Jonah
Overview
 
Jonah is the name given in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 (Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

/Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

) to a prophet
Prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

 of the northern kingdom of Israel in about the 8th century BC, the eponymous central character in the Book of Jonah
Book of Jonah
The Book of Jonah is a book in the Hebrew Bible. It tells the story of a Hebrew prophet named Jonah ben Amittai who is sent by God to prophesy the destruction of Nineveh but tries to escape the divine mission...

, famous for being swallowed by a fish or a whale, depending on translation. The Biblical
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 story of Jonah is repeated in the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

.
Jonah son of Amittai
Amittai
- In Islam :Amittai is also mentioned in Islam in Prophet Muhammad's Hadith, in which Muhammad emphasizes upon the belief that all prophets are equal in their importance and greatness:...

 appears in 2 Kings
Books of Kings
The Book of Kings presents a narrative history of ancient Israel and Judah from the death of David to the release of his successor Jehoiachin from imprisonment in Babylon, a period of some 400 years...

 as a prophet from Gath-Hepher (a few miles north of Nazareth
Nazareth
Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel...

) active during the reign of Jeroboam II
Jeroboam II
Jeroboam II was the son and successor of Jehoash, , and the fourteenth king of the ancient Kingdom of Israel, over which he ruled for forty-one years according to 2 Kings . His reign was contemporary with those of Amaziah and Uzziah , kings of Judah...

 (c.786-746 BC), where he predicts that Jeroboam will recover certain lost territories.

Jonah is also the central character in the Book of Jonah.
Encyclopedia
Jonah is the name given in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 (Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

/Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

) to a prophet
Prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

 of the northern kingdom of Israel in about the 8th century BC, the eponymous central character in the Book of Jonah
Book of Jonah
The Book of Jonah is a book in the Hebrew Bible. It tells the story of a Hebrew prophet named Jonah ben Amittai who is sent by God to prophesy the destruction of Nineveh but tries to escape the divine mission...

, famous for being swallowed by a fish or a whale, depending on translation. The Biblical
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 story of Jonah is repeated in the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

.

The story of Jonah

Jonah son of Amittai
Amittai
- In Islam :Amittai is also mentioned in Islam in Prophet Muhammad's Hadith, in which Muhammad emphasizes upon the belief that all prophets are equal in their importance and greatness:...

 appears in 2 Kings
Books of Kings
The Book of Kings presents a narrative history of ancient Israel and Judah from the death of David to the release of his successor Jehoiachin from imprisonment in Babylon, a period of some 400 years...

 as a prophet from Gath-Hepher (a few miles north of Nazareth
Nazareth
Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel...

) active during the reign of Jeroboam II
Jeroboam II
Jeroboam II was the son and successor of Jehoash, , and the fourteenth king of the ancient Kingdom of Israel, over which he ruled for forty-one years according to 2 Kings . His reign was contemporary with those of Amaziah and Uzziah , kings of Judah...

 (c.786-746 BC), where he predicts that Jeroboam will recover certain lost territories.

Jonah is also the central character in the Book of Jonah. Ordered by God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 to go to the city of Nineveh
Nineveh
Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, and capital of the Neo Assyrian Empire. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq....

 to prophesy against it "for their great wickedness is come up before me." Jonah seeks instead to flee from "the presence of the Lord" by going to Jaffa
Jaffa
Jaffa is an ancient port city believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Jaffa was incorporated with Tel Aviv creating the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.-Etymology:...

 and sailing to Tarshish, which, geographically, is in the opposite direction. A huge storm arises and the sailors, realizing this is no ordinary storm, cast lots
Cleromancy
Cleromancy is a form of divination using sortition, casting of lots, or casting bones or stones, in which an outcome is determined by means that normally would be considered random, such as the rolling of dice, but are sometimes believed to reveal the will of God, or other supernatural entities.-In...

 and learn that Jonah is to blame. Jonah admits this and states that if he is thrown overboard the storm will cease. The sailors try to dump as much cargo as possible before giving up, but feel forced to throw him overboard, at which point the sea calms. The inspired sailors then offer sacrifices to God. Jonah is miraculously saved by being swallowed by a large fish specially prepared by God where he spent three days and three nights. In chapter two, while in the great fish, Jonah prays to God in his affliction and commits to thanksgiving and to paying what he has vowed. God commands the fish to vomit Jonah out. The first time Jonah prays in the book is in the fish which is also the first time Jonah rejoices.

