The Literalness of Jonah and the Big Fish

In this article I have no interest whatsoever in attempting to try to convince unbelievers of the truthfulness of the account of the prophet Jonah. Rather, I wish to challenge those who profess to be followers of Christ, yet try to pass Jonah’s being swallowed by a big fish as being allegorical or just a tale.

We read of the account in the Old Testament:

And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. ~ Jonah 1:17 (ESV)

Then later, after Jonah prays while in the fish, we are told:

And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. ~ Jonah 2:10

Now, shifting gears for a moment, the genuine follower of Christ understands that Jesus is truly God who took on human flesh and walked among men. This being the case, what is His take on the account of Jonah? Did Jesus simply view Jonah as an old Jewish mythological tale? 

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. ~ Matthew 12:38-41 

Jesus’ words reveal that He views Jonah as a real prophet who existed, who was really swallowed by a large fish and dwelt within it for three days, and the people of Nineveh were real people who repented at Jonah’s preaching. Similarly, Jesus was stating that Jonah’s account was a foretelling of the Messiah‘s literal death, burial, and resurrection.

What absurdity when persons who profess to be followers of Christ, who claim to believe in His deity, then doubt the validity of the Scriptures of which Jesus testified as being completely trustworthy and true. If one does not believe that it is possible for a man to be swallowed by a fish and to remain alive by the sovereignty of God, then how in the world can such a person truly believe that Jesus literally died for the sins of men, was buried, then literally arose from the dead (this is the very heart of Christianity, see 1 Cor. 15)?

This is not a trivial matter, but hinges on what it means to believe. To not believe the accounts of which Jesus states as being true, is to reveal distrust in His perception. Furthermore, if one finds a lesser issue of being unbelievable (a man surviving in a fish for three days), how can he possibly believe in the more incredible—that One died a gruesome death, was buried for three days, then conquered death? The latter is certainly far more unbelievable—yet, it happened!

If you view the account of Jonah as merely a fanciful tale, then I assure you, so is your supposed “faith” in Christ and His death and resurrection. If you deny the lesser miracle, then how can you support the greater?

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