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« on: February 10, 2011, 06:03:19 AM »


Was Jonah alive in the belly of the huge fish?

Sheikh Ahmad Deedat, an Islamic commentator famous for his controversial teachings and attacks on Christianity, wrote a booklet to defy and rebut the basic Christian doctrine of Jesus' resurrection. Walking in the footsteps of some anti-Christian writers that propagated the Swoon Theory* and of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya**, tried to deny the veracity of Christ's resurrection by focusing on the parallelism drawn by Jesus Himself between Jonah and the Son of Man in the following verses:

An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. (Matthew 12:39-40)

Deedat concluded that this analogy proved his teachings concerning Jesus' resurrection. Since Jonah was alive in the belly of the huge fish, so was Jesus in the grave. Jesus, who had previously fallen into a swoon in the cross, came to Himself and walked out of His grave after His burial. Thus, there was no resurrection since there was no death in the first place.

Of course, some Christian apologists raced to respond to and refute Deedat's allegations by underlining the fact that the parallelism drawn by Jesus between Jonah and the Son of Man was confined to the period of time both characters spent in a place. The belly of the fish (Jonah) vs the heart of the earth (Jesus) actually stressed the veracity of Jesus' death rather than His fainting, for grave and burial are crucially associated with death and dead people.

This is definitely a nice and valid argument that rebuts Deedat's heresy, but when I pondered on this issue and read the Book of Jonah carefully, I reached the conclusion that even in the Old Testament Jonah's remaining in the belly of the fish symbolically represented his death. Jonah was isolated from the land of the living and cast into dark waters. His prayer is also amazingly similar in tone and content to the Psalms that employ the theme of death. Consequently, in my rebuttal to Thomas Paine's attacks on Christianity with regard to the resurrection narrative in the Gospel of Matthew I wrote the following:

Evidently, during His prophetic ministry Christ had foretold His death and resurrection in public through drawing an analogy between Prophet Jonah and the Son of Man (Himself). As Jonah had stayed in the belly of the huge fish for only three days, the Son of Man would stay in the heart of the earth for only three days and not more. Jonah’s staying in the belly of the huge fish had represented his death as he had been isolated from the world of the living and cast into a dark world in deep waters. Accordingly, his coming out from that dark place back to the world of the living symbolized his resurrection. Jonah’s symbolic death and resurrection had functioned as the predictor of Jesus’ actual death and resurrection, for the fulfillment of predictions means the changing of symbols and typologies into realities. In short, Jesus had revealed His future death and resurrection along with the time of His coming back to life. Since the Jewish authorities were not a bunch of idiots, they understood what Jesus meant, which later instigated them to take precautions against Jesus’ predicted resurrection on the third day.

More, I was suprised to read in the Jewish encyclopedia yesterday that Rabbinical Literature taught that Jonah died when he was cast into the sea:

In the Zohar (Wayaḳhel) it is related that the fish died as soon as Jonah entered, but was revived after three days. When Jonah was thrown into the sea his soul immediately left his body and soared up to God's throne, where it was judged and sent back. As soon as it touched the mouth of the fish on its way back to the body, the fish died, but was later restored to life. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=388&letter=J&search=jonah

In this non-biblical story, Jonah is depicted as a person who died and then came back to life in the belly of the fish. This interesting depiction may have been derived from the misinterpretation of Jonah's symbolic death.

What do you think? Was Jonah alive or dead in the belly of the huge fish? Did his spending three days in the dark waters represent his death and transfer to Hades? What did the Church Fathers say on this issue?

* The assertion that Jesus did not rise from the dead because He had not actually died, but fallen into a swoon due to hunger and pain.

**A formerly Islamic sect established by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed to be the promised Messiah that was to return to this world. He taught that Jesus was crucified, but did not die. He was alive when laid in a tomb by His disciples. After becoming conscious again, He left the tomb and appeared to His disciples. He finally left Israel and took refuge in Kashmir, where Mirza Ahmad would be born many centuries later as the promised Messiah. The followers of the Ahmadiyya are considered heretics by the majority of the Muslims and not allowed to enter the Holy Land of Islam (Mecca-Cube) for the ritual of pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of their faith. Recently they have been assailed and lynched by radical Muslims in Indonesia. (Such a tragic end for these lost sheep).

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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2011, 06:11:41 AM »

I think the story illustrates how terrifying it is to be consumed by your sins and be shrouded in darkness. But trusting in the Lord to guide you to Him (the light). I think the story is typological.

Full commentary for St. Jerome here: http://litteralchristianlibrary.wetpaint.com/page/St.+Jerome+Jonah+COmmentary

St. Methodius
Quote
The history of Jonah contains a great mystery. For it seems that the fish signifies Time, ‎which never stands still, but is always going on, and consumes the things which are made by long ‎and shorter intervals.

