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Gerard de VosCreated by Gerard de Vos
on 22-11-2006
Category: Post-Modern
The Fishy tale of Jonah

Many people have heard the Bible narrative of Jonah who was swallowed by a big fish and came out alive after three days. And many people have scoffed and said it is just a myth, because they thought it is impossible. Even Jesus, the Son of God, must then have been confused when He referred to Jonah while talking to the Pharisees and teachers - the liberal theologians of the time - (Matt 12:40). Could it be that Jesus quoted such an obvious blunder in the Old Testament?

But there was one man who knew that Jesus was correct in quoting the adventure of Jonah. His name was James Bartley. He was part of the crew of the whaling ship, Star of the East which was hunting whales in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands in 1891. A harpoon boat was over turned by the lash of the tail of the whale that was speared. James disappeared without a trace. The crew worked all day and part of the night to remove the blubber from the whale. When they attached some tackle to the stomach and hoisted it on the deck, they were startled by something giving signs of life. They found James inside, doubled up and unconscious. After they treated him to a bath of saltwater, he revived. At the end of the third week he had completely recovered and was doing his duties. His face, neck and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness and took on the appearance of parchment. He said he lost consciousness through fright and not through a lack of air (1).

One can think that Jonah’s preaching must have been effective when the Assyrians looked at this strange, bleached man with the message from God (Jonah 3:1-10).

Was Jesus mistaken to talk about Jonah as if he really lived? Not at all. As the Son of God He is the same yesterday, today and for ever and he knew all about it.

When you hear some one saying that the story of Jonah was merely a myth, please enquire if the person can speak with authority because he was present? And tell him the story of James Bartley. There are two other incidents, one in 1758 and the other in 1771 in which a man was swallowed by a whale and vomited up shortly thereafter with only minor injuries (2).

Lesson: If the Bible did have errors in it, there would not have been such a fierce battle going on to try and discredit it. It would be an ineffective book without authority.

1. Francis Fox, Sixty Three Years of Engineering (pp 298-300), quoted by H L Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, Tyndale House Publishers, 1981, p 173.

2. Willmington also mentions these two accounts in the Princeton Theological Review (Oct 1927).

Related articles:   Treasure map or terrible tale?,   Resurrection: Reality or Rubbish?

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinth 1:27