God again orders Jonah to visit Nineveh and to prophesy to its inhabitants. This time he goes and enters the city crying, "In forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown." The people of Nineveh believe his word and proclaim a fast. The king of Nineveh puts on sackcloth and sits in ashes, making a proclamation to decree fasting, sackcloth, prayer, and repentance. God sees their works and spares the city at that time. The entire city is humbled and broken with the people (and even the animals) in sackcloth and ashes. Animals, plants, warmth and even fish are all seen under the sovereign hand of God. Even the king comes off his throne to repent.

Displeased by this, Jonah refers to his earlier flight to Tarshish while asserting that, since God is merciful, it was inevitable that God would turn from the threatened calamities. He then leaves the city and makes himself a shelter, waiting to see whether or not the city will be destroyed.

God causes a plant (in Hebrew a Kikayon
Kikayon
Kikayon is the Hebrew name of a plant mentioned in the Biblical Book of Jonah.-Origins:The first use of the term kikayon is in the biblical book of Jonah, Chapter 4:-Classification:...

) to grow over Jonah's shelter to give him some shade from the sun. Later, God causes a worm to bite the plant's root and it withers. Jonah, now being exposed to the full force of the sun, becomes faint and desires that God take him out of the world.

Jonah in Christianity

In the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

, Jonah is mentioned in Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 and Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 makes a reference to Jonah when he was asked for a miraculous sign by the Pharisees
Pharisees
The Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty in the wake of...

 and teachers of the Law. Jonah's restoration after three days inside the great whale is said to prefigure the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

 after three days.
Jonah is regarded as a saint by a number of Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 denominations. He is commemorated as a prophet in the Calendar of Saints
Calendar of Saints (Lutheran)
The Lutheran Calendar of Saints is a listing which details the primary annual festivals and events that are celebrated liturgically by some Lutheran Churches in the United States. The calendars of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod are from the...

 of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church on September 22. On the Eastern Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 liturgical calendar
Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar
The Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar describes and dictates the rhythm of the life of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Associated with each date are passages of Holy Scripture, Saints and events for commemoration, and many times special rules for fasting or feasting that correspond to the day of...

 his feast day is September 22 also (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

, September 22 currently falls on October 5 of the modern Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

). He is commemorated as one of the Twelve Minor Prophets in the Calendar of saints
Calendar of Saints (Armenian Apostolic Church)
-January:* 1 Third Day of the Fast of the Nativity* 2 Fourth Day of the Fast of the Nativity* 3 Fifth Day of the Fast of the Nativity* 4 Sixth Day of the Fast of the Nativity* 5 Eve of the Nativity and Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ...

 of the Armenian Apostolic Church
Armenian Apostolic Church
The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest National Church, is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, and is one of the most ancient Christian communities. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD, in establishing this church...

 on July 31.

The apocryphal
Biblical apocrypha
The word "apocrypha" is today often used to refer to the collection of ancient books printed in some editions of the Bible in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments...

 Lives of the Prophets
Lives of the Prophets
The Lives of the Prophets is an ancient apocryphal account of the lives of the prophets from the Old Testament. It is not regarded as scripture by any Jewish or Christian denomination...

, which may be Jewish
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 or Christian in origin, offers further biographical details about Jonah.

Jonah in Judaism

The book of Jonah (Yonah יונה) is one of the 12 minor prophets included in the Tanakh. According to tradition Jonah was the boy brought back to life by Elijah (Ilyas) the prophet, and hence shares many of his characteristics (particularly his desire for 'strict judgment'). The book of Jonah is read every year, in its original Hebrew and in its entirety, on Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur , also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue...

 - the Day of Atonement, as the Haftarah
Haftarah
The haftarah or haftoroh is a series of selections from the books of Nevi'im of the Hebrew Bible that is publicly read in synagogue as part of Jewish religious practice...

 at the afternoon mincha
Mincha
Mincha, מנחה is the afternoon prayer service in Judaism.-Etymology:The name "Mincha" is derived from the meal offering that accompanied each sacrifice.-Origin:...

 prayer.

