Re: The Flood Hoax

From: Robert Schneider (rjschn39@bellsouth.net)
Date: Wed Sep 18 2002 - 13:58:26 EDT

  • Next message: Robert Schneider: "Re: KJV (was The Flood Hoax)"

    Walter writes, regarding my note which he copied below:

    > I have seen it posted many times that Jonah was an allegory or
    Parable, rather
    > than a historical event. Now I can understand why that may be said for
    events
    > that seem to be invalidated by scientific research (such as global flood).
    > However, I see no reason for rejecting Jonah as a historical event, other
    than a
    > bias against "miraculous" type events events in the Old Testament. Is
    there any
    > scientific data to reject this as an actual happening?

    Bob's comment:

    I do not think that scientific data is required to judge whether the story
    told in the Book of Jonah is a historical event. Now there is that
    interesting "fundamentalist fish tale" that Ted Davis did a really fine
    piece of historical research upon: someone claimed he was swallowed by a
    whale and lived in its belly for three days until rescued by whalers who
    captured the beast. The story got passed around in popular press and was
    taken up by creationist Harry Rimmer. The story was cited as proof of the
    historicity of the Jonah story, but in fact it was a species of what today
    we call an "urban legend." You'll find Ted's article at
    www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1991/PSCF12-9Davis.html. I guess one could argue that
    a human being swallowed by "a great fish" is an unlikely event. But I do
    not think it is up to science to prove the negative; it would rather be the
    task of those who claim the story is an actual historical account to make a
    convincing case for it and not simply assert this on the ideological ground
    that every story in the Bible not labeled "parable" or with some other
    roadsign is to be taken as historical.

         Nor do I think that the great majority of Bible scholars question the
    historicity of Jonah on the grounds that they are biased against the
    miraculous. No, the consensus that Jonah is a parable has emerged as a
    result of a careful study of the narrative form and stylistic features of
    the text. Narratives contain in themselves clues to their own form and
    function. One obvious issue is the fact that Jonah, unlike the other texts
    of the minor and major prophets, contains no prophetic oracles; rather, it
    is a story. Like stories do, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end; and
    by the time you get to the end of it you have a pretty good idea of its
    meaning if you haven't gotten hung up, as so many people do, over whether
    Jonah was really swallowed by that "whale."

         So, there is a consensus (based on the commentaries I have consulted)
    that Jonah is a prophetic narrative, with the features of a type of Hebrew
    parabolic story called a "mashal." Some critics also see allegorical
    elements in the narrative. Most scholars divide this narrative into two
    parts with four scenes that deal alternately with a group of pagans and then
    with Jonah and God. The author, whoever he is, was a fine literary artist,
    as the narrative is characterized by balance and symmetry in its structure,
    and the scenes are tied together by a skill use of wordplay, and rhetorical
    features such as irony and exaggeration. (I thank God for choosing such
    fine literary artists to create stories for the canon of Scripture.)

         To read this story as simply a historical account of Jonah's travails as
    a prophet is to miss its very important theological messages, which is where
    its truths lie: in the message of God's free and unmerited mercy, that may
    be bestowed by God upon whomever God wills. Jonah is charicatured as a
    Hebrew prophet unwilling to deliver God's message of repentance and
    forgiveness to those outside of the covenant, tries to run away from his
    charge, is forced to give it anyway, and then is peeved beyond measure and
    goes into a giant sulk when those wicked gentiles repent and are forgiven.
    The Book of Jonah proclaims powerful truths, but they are timeless truths
    about God and about mercy that are here captured in parable, not in some
    "straightforward" historical account. (I also thank God for inspiring
    writers to create sacred fiction to convey divine truths; after all, we
    human beings use fiction to convey truth all the time, so why shouldn't
    God?)

         I have no trouble seeing the account of Jonah in the belly of the fish
    being transported from the Mediterranean (around Cape of Good Hope) to the
    Persian Gulf and up the Euphrates and spit out on the sands of Ninevah as
    "miraculous," but the miracle is part of the story not of history. One does
    not deny faith in the miraculous by confining this miracle to the story.

    Grace and peace,
    Bob Schneider

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Walter Hicks" <wallyshoes@mindspring.com>
    To: "Robert Schneider" <rjschn39@bellsouth.net>
    Sent: Tuesday, September 17, 2002 5:03 PM
    Subject: Re: The Flood Hoax

    >
    >
    > Robert Schneider wrote:
    >
    > > Ian in his note below interprets Jesus in Matt. 5:17, 18 as referring to
    the
    > > "inerrancy" of the scriptures or the law. I think rather that Jesus was
    > > referring to "fulfillment" rather than "inerrancy." He also writes that
    > > "Christ re-affirmed OT stories (Jonah in Mt. 12:38-40)" and adds "Were
    > > Christ's references to Jonah and the flood simply his misunderstanding
    of
    > > the scriptures? Did He really believe that Jonah was swallowed by a big
    > > fish?" Reading this passage from Matthew I see no reason to conclude
    > > necessarily that Christ thought that the story of Jonah was a historical
    > > fact. One could make a good case that Christ, being a teller of
    parables
    > > himself, recognized that the story of Jonah is an extended parable, for
    the
    > > lesson which Christ draws from the story of Jonah is the lesson of that
    > > parable: repentance. That is one "sign of Jonah" Christ clearly refers
    to.
    > > Another is his using the allusion of Jonah in the fish three days and
    nights
    > > as an allegory for his forthcoming death and resurrection; the former
    sign
    > > is wrapped around the latter..
    >
    > I have seen it posted many times that Jonah was an allegory or Parable,
    rather
    > than a historical event. Now I can understand why that may be said for
    events
    > that seem to be invalidated by scientific research (such as global flood).
    > However, I see no reason for rejecting Jonah as a historical event, other
    than a
    > bias against "miraculous" type events events in the Old Testament. Is
    there any
    > scientific data to reject this as an actual happening?
    >
    > Walt
    > ===================================
    > Walt Hicks <wallyshoes@mindspring.com>
    >
    > In any consistent theory, there must
    > exist true but not provable statements.
    > (Godel's Theorem)
    >
    > You can only find the truth with logic
    > If you have already found the truth
    > without it. (G.K. Chesterton)
    > ===================================
    >
    >
    >



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