False Teachings on Jonah

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
Good Morning!,

My Elders have asked me to cover the adult SS hour for 2 upcoming Lord’s Days. I am thinking teaching broadly through Jonah. Since I only have 2 sessions to teach, I don’t plan necessarily going verse by verse due to time constraints. Thankfully Jonah coming across as more narrative fits that well, in my opinion.

My question: What are some common erroneous takes on Jonah, that might be popular among broader liberal Christian’s?

I would like to be able to provide counter arguments to fad teachings on Jonah that may be popular in our day. I know, from searching PB, that some have proposed Jonah to be a false prophet.

Anything else come to mind? Feel free to also share helpful commentaries or insight you have had in your studies.
 
Last edited:

JTB.SDG

Puritan Board Junior
I would just stick to the text, especially as you mentioned your time is so limited, and because like you said, there aren't necessarily any false teachings about Jonah that come immediately to mind. There are several differing reasons people have about why Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh; those could be helpful to think about. But I would just concentrate on the truths in Jonah and applying them to the hearts of God's people. You could take chs1-2 the first session and chs 3-4 the second. PS, Grant, that picture is creepy, man!!
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
I would guess that the liberals might find the whole incident with the fish too fantastical to be true, or the repentance of Nineveh too easy to be plausible. They would like for you to spend your time talking about whether the book is history or fable, or about how an intelligent person can believe the whole fish thing. Don't take the bait. (Do you like my fishing pun?)

Jesus explained quite fully why the Jonah narrative contains both the grave-within-a-fish event and the repentance-of-evildoers event. Jonah is an unusual prophet, to whom unusual things happened, because he foreshadows Christ in some unique but critical ways. His fishy grave and his resurrection from it are God's sign that Christ will be resurrected on the third day. And the repentance of Nineveh is God's sign that the gospel of repentance will be preached in Jesus' name to all nations, and that many will believe and escape judgment. These are monumental events that are at the core of what we believe, and it is fitting that there would be some foreshadowing witness to them in the Prophets. Teach that and you'll be fine.
 
Last edited:

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
I think Jonah is generally interpreted as 1) mythology, 2) commentary (e.g. Gentile salvation portions of Isaiah), 3) allegory, 4) parable or 5) history. Of course, when considering how Christ himself speaks about the prophet, history is the best option for sure. I taught through this book in two lessons, and while it was not strictly verse by verse, there is plenty substance when you can consider various connecting themes, such as the things God prepared (tempest, fish, plant, worm, wind), God's great mercy, and of course, NT parallels. I would not dwell too much on erroneous positions though they are likely worth brief mentioning.
 
Last edited:

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Senior
I think Jonah is generally interpreted as 1) mythology, 2) commentary (e.g. Gentile salvation portions of Isaiah), 3) allegory, 4) parable or 5) history. Of course, when considering how Christ himself speaks about the prophet, history is the best option for sure. I taught through this book in two lessons, and while it was not strictly verse by verse, there is plenty substance when you can consider various connecting themes, such as the things God prepared (tempest, fish, plant, worm, wind), God's great mercy, and of course, NT parallels. I would not dwell too much on erroneous positions though they are likely worth brief mentioning.
Yeah I totally agree. God ordaining things is all throughout the book. I remember the question "was Jonah himself true in the faith?" being a good talking point as well.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
You might find "Jonah: Grace for Sinners and Saints" helpful. It's a small group Bible Study that I wrote for New Growth Press a couple of years back. To be honest, the best part of it is the small group interactive materials provided by our own Jack Klumpenhower (see above). It might give you some ideas better suited to a Sunday School class than conventional commentaries do.

I'd also encourage you not to spend too much time on wrong ideas about the book. They are important (well, some of them are), but if you only have two weeks, I'd concentrate on the positive message. For me, one of the clinching arguments about the book being historical rather than a parable is that it paints a real-life prophet (see 2 Kings 14:25) in a very unflattering light. If the whole story were made up, Jonah could sue the Bible for defamation of character...

As for Tarshish, pronunciation is pretty easy "Tar-sheesh" (there is a yod so it is a long "i" sound); exactly where it was is much harder to pin down, though from Joppa it was certainly west, the opposite direction from Nineveh.