Teshuva
Repentance in Judaism
Repentance in Judaism known as teshuva , is the way of atoning for sin in Judaism.According to Gates of Repentance, a standard work of Jewish ethics written by Rabbenu Yonah of Gerona, if someone commits a sin, a forbidden act, he can be forgiven for that sin if he performs teshuva, which...

 - the ability to repent and be forgiven by God - is a prominent idea in Jewish thought. This concept is developed in the book of Jonah: Jonah, the son of truth, (The name of his father "Amitai" in Hebrew means truth,) refuses to ask the people of Nineveh to repent. He seeks the truth only, and no forgiveness. When forced to go, his call is heard loud and clear. The people of Nineveh repent ecstatically, "fasting, including the sheep", and the Jewish scripts are critical of this.

When praying, Jonah repeats God's 13 traits failing to say the last one which is "...and Truthful", and changing it with "...and who is willing to forgive the bad". God responds by showing Jonah that he is "angry at doing good", and that he too would agree to spare an ephemeral plant if it has importance for him.

Jonah in Islam

Jonah (Yunus in Arabic) is highly important in Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 as a prophet
Prophets of Islam
Muslims identify the Prophets of Islam as those humans chosen by God and given revelation to deliver to mankind. Muslims believe that every prophet was given a belief to worship God and their respective followers believed it as well...

 who was faithful to God
God in Islam
In Islamic theology, God is the all-powerful and all-knowing creator, sustainer, ordainer, and judge of the universe. Islam puts a heavy emphasis on the conceptualization of God as strictly singular . God is unique and inherently One , all-merciful and omnipotent. According to the Islamic...

 and delivered His messages. In Islam, Jonah is also called Dhul-Nun (Arabic: ذو النون; meaning The One of the Whale). Chapter
Chapter
Chapter, as an organizational class title, may refer to:* A main division of a piece of writing or document, as a Chapter and a chapter in legislation...

 10 of the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 is named Jonah
Yunus (sura)
Sura Yunus is the 10th chapter of the Qur'an with 109 verses. It is a Makkan sura. It is named after the prophet Jonah....

, although in this chapter only verse 98 refers to him directly. It is said in Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

 that Jonah came from the tribe of Benjamin
Benjamin
Benjamin was the last-born of Jacob's twelve sons, and the second and last son of Rachel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Benjamin. In the Biblical account, unlike Rachel's first son, Joseph, Benjamin was born in Canaan. He died in Egypt on...

 and that his father was Amittai
Amittai
- In Islam :Amittai is also mentioned in Islam in Prophet Muhammad's Hadith, in which Muhammad emphasizes upon the belief that all prophets are equal in their importance and greatness:...

. Jonah is the only one of the Twelve Minor Prophets of the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 to be mentioned by name in the Qur'an.

Jonah's Qur'anic narrative is extremely similar to the Hebrew Bible story. The Qur'an describes Jonah as a righteous preacher of the message of God but a messenger who, one day, fled from his mission because of its overwhelming difficulty. The Qur'an says that Jonah made it onto a ship but, because of the powerfully stormy weather, the men aboard the ship suggested casting lots to throw off the individual responsible for this supposed 'bad luck'. When the lots were cast, Jonah's name came out, and he was thrown into the open ocean that night. A gigantic fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

 came and swallowed him, and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish repenting and glorifying God to the maximum. As the Qur'an says:
God forgave Jonah out of His mercy and kindness for the man, and because he knew that Jonah was, at heart, one of the best of men. Therefore, the fish cast Jonah out onto dry land, with Jonah in a state of sickness. Thus, God caused a plant to grow where Jonah was lying to provide shade and comfort for him. After Jonah got up, fresh and well, God told him to go back and preach at his land. As the Qur'an says:

Mentioned by Muhammad

Jonah is also mentioned in a few incidents during the lifetime of Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

. In both instances, Jonah's name is spoken of with praise and reverence by Muhammad.