‎But Jonah, who fled from the presence of God, is himself the first man who, having ‎transgressed the law, fled from being seen naked of immortality, having lost through sin his ‎confidence in the Deity.

‎The ship in which he embarked, and which was tempest-tossed, is this brief and hard life ‎in the present time. Just as though we had turned and removed from that blessed and secure life, ‎to that which was most tempestuous and unstable, as from solid land to a ship. For what a ship is ‎to the land, that our present life is to eternal life.

‎The storm and the tempests which beat against us are the temptations of this life, ‎which in the world, as in a tempestuous sea, do not permit us to have a fair voyage free from ‎pain, in a calm sea, and one which is free from evils. ‎

The casting of Jonah from the ship into the sea, signifies the fall of the first man from ‎life to death, who received that sentence because, through having sinned, he fell from ‎righteousness: “You are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

His being swallowed by the whale signifies our inevitable removal by time. For the belly ‎in which Jonah, when he was swallowed, was concealed, is the all-receiving earth, which ‎receives all things which are consumed by time.

‎As Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of the fish and was delivered up ‎sound again, all of us who have passed through the three stages of our present life on earth—the ‎beginning, middle, and end— rise again. For our present time consists of three intervals: the past, ‎the future, and the present. Thus, the Lord spent three days in the earth as a symbol to teach us ‎clearly that our resurrection shall take place after these intervals of time have been fulfilled. Our ‎resurrection shall be the beginning of the future age and the end of this. In that age, there is ‎neither past nor future, but only the present.

‎Moreover, Jonah having spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, was ‎not destroyed by his flesh being dissolved, as is the case with that natural decomposition which ‎takes place in the belly, in the case of those meats which enter into it, on account of the greater ‎heat in the liquids, that it might be shown that these bodies of ours may remain undestroyed. For ‎consider that God had images of Himself made as of gold, that is of a purer spiritual substance, ‎as the angels; and others of clay or brass, as ourselves. He united the soul which was made in ‎the image of God to that which was earthy. As, then, we must here honor all the images of a king, ‎on account of the form which is in them, so also it is incredible that we who are the images of God ‎should be altogether destroyed as being without honor. Whence also the Word descended into ‎our world, and was incarnate of our body, in order that, having fashioned it to a more divine ‎image, He might raise it incorrupt, although it had been dissolved by time. And, indeed, when we ‎trace out the dispensation which was figuratively set forth by the prophet, we shall find the whole ‎discourse visibly extending to this.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem
Quote
And when we examine the story of Jonah, great is the force of the resemblance. Jesus was sent to ‎preach repentance; Jonah also was sent: but whereas the one fled, not knowing what should come to pass; ‎the other came willingly, to give repentance unto salvation. Jonah was asleep in the ship, and snoring ‎amidst the stormy sea; while Jesus also slept, the sea, according to God’s providence, began to rise, to show ‎in the sequel the might of Him who slept. To the one they said, “Why are you sleeping? Arise, call ‎your God, that God may save us;” but in the other case they say unto the Master, “Lord, save us.” Then ‎they said, "Call upon thy God"; here they say, "save Thou". But the one says, "Take me, and cast me into the ‎sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you"; the other, Himself rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a ‎great calm. The one was cast into a whale’s belly: but the other of His own accord went down, where the ‎invisible whale of death is. And He went down of His own accord, that death might cast up those whom he ‎had devoured, according to that which is written, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; and from ‎the hand of death I will redeem them".

St. Gregory the Theologian
Quote
Jonah was fleeing from the face of God, or rather, thought that he was fleeing: but ‎he was overtaken by the sea, and the storm, and the lot, and the whale’s belly, and the ‎three days’ entombment, the type of a greater mystery. He fled from having to announce ‎the dread and awful message to the Ninevites, and from being subsequently, if the city ‎was saved by repentance, convicted of falsehood: not that he was displeased at the ‎salvation of the wicked, but he was ashamed of being made an instrument of falsehood, ‎and exceedingly zealous for the credit of prophecy, which was in danger of being ‎destroyed in his person, since most men are unable to penetrate the depth of the Divine ‎dispensation in such cases.‎

But, as I have learned from a man skilled in these subjects, and able to grasp the ‎depth of the prophet, by means of a reasonable explanation of what seems unreasonable ‎in the history, it was not this which caused Jonah to flee, and carried him to Joppa and ‎again from Joppa to Tarshish, when he entrusted his stolen self to the sea: for it was not ‎likely that such a prophet should be ignorant of the design of God, viz., to bring about, by ‎means of the threat, the escape of the Ninevites from the threatened doom, according to ‎His great wisdom, and unsearchable judgments, and according to His ways which are ‎beyond our tracing and finding out; nor that, if he knew this he would refuse to cooperate with God in the use of the means which He designed for their salvation. Besides, ‎to imagine that Jonah hoped to hide himself at sea, and escape by his flight the great eye ‎of God, is surely utterly absurd and stupid, and unworthy of credit, not only in the case of ‎a prophet, but even in the case of any sensible man, who has only a slight perception of ‎God, Whose power is over all.

