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In Chris Webb's Fire of the Word  he asks if it really matters whether Jonah was really swallowed by a giant fish?   What do you think??

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FIRST of all, let me say that in NO way do I consider you a fool.  I HOPE you know that was not my intent, in any sense.  Please.

What bugs me is the implicit but unspoken "And I fully understand exactly what it is that God said."  I'm thinking that must fit in as subpoint 2b or something.  Even that is not aimed at you EA, but at the common sentiment I quoted, which, I will observe, is not what you said.  But what you said reminded me of that kind of bumper-sticker theology.  (I did actually have that bumper sticker on my '73 Vega back in the day.)
 
E. A. Long said:

Actually my position would be best described as this: 

1.) God said it.

2.) That settles it.

3.) I believe it.

Count me a fool if you like. I think I am standing on solid ground, 

 

Dave,

For my part, I know that I don't pretend to fully understand what it is that God said, as you mentioned some do.

My experience is that those who come up with these relatively new ideas about errors in the Scripture, or decide that we've read something as the wrong genre tend to view themselves as the ones having more light than the rest of us.

We all tend to have a bit of pride about us. I admit mine regularly to the folks where I pastor.

I'm not so sure that such comments do much for us in our discussions. Plus, I think EA missed some of the humor in your original comment.

Dave Z said:

FIRST of all, let me say that in NO way do I consider you a fool.  I HOPE you know that was not my intent, in any sense.  Please.

What bugs me is the implicit but unspoken "And I fully understand exactly what it is that God said."  I'm thinking that must fit in as subpoint 2b or something.  Even that is not aimed at you EA, but at the common sentiment I quoted, which, I will observe, is not what you said.  But what you said reminded me of that kind of bumper-sticker theology.  (I did actually have that bumper sticker on my '73 Vega back in the day.)
 
E. A. Long said:

Actually my position would be best described as this: 

1.) God said it.

2.) That settles it.

3.) I believe it.

Count me a fool if you like. I think I am standing on solid ground, 

 

Why this question in the first place?  I do not see the question of the historicity of Jonah as coming from exegetical considerations, but rather it would seem to be to come from philosophical considerations which have an anti-supernatural basis.  I am not saying that those who deny the historicity of Jonah are all anti-supernatural, but it would seem to me they are at least borrowing from that worldview.

Also, I do not see that Jonah could possibly be exegetically divided up into Chapter 1 -- parable, and then chapters 3 & 4 -- historically based narrative.  Chapter 3:1 says that the word of the Lord came a "2nd time."  Does that not link the 3-4 with 1?

It is obvious that the literary genre of chapter 2 is poetry.  I could understand someone questioning if Jonah was creating and reciting Hebrew Poetry while in the belly of the fish.  However, while those exact words may not have been composed in the belly of the fish, I would assume that those thoughts were in the heat of Jonah at that time.  I would include Job in this question.  Was he reciting poetry when his scraped his skin with a potsherd and debated his friends?  Or was the poetry later composed which reflects the theology and nature of an actual historical conversation?  Well, those are my thoughts.

So Dave and Phil, this is what I'd be so interested in seeing -- Marv has presented some excellent thinking on the text itself, and importance in Jesus' words about Himself.  Marv has presented a clear and reasoned position that Jonah appears to be written as history, and appears to have been accepted as history until recently (the last one hundred years or so?).  Jesus compared His real death and real resurrection to Jonah's captivity and release from the belly of a fish, as though he were comparing 'real' with 'real.'

 

Now how about you guys present, from these texts, Jonah's account and Jesus' words, the alternative view that Jonah's story is a fable, was intended as such, was accepted as such, and that Jesus was comparing His real life impending crucifixion and resurrection with Jonah's pretend story (that, of course, teaches important, real, truths).

 

My teachability on this point is pretty low, but it's not zero.  The gospels will say, 'Now Jesus told them a parable...' and then a story will follow that we are to understand is a pretend story intended to teach a truth.  So I totally get that concept.  What I'm not seeing (but I don't have the education you do) is this preamble to Jonah's story.