According to historical narrations about Muhammad's life
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

, after ten years of receiving revelations, Muhammad went to the city of Ta’if
Ta’if
Ta’if is a city in the Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia at an elevation of on the slopes of the Sarawat Mountains . It has a population of 521,273 . Each summer the Saudi Government moves from the heat of Riyadh to Ta'if...

 to see if its leaders would allow him to preach his message from there rather than Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

, but he was cast from the city by the people. He took shelter in the garden of Utbah and Shaybah, two members of the Quraysh tribe. They sent their servant, Addas
Addas
Addas was a young Christian slave boy who lived in Taif, a mountainous area south of Mecca, during the times of Muhammad. He was the first person from the western province of Taif to convert to the new religion of Islam. He was originally from Nineveh....

, to serve him grapes for sustenance. Muhammad asked Addas where he was from and the servant replied Nineveh. "The town of Jonah the just, son of Amittai!" Muhammad exclaimed. Addas was shocked because he knew that the pagan Arabs had no knowledge of the prophet Jonah. He then asked how Muhammad knew of this man. "We are brothers" Muhammad replied. "Jonah was a Prophet of God and I, too, am a Prophet of God." Addas immediately accepted Islam and kissed the hands and feet of Muhammad.

In one of the sayings of Muhammad, in the collection of Imam Bukhari, it says that Muhammad said "One should not say that I am better than Jonah". This is understood by both mainstream Muslims and historians to have been stated by Muhammad to emphasize upon the notion of equality between all the prophets and the law of making no distinction between any of the messengers. The Arab tribes, of the time, may have begun to exalt Muhammad above Jonah because of the recent revelation Muhammad received, which recounted the story of Jonah's fleeing from his mission. Thus, Muhammad, by saying this, clearly made it a point to the Arabs to not make any distinction between the great apostles of God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

.

Shrine at Nineveh

At the present time, Nineveh
Nineveh
Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, and capital of the Neo Assyrian Empire. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq....

's location is marked by two large mounds, Kouyunjik and Nabī Yūnus (Prophet Jonah). On the latter there is a Muslim shrine dedicated to that prophet.

Jonah in sailors' superstition

A long-established expression among sailors uses the term "a Jonah" as meaning a person (either a sailor or a passenger) whose presence on board brings bad luck and endangers the ship. Later on, this meaning was extended to "a Jonah" referring to "a person who carries a jinx
Jinx
A jinx, in popular superstition and folklore, is:* A type of curse placed on a person that makes them prey to many minor misfortunes and other forms of bad luck;...

, one who will bring bad luck to any enterprise." An example of a so-called "Jonah" would be that of the sailor in Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98 and was published in 1798 in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads. Modern editions use a later revised version printed in 1817 that featured a gloss...

,
who was supposedly cursed to be lost at sea after he killed an albatross
Albatross
Albatrosses, of the biological family Diomedeidae, are large seabirds allied to the procellariids, storm-petrels and diving-petrels in the order Procellariiformes . They range widely in the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific...

.

The fish

Interpretations of the "fish" fall into these general categories:
  1. A big fish
    Fish
    Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

     or whale
    Whale
    Whale is the common name for various marine mammals of the order Cetacea. The term whale sometimes refers to all cetaceans, but more often it excludes dolphins and porpoises, which belong to suborder Odontoceti . This suborder also includes the sperm whale, killer whale, pilot whale, and beluga...

     (of unspecified species) did indeed swallow Jonah.
  2. A special creation
    Special creation
    In Creationism, special creation is a theological doctrine which states that the universe and all life in it originated by unconditional fiat or divine decree....

     (not any fish we know of) of God accomplished the act.
  3. There was no fish: the story is an allegory
    Allegory
    Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

    , the fish is a literary device
    Literary technique
    A literary technique is any element or the entirety of elements a writer intentionally uses in the structure of their work...

     in the story, the story is a vision or a dream. etc.
  4. The originators of the story did indeed intend for the story to be taken literally, and it was subsequently believed to be literally true by the pre-scientific culture in which the story originated and flourished.

