship, to swallow Jonah in the raging sea, then in the time appointed transport him to shore and vomit him up? Absolutely! As the all-powerful Creator God, He is in no way limited by what He created. 

But now what about the type of creature used to swallow Jonah? The original Hebrew wording of Jonah 1:17 is accurately translated in the King James Version as “a great fish.” The Old Testament translation produced by the Jewish Publication Society also refers to this creature as “a great fish.” 

We read that “The LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17, King James Version).

Some controversy arises over the King James translation of Matthew 12:40. This verse says

“He (Jesus Christ) will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, just as Jonah was “three days and three nights in the whale’s belly.” (Matthew 12:40.)

But the fact that Jonah was in the WHALE’S belly was only an assumption on the part of the translators. The New King James Version correctly renders this phrase as “in the belly of the GREAT FISH.” 

A whale is not a fish

Since a whale is a mammal rather than a fish, does this point to a contradiction between Jonah 1:17 and Matt. 12:40? No, and here’s why.

Realize that the Old Testament is written in Hebrew except for small portion in Aramaic (book of Daniel). The New Testament is written in Greek, not English. Neither the KJV or any other translation determines the meaning in English above the original language. Both “whale” and “great fish” are English translations of the original words.

Strong’s Dictionary says the Greek word translated “whale” is ketos (pronounced kay-tos), and means “a huge fish (as gaping for prey).” 

Smith’s Bible Dictionary” makes the following comments about the word WHALE: “Probably the fish which swallowed Jonah was some large kind of shark, or fish especially provided.”

“There are at least two species of Mediterranean marine life that are known to be able to swallow a man whole. These are the cachalot and the white shark. Both creatures are known to prowl the Mediterranean and have been known to Mediterranean sailors since antiquity. Aristotle described both species in his 4th Century B.C.” Historia Animalium (gotquestions.org).

 

The Easton Bible Dictionary says the “white shark is sometimes found 30 feet in length.” [Robinson, Lexicon  (from Barnes’ Notes)] states: “This event took place in the Mediterranean Sea, somewhere between Joppa and Tarshish, when he was fleeing FROM Nineveh. It is said that the “whale” seldom passes into that sea, and that its throat is too small to admit a man. It is probable, therefore, that a fish of the “shark kind” is intended. Sharks have been known often to swallow a man entire. The fish in the book of Jonah is described merely as a “great fish,” without specifying the kind . – Letusreason.org

The evidence supports the conclusion — that it was some kind of large fish, and not a whale, which swallowed Jonah. In any case, the Bible says God  God specifically “prepared” (mahnah—appointed, constituted, made ready) a great fish (Gesenius, 1847, p. 486). So another argument is that Jonah being swallowed was a divine miracle and thus the type of creature  God used could have been whatever sea life was available or He created a special (massive) creature to serve his purpose of causing Jonah to repent and to carry out His command of preaching.

“The same term (“prepared”) is employed to refer to additional direct manipulations initiated by God. He prepared a plant (4:6), a worm (4:7), and a vehement wind (4:8) [Wigram, 1890, p. 733]. George Cansdale was correct in concluding: “[T]here is no point in speculating about the full physical explanation of an incident that primarily is metaphysical, i.e., miraculous” (1975, 5:925, emp. added). McClintock and Strong agree: “[T]he transaction is plainly miraculous, and no longer within the sphere of zoological discussion” (1881, 10:972). Jonah’s survival after being inside a sea creature is no more remarkable than Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surviving the “burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:27).” (apologeticspress.org)

A similar instance can also be found in Book of Numbers, chapter 22, versus 28 through 30 where God gives Balaam’s donkey the power of human speech in order to have a conversation with Balaam.

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March 9, 2009

Killing In The Name Of God?

I happened across some information the other day gleaned from “Free Inquiry, 1993, which was also printed in Freethought Today, 1993 and eventually distributed by The New York Times syndicate. Let me state, it was an eye opener, to say the least. It related some headlines from various newspapers and wires over the years:

1. 2,oo0 DIE IN RIOTS AFTER HINDUS SMASH MUSLIM MOSQUE
2. ULSTER CATHOLIC, PROTESTANT SQUADS TRADE MURDERS
3. OHIO CULT LEADER ‘SACRIFICES’ FAMILY OF FIVE
4. ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN SERBS RAPE MUSLIM WOMEN
5. SHIITES IN IRAN HANG BAHAIS WHO WON’T CONVERT
6. CHRISTIAN ARMENIANS, MUSLIM AZERBAIJANIS RESUME WAR
7. FUNDAMENTALIST PICKET KILLS CLINIC DOCTOR
8. BUDDHISTS AND HINDU TAMILS BATTLE IN SRI LANKA
9. EGYPTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS KILL PRESIDENT SADAT
10. SIKH MILITANTS ASSASSINATE INDIRA GANDHI
11. 900 TAKE CYANIDE AT JONESTOWN
12. CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM WAR IN SUDAN CAUSES FAMINE
13. WACO CULTISTS DIE IN SUICIDE PYRE

All headlines show religion in its worst form – in the hands of extremists. Shirley Maclaine was once quoted as saying:

“In the name of God, a ‘fatwa’ against Salman Rushdie. In the name of God, murder in the Balkans. In the name of God, the bombing of the World Trade Center. In the name of God, the siege at Waco, Texas…. In the name of God, Shiites and Sunnis are at each other’s throats in Iraq and Iran, as are Arabs and Jews in the Middle East…. In the name of God, what is going on?”

Yes, there are good aspects of religion, where kind and caring people serve others in the name of God.  But what can explain the opposite result, when evil is perpetrated in the name of God — holy wars between ethnic groups, terrorism, hatred between denominations, faiths and beliefs across cultural, political and economical grounds — all supposedly in the name of God?All because various parties pray to a different God?

Catholic against Protestant, Christian Crusaders against Islamic hordes, inquisitions resulting in the burning, torture and barbaric slaughter of millions, Puritans and Anglicans in mortal combat, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the Taiping Rebellion in China, which killed an estimated 20 million, the Nazi’s slaughter of 6 million Jews, the Khmer Rouge killing 1.7 million of their fellow Cambodians, Rwandan Hutus killing 800,000 ethnic Tutsis, the Armenians of Turkey enduring mass slaughter at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, Sikhs gunning down Hindus and so on and so on. It never stops!

Aren’t we all the off-spring of Adam and Eve? Except for skin colour and speech, are we not the same mankind? Yes we are and generally we can behave pretty good -EXCEPT – when religion becomes the chief dividing element. It is the “beast behind the shadows of human conflict – of religious tribalism.

It is irrational, and few can explain it. God only knows, and he says that the human heart is rotten at its very core (Jer. 17:9). Without the true God guiding man (and He isn’t doing so during all this barbarianism, is He?), there is no hope of ever solving humanities woes. Religion without God (and driven by the human heart without the Holy Spirit), is nothing less than barbaric. But the imminent return of Christ is near – despite the naysayers, critics and anti-God pundits. Personally, I can’t wait!

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