 

What I am totally not teachable on is the idea that Jonah's story represents bad science.  Every miracle represents, at some level, bad science.  I am completely convinced that the Israelites, for example, were led through the desert by a literal pillar of fire by night and a literal cloud by day.  I think their sandals did, in fact, never wear out.  I believe that wholesale.  I know enough about ordinary science to know these things are highly improbable.  We'd have to go into alternate universe, complicated time warps and so on to make those sandals not wear out.  Or we'd have to invent some sort of exotic preservative that left the sandals pliable yet never worn.  But I'm thinking that God is, literally, all powerful, and He, literally, can do whatever He has in mind to do, no matter how improbable.

 

As an illustration, speaking of fish, I completely (would you suggest blithely?) believe that Peter literally took Jesus at His word, went over to the lake, cast a net, caught a fish, pulled a coin from its mouth and ut was the perfect amount to pay his and Jesus' temple tax with.  That's partly why I think Jesus had no problem believing Jonah's story was true.

I was not offended by your comment, Dave. Not in the least. My reference was to other comments I have read. Some (you? I dunno) imply that folks who believe even when there are questions, have a sort of naivete regarding scripture. Or, someone who trusts the veracity of God's Word even in the face of seeming contradictions, has not considered things more than at a surface level.

BTW,the point I was making, or at least trying to make to you, was the sequence my bumper sticker would have. Points 1 and 2 are not dependent on point 3. That's all. 

And yes, Jason, I am sure I missed the humor. Probably too much multitasking or a deplorable lack of observation on my part. Lol. 

Jason said:

Dave,

For my part, I know that I don't pretend to fully understand what it is that God said, as you mentioned some do.

My experience is that those who come up with these relatively new ideas about errors in the Scripture, or decide that we've read something as the wrong genre tend to view themselves as the ones having more light than the rest of us.

We all tend to have a bit of pride about us. I admit mine regularly to the folks where I pastor.

I'm not so sure that such comments do much for us in our discussions. Plus, I think EA missed some of the humor in your original comment.

Dave Z said:

FIRST of all, let me say that in NO way do I consider you a fool.  I HOPE you know that was not my intent, in any sense.  Please.

What bugs me is the implicit but unspoken "And I fully understand exactly what it is that God said."  I'm thinking that must fit in as subpoint 2b or something.  Even that is not aimed at you EA, but at the common sentiment I quoted, which, I will observe, is not what you said.  But what you said reminded me of that kind of bumper-sticker theology.  (I did actually have that bumper sticker on my '73 Vega back in the day.)
 
E. A. Long said:

Actually my position would be best described as this: 

1.) God said it.

2.) That settles it.

3.) I believe it.

Count me a fool if you like. I think I am standing on solid ground, 

 

Joanne,

Here's the issue with "bad science." Truly bad science is bad because it refuses to accept the providential and miraculous. While it cannot be tested and verified in a lab, the providential work of God is historically verifiable.

I dunno...I'll bet that someday soon someone will deny the resurrection of Jesus from the dead because of the idea that it's "bad science." Oh, wait!

joanne guarnieri said:

So Dave and Phil, this is what I'd be so interested in seeing -- Marv has presented some excellent thinking on the text itself, and importance in Jesus' words about Himself.  Marv has presented a clear and reasoned position that Jonah appears to be written as history, and appears to have been accepted as history until recently (the last one hundred years or so?).  Jesus compared His real death and real resurrection to Jonah's captivity and release from the belly of a fish, as though he were comparing 'real' with 'real.'

 

Now how about you guys present, from these texts, Jonah's account and Jesus' words, the alternative view that Jonah's story is a fable, was intended as such, was accepted as such, and that Jesus was comparing His real life impending crucifixion and resurrection with Jonah's pretend story (that, of course, teaches important, real, truths).