Translation

Though it is often called a whale today, the Hebrew, as throughout scripture, refers to no species in particular, simply sufficing with "great fish" or "big fish" (whales are today classified as mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s and not fish, but no such distinction was made in antiquity). While some Bible scholars suggest the size and habits of the great white shark
Great white shark
The great white shark, scientific name Carcharodon carcharias, also known as the great white, white pointer, white shark, or white death, is a large lamniform shark found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans. It is known for its size, with the largest individuals known to have approached...

 correspond better to the representations given of Jonah's being swallowed, normally an adult human is too large to be swallowed whole. Other scholars instead argue that the fish might instead be a reference to the basking shark
Basking shark
The basking shark is the second largest living fish, after the whale shark. It is a cosmopolitan migratory species, found in all the world's temperate oceans. It is a slow moving and generally harmless filter feeder and has anatomical adaptations to filter feeding, such as a greatly enlarged...

.

In Jonah 2:1 (1:17 in English translation), the original Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 text reads dag gadol (דג גדול), which literally means "big fish." The Septuagint translates this phrase into Greek as ketos megas (κητος μεγας). The term ketos alone means "huge fish," and in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 the term was closely associated with sea monster
Sea monster
Sea monsters are sea-dwelling mythical or legendary creatures, often believed to be of immense size.Marine monsters can take many forms, including sea dragons, sea serpents, or multi-armed beasts. They can be slimy or scaly and are often pictured threatening ships or spouting jets of water...

s, including sea serpents
Serpent (symbolism)
Serpent in Latin means: Rory Collins :&, in turn, from the Biblical Hebrew word of: "saraf" with root letters of: which refers to something burning-as, the pain of poisonous snake's bite was likened to internal burning.This word is commonly used in a specifically mythic or religious context,...

. Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

 later translated this phrase as piscis granda in his Latin Vulgate
Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

. He translated ketos, however, as cetus in Matthew 12:40.

At some point cetus became synonymous with "whale" (the study of whales is now called cetology
Cetology
Cetology is the branch of marine mammal science that studies the approximately eighty species of whales, dolphins, and porpoise in the scientific order Cetacea...

). In his 1534 translation, William Tyndale
William Tyndale
William Tyndale was an English scholar and translator who became a leading figure in Protestant reformism towards the end of his life. He was influenced by the work of Desiderius Erasmus, who made the Greek New Testament available in Europe, and by Martin Luther...

 translated the phrase in Jonah 2:1 as "greate fyshe" and he translated the word ketos (Greek) or cetus (Latin) in Matthew 12:40 as "whale". Which states "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Tyndale's translation was later incorporated into the Authorized Version of 1611. Since then, the "great fish" in Jonah 2 has been most often interpreted as a whale.

In Turkish, "Jonah fish" (in Turkish yunus baligi) is the word used for dolphin
Dolphin
Dolphins are marine mammals that are closely related to whales and porpoises. There are almost forty species of dolphin in 17 genera. They vary in size from and , up to and . They are found worldwide, mostly in the shallower seas of the continental shelves, and are carnivores, mostly eating...

, often shortened to just yunus.

Suggested literal interpretations

Sperm whales
Sperm Whale
The sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, is a marine mammal species, order Cetacea, a toothed whale having the largest brain of any animal. The name comes from the milky-white waxy substance, spermaceti, found in the animal's head. The sperm whale is the only living member of genus Physeter...

 have demonstrated the ability to swallow people and they do reside in the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

. Some believers claim that God, being omnipotent
Omnipotence
Omnipotence is unlimited power. Monotheistic religions generally attribute omnipotence to only the deity of whichever faith is being addressed...

, simply altered things as needed and sustained Jonah - the same as in other miraculous accounts in the Hebrew scriptures
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are characters in the biblical Hebrew book of Daniel Chapters 1 – 3, known for their exclusive devotion to God. In particular, they are known for being saved by divine intervention from the Babylonian execution of being burned alive in a fiery furnace...

. Some believers claim that Jonah did die in the belly of the great fish, and was then resurrected by God since Jesus himself associated this event in Jonah's life with his own death and resurrection. See Matthew 12:40. Others have attempted more elaborate explanations.

