RE: Is Jonah to be taken literally?

From: Vandergraaf, Chuck (
Date: Mon Aug 13 2001 - 17:09:58 EDT

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    This topic seems to crop up time and time again; I've been wrestling with
    this as well. There was an article in "The Banner" (CRC) a few months back
    about the relationship between archaeology and the Bible by, I believe, a
    professor at Notre Dame (van der Kam?). One of his points was sort of
    parallel to that in the geology - Bible debate: what do we do when the
    archaeological evidence is contrary to that in Scripture? He suggested that
    these "difficulties" may force us to interpret the Bible differently. To
    me, this puts a lot of things on a very slippery slope, indeed. No
    [archaeological] evidence of Ai (or, worse, [archaeological] evidence to the
    contrary) around the time of the conquest? No problem; we simply have to
    read that particular passage differently than we thought. [Geological]
    evidence contrary to a six-day creation? No problem; we simply have to
    interpret Genesis differently. Some time ago, I raised the question about
    the "floating axe head." Axe heads don't normally float, so is this "just a
    story" or did God "suspend the laws of nature" temporarily to get the poor
    woodcutter off the hook?

    I agree with Burgy that (putting this in my own words) "blind faith" in
    Biblical accounts like Jonah is probably not a prerequisite to eternal life
    (even though some denominations apparently feel that it should be). "I
    believe, help my unbelief" may be a suitable epitaph for many of us.

    One thought that has crossed my mind lately is that, if archaeologists,
    historians, geologists, astronomers, etc. agree that not all the narratives
    in The Bible are factual but are open to interpretation, what's our excuse
    for the multitude of denominations? I mean, if we don't "get" even the
    "simple," historical events and misread the conquest of the promised land,
    how can we understand complex theological issues?

    Chuck Vandergraaf

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Joel Z Bandstra []
    Sent: Monday August 13, 2001 3:40 PM
    To: 'John W Burgeson';
    Subject: RE: Is Jonah to be taken literally?

    I guess I'm really asking this: How does one decide what biblical accounts
    are historical and what are myth given that we believe scripture to be "God
    breathed" and noting that there are a number of fantastic events related in
    the bible (e.g. walls of Jerico, plagues on egypt, various miracles of
    Christ, etc)? Are we free to consider as myth anything that seems
    impossible? If not, how is the line drawn? By what means do we place
    Jonah on the myth side whilst affirming the historicity of Christ's
    resurrection? Is their any harm in simply believing Jonah to be historical
    narrative (i.e. "I see why you have a difficult time accepting it as such
    but as for me, I believe it to have happened")?

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