 

My teachability on this point is pretty low, but it's not zero.  The gospels will say, 'Now Jesus told them a parable...' and then a story will follow that we are to understand is a pretend story intended to teach a truth.  So I totally get that concept.  What I'm not seeing (but I don't have the education you do) is this preamble to Jonah's story.

 

What I am totally not teachable on is the idea that Jonah's story represents bad science.  Every miracle represents, at some level, bad science.  I am completely convinced that the Israelites, for example, were led through the desert by a literal pillar of fire by night and a literal cloud by day.  I think their sandals did, in fact, never wear out.  I believe that wholesale.  I know enough about ordinary science to know these things are highly improbable.  We'd have to go into alternate universe, complicated time warps and so on to make those sandals not wear out.  Or we'd have to invent some sort of exotic preservative that left the sandals pliable yet never worn.  But I'm thinking that God is, literally, all powerful, and He, literally, can do whatever He has in mind to do, no matter how improbable.

 

As an illustration, speaking of fish, I completely (would you suggest blithely?) believe that Peter literally took Jesus at His word, went over to the lake, cast a net, caught a fish, pulled a coin from its mouth and ut was the perfect amount to pay his and Jesus' temple tax with.  That's partly why I think Jesus had no problem believing Jonah's story was true.

My point is that if we just believe without thinking through things we risk falling into what I see as the fundamental error of Mormonism.  Mormons believe their sacred books are from God just like we do.  They have apologists who defend their scriptures and doctrine, just like we do.  If we have nothing but "faith" to support our position, what makes us any different than the Mormons?  Yet we say our Bible is true.  On the basis of what, our faith?  Then what separates us from them?  Pretty much nothing.  We could say much the same about Islam.

IMO, the real difference is that we test our scriptures to see if they're true.  We ask tough questions and don't just assume something is true because that's what we've always been taught.  As jason said, we try to see if they're "historically verifiable." 

The OP asks the importance of whether the story is true.  In this case, I don't think it's status as fable or fact affects the points it makes.  We can say it affects inerrancy, but that's a different issue.

As I see it, most of the discussion here has been based around "It's true because it's in the Bible and that's good enough for me."  IOW, don't ask questions!  There's no quicker way to raise red flags in my mind. 

Please, puh-leez, don't anyone take this personally, I'm just using hyperbole to make a point, but... it looks to me like some of y'all might make good Mormons. 

The thing is, that hyperbole won't be recognized by some. Then there are some who do recognize it and wonder to what degree it is hyperbole. Maybe just a wee little bit, or a lot? The reactions will vary accordingly.

Personally, I don't like hyperbole unless I use it. :-)
 
Dave Z said:

My point is that if we just believe without thinking through things we risk falling into what I see as the fundamental error of Mormonism.  Mormons believe their sacred books are from God just like we do.  They have apologists who defend their scriptures and doctrine, just like we do.  If we have nothing but "faith" to support our position, what makes us any different than the Mormons?  Yet we say our Bible is true.  On the basis of what, our faith?  Then what separates us from them?  Pretty much nothing.  We could say much the same about Islam.

IMO, the real difference is that we test our scriptures to see if they're true.  We ask tough questions and don't just assume something is true because that's what we've always been taught.  As jason said, we try to see if they're "historically verifiable." 

The OP asks the importance of whether the story is true.  In this case, I don't think it's status as fable or fact affects the points it makes.  We can say it affects inerrancy, but that's a different issue.

As I see it, most of the discussion here has been based around "It's true because it's in the Bible and that's good enough for me."  IOW, don't ask questions!  There's no quicker way to raise red flags in my mind. 

Please, puh-leez, don't anyone take this personally, I'm just using hyperbole to make a point, but... it looks to me like some of y'all might make good Mormons. 

Ser, I think those of us on Theologica who strongly embrace orthodox viewpoints on foundational matters, do so BECAUSE after  we accepted them by faith, we found through study just how rock solid they really are.