However, doubts have been cast that any existing whale or fish would be either capable and/or inclined to repeat the feat described, either due to size of mouth, narrowness of throat, or because it diverges so wildly from these animals' normal eating habits. The largest whales - baleen whale
Baleen whale
The Baleen whales, also called whalebone whales or great whales, form the Mysticeti, one of two suborders of the Cetacea . Baleen whales are characterized by having baleen plates for filtering food from water, rather than having teeth. This distinguishes them from the other suborder of cetaceans,...

s, a group which includes the blue whale
Blue Whale
The blue whale is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales . At in length and or more in weight, it is the largest known animal to have ever existed....

 - eat plankton
Plankton
Plankton are any drifting organisms that inhabit the pelagic zone of oceans, seas, or bodies of fresh water. That is, plankton are defined by their ecological niche rather than phylogenetic or taxonomic classification...

 and "it is commonly said that this species would be choked if it attempted to swallow a herring." Sperm whale
Sperm Whale
The sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, is a marine mammal species, order Cetacea, a toothed whale having the largest brain of any animal. The name comes from the milky-white waxy substance, spermaceti, found in the animal's head. The sperm whale is the only living member of genus Physeter...

s, on the other hand, while having demonstrated the ability and occasional behavior to swallow more than a grown man whole, have not yet been observed to demonstrate the inclination to swallow humans and generally are known to use their teeth to tear their food to pieces rather than swallow whole. As for the whale shark
Whale shark
The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is a slow-moving filter feeding shark, the largest extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of and a weight of more than , but unconfirmed claims report considerably larger whale sharks...

, Dr. E. W. Gudger, an Honorary Associate in Ichthyology
Ichthyology
Ichthyology is the branch of zoology devoted to the study of fish. This includes skeletal fish , cartilaginous fish , and jawless fish...

 at the American Museum of Natural History, noted that "while the mouth is cavernous, the throat itself is only four inches wide and has a sharp elbow or bend behind the opening. This gullet would not permit the passage of a man's arm". In another publication he also noted that "the whale shark is not the fish that swallowed Jonah."

Various locations associated with Jonah

  • Place of birth: Mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25, the town of Gath Hepher has saved its name to this day, near the Gallilean
    Galilee
    Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

     Arab town of Mashhad
    Mashhad, Israel
    Mashhad is an Arab town located northeast of Nazareth in Israel's North District. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, the town had a population of 6,700 mostly Muslim inhabitants.Mashhad became a local council in 1960...

    , where a monument for Nebi Yunes still exists. The Israeli Gat Hepher industrial zone is erected on that mountain.

  • Location of landing: In the city of Ashdod the light-tower hill is called Givat-Yonah, on the holy Muslim site of Nebbi Yunes, according to traditions of the three monotheistic
    Monotheism
    Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one and only one god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still...

     Abrahamic religions
    Abrahamic religions
    Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

    , the site where Jonah was thrown by the large fish. Aerial photos taken by German pilots during WWI clearly show the Nebbi Yunes sanctuary, near the British landing site at the beginning of the British 1918 Jerusalem offensive.

  • The city of Jaffa has a main street named after Jonah. The ancient port of Jaffa is still intact and functional. Archeological diggings find that the port has been functioning at this location as early as 300 BC.

  • Another sanctuary and mosque
    Mosque
    A mosque is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The word is likely to have entered the English language through French , from Portuguese , from Spanish , and from Berber , ultimately originating in — . The Arabic word masjid literally means a place of prostration...

     called Nebi Yunes, is in the Palestinian
    Palestinian territories
    The Palestinian territories comprise the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988, the region is today recognized by three-quarters of the world's countries as the State of Palestine or simply Palestine, although this status is not recognized by the...

     West Bank
    West Bank
    The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

     town of Halhul
    Halhul
    Halhul is a Palestinian city located in the southern West Bank, north of Hebron in the Hebron Governorate. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the city had a population of 22,108 mostly Muslim inhabitants in 2007.- History :...

    , 5 km (3.1 mi) north of Hebron
    Hebron
    Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

    . Muslim tradition has it that this is the burial site of Jonah the prophet. A sign erected by the Israeli ministry of religions says that this is Jonah's burial site, but according to Jewish traditions this is the location of the burial of the prophets Nathan
    Nathan (Prophet)
    Nathan the Prophet was a court prophet who lived in the time of King David and Queen Bathsheba. He came to David to reprimand him over his committing adultery with Bathsheba while she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite whose death the King had also arranged to hide his previous transgression.His...

     and Gad Hahozeh.