On the contrary, as my instructor said, and as I am myself convinced, Jonah ‎knew better than anyone the purpose of his message to the Ninevites, and that, in ‎planning his flight, although he changed his place, he did not escape from God. Nor is ‎this possible for any one else, either by concealing himself in the bosom of the earth, or ‎in the depths of the sea, or by soaring on wings, if there be any means of doing so, and ‎rising into the air, or by abiding in the lowest depths of hell, or by enveloping himself in a ‎thick cloud, or by any other of the many devices for ensuring escape. For God alone of all ‎things cannot be escaped from or contended with; if He wills to seize and bring them ‎under His hand, He outstrips the swift, He outwits the wise, He overthrows the strong, He ‎abases the lofty, He subdues rashness, He represses power.

Jonah then was not ignorant of the mighty hand of God, with which he threatened ‎other men, nor did he imagine that he could utterly escape the Divine power; this we are ‎not to believe: but when he saw the falling away of Israel, and perceived the passing over ‎of the grace of prophecy to the Gentiles — this was the cause of his retirement from ‎preaching and of his delay in fulfilling the command; accordingly he left the watchtower ‎of joy, for this is the meaning of Joppa in Hebrew, I mean his former dignity and ‎reputation, and flung himself into the deep of sorrow: and hence he is tempest-tossed, and ‎falls asleep, and is wrecked, and aroused from sleep, and taken by lot, and confesses his ‎flight, and is cast into sea, and swallowed, but not destroyed, by the whale; but there he ‎calls upon God, and, marvelous as it is, on the third day he, like Christ, is delivered: but ‎my treatment of this topic must stand over, and shall shortly, if God permit, be more ‎deliberately worked out....‎

St. John Chrysostom
Quote
For Jonah was a servant, but I am the Master; and he came forth from the great fish, but I rose from death. He proclaimed destruction, but I am come preaching the good tidings of the kingdom. The Ninevites indeed believed without a sign, but I have exhibited many signs. They heard nothing more than those words, but I have made it impossible to deny the truth. The Ninevites came to be ministered to, but I, the very Master and Lord of all, have come not threatening, not demanding an account, but bringing pardon. They were barbarians, but these - the faithful - have conversed with unnumbered prophets. And of Jonah nothing had been prophesied in advance, but of me everything was foretold, and all the facts have agreed with their words. And Jonah indeed, when he was to go forth, instead ran away that he might not be ridiculed. But I, knowing that I am both to be crucified and mocked, have come nonetheless. While Jonah did not endure so much as to be reproached for those who were saved, I underwent even death, and that the most shameful death, and after this I sent others again. And Jonah was a strange sort of person and an alien to the Ninevites, and unknown; but I a kinsman after the flesh and of the same forefathers.
http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2009/09/prophet-jonah-in-writings-of-church.html
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« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2011, 02:12:37 PM »

Thanks for the quotes! In particular, St. Methodius' statements are very helpful.
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« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2012, 09:33:22 AM »

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« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2012, 09:36:00 AM »

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Why are you bumping this thread?
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« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2012, 09:36:59 AM »

Mr. Deedat must have a really hard time reading poetry.
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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2012, 10:39:54 AM »

I was about to say that Sheikh Ahmad is reading the Scriptures in a very Protestant way...then I realized that Muslims did it first...so the Protestants read in a very Islamic manner. Anyway...

Have these people not heard of myth and allegory? Jonah is a prefiguring, a type, of what Christ would do. As Jonah was in the belly of the whale, so would Christ be in the belly of the Earth, three days and nights. This passage really speaks more to the Resurrection (i.e., what comes after the three days and nights) rather than his death. However, there are plenty of other passages, both Old Testament and New, that confirm the necessity of Christ's death. One could even say that the sign of Jonah, since it is about resurrection, implies death. There is not one without the other.

Also, doesn't the Sheikh's "proving" of the Swoon Theory go against traditional Islamic teaching? It's my understanding that they teach Christ wasn't crucified at all, but rather Judas was cursed to look like Christ by Allah, who was then seized by the Jews and killed, and that Christ experienced no suffering and then ascended into heaven and shall come again. I don't know if this teaching is directly from the Qu'ran or if it's an hadith, but this is what I've heard from every Muslim...ever.
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« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2012, 11:01:31 AM »

Christ was dead according to his humanity, but immortal according to his divinity. It is a great mystery.

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« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2012, 11:06:20 AM »

--bump--
Why are you bumping this thread?
I wanted to see if there were any new perspectives on this topic.
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« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2012, 12:35:31 PM »


Also, doesn't the Sheikh's "proving" of the Swoon Theory go against traditional Islamic teaching?