I agree with you--it is wrong to assert that we don't without good reason. To make that "good reason" that one has come to orthodox viewpoints on foundational matters seems to be dubious reasoning. 

1.) A believes X about Biblical interpretation.

2.) Only dullards hold to X about Biblical interpretation.

3.) Therefore, A is a dullard. 

P.S. Dave-I am not upset. Merely stating that someone who thinks, studies, investigates, and employs critical thinking, can arrive at the conclusions that some of us have stated here. 


Seraphim said:

And this is that classic arrogance, that we state that which we believe without study, without examining it, without looking at other things. If we make those sort of statements we are merely base fools with no learning education or reading.

rigghhhttt. Is that the gift of discernment you bought there buddy? you need a refund.

Dave Z said:

My point is that if we just believe without thinking through things we risk falling into what I see as the fundamental error of Mormonism. 

Okay, Dave.  You've restated the same preface using other words and other illustrations, but you still haven't presented your own reasoned, studied position for viewing Jonah as fiction instead of fact.  I disagree with you that inerrancy is a separate issue.  When an author presents something as history and is discovered, later, to have been lying, that author's integrity and motives come under suspicion, as James Frey might relate.

 

If Jonah were fable, then I would have expected a prologue that said, "And here is a fable," just like the gospels will say, "And here is a parable."  So please present it, please help me see the clear markers in Jonah's account that identify it as myth and not history.

 

All of scripture has been validated by Jesus, and His credentials come via His resurrection, the easiest miracle to verify in the whole of the Bible.  I have no problem taking Jesus' word for it, honestly I don't.  Now you might say that He wasn't accurately quoted, but again, I would have to disagree, given the preponderous volume of non-Biblical written material that exists to this day.  If the apostles had written it down wrong, they'd have gotten hammered for it.  Instead everybody agreed, yup, this is exactly how it was.

 

My one stipulation is to leave out the "bad science" argument because that is simply insufferable arrogance in the throne room of God.  AS IF!  All we may safely do is to show the gap between our current understanding of science and the acts of God, as depicted.  This is not being a Mormon (for crying out loud.  Really?).  This is basing confident belief on verifiable fact, far better than the circumstantial evidence that so often returns a verdict in a court of law.

So no more posturing, please.  Present your postion.

Ser, EA, and Joanne,

I'm seeing more and more that the anti-inerrancy crowd that works to destroy the credibility of the Scriptures has no facts to present, and therefore ignore the facts that are present.

This is sad to me, because I think the facts should speak for themselves.

Check out my posts as well as the interaction between myself and another blogger by accessing this search of my blog. The interaction there will demonstrate that paucity of true arguments that anti-inerrantists have.

This is a hard thing to say, because I don't like to talk badly about people. In the end, however, this is more about their arguments. However, the arguments people take up, and the things for which they fight demonstrate much about their hearts and character.

Joanne, I never said I thought it was fable.  Please pay attention to what I write and don't put words in my mouth. 

I also do not think that the presence of fable would automatically be an instance of error.  Those are two different things. 

Also, while much of the time the gospel writers do announce "here is a parable," they do not always do so.  Are you ready to say that if it is not announced as a parable, it must be fact? 

Joanne, I clearly stated my position in response to the OP, with no posturing.  Go back and look again at what the OP asks.  Again, I'll state my appreciation for Marv's well-reasoned and well-presented responses, which are, IMO, far different from the knee-jerk reactions of most.  My Mormonism remark was intended to point out that some of you won't even consider the possibility of genre.

I get so tired of everything being forced into the inerrancy box.  This really is not much different than the Licona situation, dealing with genre as opposed to errancy. I swear some of you are more concerned about inerrancy than the content of what is being presented.  It seems to be THE ultimate doctrine for some.  It's not that I reject inerrancy nearly as much as I reject its elevation to the foremost doctrine of Christianity.

And now Jason is using it to judge heart and character.   No one sees a problem there?

 

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