  • The sanctuary of Jama Naballa Jonas is another place that tradition says is Jonah's grave, near the city of Mosul
    Mosul
    Mosul , is a city in northern Iraq and the capital of the Ninawa Governorate, some northwest of Baghdad. The original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has now grown to encompass substantial...

     (today in Iraq
    Iraq
    Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

    ), near the ancient remnants of Nineveh. On one of the two most prominent mounds of Nineveh ruins, rises the Mosque of the Prophet Yunus (previously a Nestorian
    Church of the East
    The Church of the East tāʾ d-Maḏnḥāʾ), also known as the Nestorian Church, is a Christian church, part of the Syriac tradition of Eastern Christianity. Originally the church of the Persian Sassanid Empire, it quickly spread widely through Asia...

    -Assyrian Church
    Assyrian Church of the East
    The Assyrian Church of the East, officially the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East ʻIttā Qaddishtā w-Shlikhāitā Qattoliqi d-Madnĕkhā d-Āturāyē), is a Syriac Church historically centered in Mesopotamia. It is one of the churches that claim continuity with the historical...

    ). Jonah is believed to be buried here, where King Esarhaddon
    Esarhaddon
    Esarhaddon , was a king of Assyria who reigned 681 – 669 BC. He was the youngest son of Sennacherib and the Aramean queen Naqi'a , Sennacherib's second wife....

     had once built a palace. It is one of the most important mosques in Mosul and one of the few historic mosques that are found on the east side of the city.

  • Jonah's grave is also said to be near the city of Sarafand (Sarepta
    Sarepta
    Sarepta was a Phoenician city on the Mediterranean coast between Sidon and Tyre. Most of the objects by which we characterise Phoenician culture are those that have been recovered scattered among Phoenician colonies and trading posts; such carefully excavated colonial sites are in Spain, Sicily,...

    ) in Lebanon
    Lebanon
    Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

    . This is in accordance with several ancient Jewish writings about Jonah being the son of the woman from "Zarephath" (Sarafand) mentioned in the stories of Elijah.

Connections to other legends

Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

 attempted to draw parallels between the story of Jonah and the epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Mesopotamia and is among the earliest known works of literature. Scholars believe that it originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the protagonist of the story, Gilgamesh king of Uruk, which were fashioned into a longer Akkadian epic much...

, in which Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh was the fifth king of Uruk, modern day Iraq , placing his reign ca. 2500 BC. According to the Sumerian king list he reigned for 126 years. In the Tummal Inscription, Gilgamesh, and his son Urlugal, rebuilt the sanctuary of the goddess Ninlil, in Tummal, a sacred quarter in her city of...

 obtains a plant from the bottom of the sea. In the Book of Jonah a worm
Worm
The term worm refers to an obsolete taxon used by Carolus Linnaeus and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck for all non-arthropod invertebrate animals, and stems from the Old English word wyrm. Currently it is used to describe many different distantly-related animals that typically have a long cylindrical...

 (in Hebrew tola'ath, "maggot") bites the shade-giving plant's root causing it to wither, while in the epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh plucks his plant from the floor of the sea which he reached by tying stones to his feet. Once he makes it back to the shore, the rejuvenating plant is eaten by a serpent.

Campbell also noted several similarities between the story of Jonah and that of Jason
Jason
Jason was a late ancient Greek mythological hero from the late 10th Century BC, famous as the leader of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. He was the son of Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcus...

 in Greek mythology. The Greek rendering of the name Jonah was Jonas, which differs from Jason only in the order of sounds—both os are omega
Omega
Omega is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet. In the Greek numeric system, it has a value of 800. The word literally means "great O" , as opposed to omicron, which means "little O"...

s suggesting that Jason was confused with Jonah. Gildas Hamel, drawing on the Book of Jonah and Greco-Roman
Greco-Roman world
The Greco-Roman world, Greco-Roman culture, or the term Greco-Roman , when used as an adjective, as understood by modern scholars and writers, refers to those geographical regions and countries that culturally were directly, protractedly and intimately influenced by the language, culture,...

 sources — including Greek vases
Pottery of Ancient Greece
As the result of its relative durability, pottery is a large part of the archaeological record of Ancient Greece, and because there is so much of it it has exerted a disproportionately large influence on our understanding of Greek society...

 and the accounts of Apollonius of Rhodes
Apollonius of Rhodes
Apollonius Rhodius, also known as Apollonius of Rhodes , early 3rd century BCE – after 246 BCE, was a poet, and a librarian at the Library of Alexandria...