Deedat was highly influenced by the Ahmadiyya movement. This is why he propagated their particular theory, which is by no means in line with the mainstream and traditional Islamic doctrines concerning Jesus' death.

It's my understanding that they teach Christ wasn't crucified at all, but rather Judas was cursed to look like Christ by Allah, who was then seized by the Jews and killed, and that Christ experienced no suffering and then ascended into heaven and shall come again. I don't know if this teaching is directly from the Qu'ran or if it's an hadith, but this is what I've heard from every Muslim...ever.

You are right. This is what they mostly teach and claim. The Qur'an talks of an illusion, but does not explain who was made to resemble Christ and die in His stead. The identification of the "victim" as Judas Iscariot essentially comes from the medieval Gospel of Barnabas, which is nothing but a poor adaptation of the Quranic doctrine to the accounts of the crucifixion in the canonical Gospels.
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« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2012, 12:40:11 PM »

I wanted to see if there were any new perspectives on this topic.
You may find this article interesting: http://answering-islam.org/authors/masihiyyen/jonah_pharaoh_sign1.html
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« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2012, 01:09:52 PM »

I was about to say that Sheikh Ahmad is reading the Scriptures in a very Protestant way...then I realized that Muslims did it first...so the Protestants read in a very Islamic manner. Anyway...

Deedat died a few years ago, and now everyone can see and be sure that he suffered a lot while breathing his last. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33uFSlV0VOk&feature=related
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« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2012, 01:38:34 PM »

Also, doesn't the Sheikh's "proving" of the Swoon Theory go against traditional Islamic teaching? It's my understanding that they teach Christ wasn't crucified at all, but rather Judas was cursed to look like Christ by Allah, who was then seized by the Jews and killed, and that Christ experienced no suffering and then ascended into heaven and shall come again. I don't know if this teaching is directly from the Qu'ran or if it's an hadith, but this is what I've heard from every Muslim...ever.

These were my initial thoughts as well (as I've always had the same experience), but then I thought of when I used to regularly participate in religious debates, I would occasionally employ this tactic- granting an opponent's premise for the sake of the argument to follow it to a conclusion, sort of a "even if you're right about x you're still wrong" kind of deal. In this case perhaps the sheikh is doing the same: "Even if it was Jesus and not Judas on the cross, the ressurection cannot be true because Jesus compared His experience to Jonah and Jonah did not die."
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« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2012, 01:46:20 PM »

Also, doesn't the Sheikh's "proving" of the Swoon Theory go against traditional Islamic teaching? It's my understanding that they teach Christ wasn't crucified at all, but rather Judas was cursed to look like Christ by Allah, who was then seized by the Jews and killed, and that Christ experienced no suffering and then ascended into heaven and shall come again. I don't know if this teaching is directly from the Qu'ran or if it's an hadith, but this is what I've heard from every Muslim...ever.

These were my initial thoughts as well (as I've always had the same experience), but then I thought of when I used to regularly participate in religious debates, I would occasionally employ this tactic- granting an opponent's premise for the sake of the argument to follow it to a conclusion, sort of a "even if you're right about x you're still wrong" kind of deal. In this case perhaps the sheikh is doing the same: "Even if it was Jesus and not Judas on the cross, the ressurection cannot be true because Jesus compared His experience to Jonah and Jonah did not die."

Granted, to which I employ my previous statement of allegory and reading the prophecies of Christ in context, rather than attempting to proof-text. Wink
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« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2012, 01:49:56 PM »

Also, doesn't the Sheikh's "proving" of the Swoon Theory go against traditional Islamic teaching? It's my understanding that they teach Christ wasn't crucified at all, but rather Judas was cursed to look like Christ by Allah, who was then seized by the Jews and killed, and that Christ experienced no suffering and then ascended into heaven and shall come again. I don't know if this teaching is directly from the Qu'ran or if it's an hadith, but this is what I've heard from every Muslim...ever.

These were my initial thoughts as well (as I've always had the same experience), but then I thought of when I used to regularly participate in religious debates, I would occasionally employ this tactic- granting an opponent's premise for the sake of the argument to follow it to a conclusion, sort of a "even if you're right about x you're still wrong" kind of deal. In this case perhaps the sheikh is doing the same: "Even if it was Jesus and not Judas on the cross, the ressurection cannot be true because Jesus compared His experience to Jonah and Jonah did not die."

Granted, to which I employ my previous statement of allegory and reading the prophecies of Christ in context, rather than attempting to proof-text. Wink

Absolutely agreed. 
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« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2012, 02:09:21 AM »

So, would it be acceptable to say that the book of Jonah was just an allegorical story which did not really happen? I personally believe in his historicity, however, I want to find out what you all think.
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