, Gaius Valerius Flaccus
Gaius Valerius Flaccus
Gaius Valerius Flaccus was a Roman poet who flourished in the "Silver Age" under the emperors Vespasian and Titus and wrote a Latin Argonautica that owes a great deal to Apollonius of Rhodes' more famous epic....

 and Orphic Argonautica— identifies a number of shared motifs, including the names of the heroes, the presence of a dove, the idea of "fleeing" like the wind and causing a storm, the attitude of the sailors, the presence of a sea-monster or dragon threatening the hero or swallowing him, and the form and the word used for the "gourd" (kikayon). Hamel takes the view that it was the Hebrew author who was reacting to and adapting this mythological material to communicate his own, quite different message. The Greek sources are however several centuries later than the Book of Jonah and the form Jonas which is similar to Jason is from the Septuagint translation of the book.

Biblical scholars have speculated that Jonah may have been in part the inspiration behind the figure of Oannes in late Babylonian mythology
Babylonian religion
Babylonian religion is the religious practice of the Babylonians, from the Old Babylonian period in the Middle Bronze Age until the rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the Early Iron Age....

. The deity name "Oannes" first occurs in texts from the Library of Ashurbanipal
Library of Ashurbanipal
-External links:. In our time discussion programme. 45 minutes....

 (more than a century after the time of Jonah) as Uanna or Uan but is assimilated to Adapa
Adapa
Adapa was a Babylonian mythical figure who unknowingly refused the gift of immortality. The story is first attested in the Kassite period .-Roles:...

, a deity first mentioned on fragments of tablets from the 15th or 14th century B.C. found in Amarna
Amarna
Amarna is an extensive Egyptian archaeological site that represents the remains of the capital city newly–established and built by the Pharaoh Akhenaten of the late Eighteenth Dynasty , and abandoned shortly afterwards...

 in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. Oannes is described as dwelling in the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

, and rising out of the waters in the daytime and furnishing mankind instruction in writing, the arts and the various sciences. Berossus
Berossus
Berossus was a Hellenistic-era Babylonian writer, a priest of Bel Marduk and astronomer writing in Greek, who was active at the beginning of the 3rd century BC...

 describes Oannes as having the body of a fish but underneath the figure of a man—a detail that, some Biblical scholars suggest, is not derived from Adapa but is perhaps based on a misinterpretation of images of Jonah emerging from the fish. Scholars of Mesopotamian mythology, however, suggest that Adapa was likely associated with fishing and depicted in half-fish form many centuries before the story of Jonah appeared. Nineteenth-century Irish amateur scholar William Betham
William Betham
Sir William Betham was an English herald and antiquarian, the Ulster King of Arms from 1820 until his death in 1853. He had previously served as the Deputy Ulster from 1807 to 1820.-Life:...

 speculated that worship of Oannes is the origin of the cult of the Roman god
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

 Janus
Janus
-General:*Janus , the two-faced Roman god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings*Janus , a moon of Saturn*Janus Patera, a shallow volcanic crater on Io, a moon of Jupiter...

.

See also

  • Biblical narratives and the Qur'an
  • Legends and the Qur'an
  • Prophets of Islam
    Prophets of Islam
    Muslims identify the Prophets of Islam as those humans chosen by God and given revelation to deliver to mankind. Muslims believe that every prophet was given a belief to worship God and their respective followers believed it as well...

  • Stories of The Prophets
    Stories of The Prophets
    Stories of The Prophets or Qasas al-anbiya is a famous work of Islamic literature, written by the Muslim scholar Ibn Kathir. In the book, Kathir has compiled all accounts of information regarding various prophets and messengers through Islamic history...


External links

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