While we're talking proper pronunciation, maybe we could all agree to say "Isaiah" properly ("I-sai-ah"): why would "sai" be pronounced "say" rather than rhyming with "kai"?
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Senior
You might find "Jonah: Grace for Sinners and Saints" helpful. It's a small group Bible Study that I wrote for New Growth Press a couple of years back. To be honest, the best part of it is the small group interactive materials provided by our own Jack Klumpenhower (see above). It might give you some ideas better suited to a Sunday School class than conventional commentaries do.

I'd also encourage you not to spend too much time on wrong ideas about the book. They are important (well, some of them are), but if you only have two weeks, I'd concentrate on the positive message. For me, one of the clinching arguments about the book being historical rather than a parable is that it paints a real-life prophet (see 2 Kings 14:25) in a very unflattering light. If the whole story were made up, Jonah could sue the Bible for defamation of character...

As for Tarshish, pronunciation is pretty easy "Tar-sheesh" (there is a yod so it is a long "i" sound); exactly where it was is much harder to pin down, though from Joppa it was certainly west, the opposite direction from Nineveh.

While we're talking proper pronunciation, maybe we could all agree to say "Isaiah" properly ("I-sai-ah"): why would "sai" be pronounced "say" rather than rhyming with "kai"?
Thanks for your service to the Church!
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ooh! My turn!

Since we're airing pronunciation grievances, isn't it time we abandoned "James" in favor of "Jacob"?

As a bonus, we can idly drop references to the "King Jacob Version" in discussion, to the annoyance of some of our brothers; casually reference apologist "Jacob White" to the annoyance of others.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ooh! My turn!

Since we're airing pronunciation grievances, isn't it time we abandoned "James" in favor of "Jacob"?

As a bonus, we can idly drop references to the "King Jacob Version" in discussion, to the annoyance of some of our brothers; casually reference apologist "Jacob White" to the annoyance of others.
Make it Yacobos and you have a deal.
 

JTB.SDG

Puritan Board Junior
While we're talking proper pronunciation, maybe we could all agree to say "Isaiah" properly ("I-sai-ah"): why would "sai" be pronounced "say" rather than rhyming with "kai"?
Americans can't say it this way apart from years of training. It's kind of like saying Shibboleth.
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
Thoughts on “why” Jonah (per his own solution) did not just throw himself overboard when the crew hesitated? This would not really make it in my lesson, but I wonder if it was related to being against suicide.

Further, Matthew Henry Commentary would seem to deem this great fish or whale the Leviathan.

I found this very interesting.
therefore has prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah (v. 17), a whale our Saviour calls it (Mt. 12:40), one of the largest sorts of whales, that have wider throats than others, in the belly of which has sometimes been found the dead body of a man in armour. Particular notice is taken, in the history of creation, of God's creating great whales (Gen. 1:21) and the leviathan in the waters made to play therein, Ps. 104:26. But God finds work for this leviathan, has prepared him, has numbered him (so the word is), has appointed him to be Jonah's receiver and deliverer. Note, God has command of all the creatures, and can make any of them serve his designs of mercy to his people, even the fishes of the sea, that are most from under man's cognizance, even the great whales, that are altogether from under man's government.
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
The Jonah lessons went well and seemed to be well received. Thanks again everyone both here and through PMs.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
You might find "Jonah: Grace for Sinners and Saints" helpful. It's a small group Bible Study that I wrote for New Growth Press a couple of years back. To be honest, the best part of it is the small group interactive materials provided by our own Jack Klumpenhower (see above). It might give you some ideas better suited to a Sunday School class than conventional commentaries do.

I'd also encourage you not to spend too much time on wrong ideas about the book. They are important (well, some of them are), but if you only have two weeks, I'd concentrate on the positive message. For me, one of the clinching arguments about the book being historical rather than a parable is that it paints a real-life prophet (see 2 Kings 14:25) in a very unflattering light. If the whole story were made up, Jonah could sue the Bible for defamation of character...

As for Tarshish, pronunciation is pretty easy "Tar-sheesh" (there is a yod so it is a long "i" sound); exactly where it was is much harder to pin down, though from Joppa it was certainly west, the opposite direction from Nineveh.

While we're talking proper pronunciation, maybe we could all agree to say "Isaiah" properly ("I-sai-ah"): why would "sai" be pronounced "say" rather than rhyming with "kai"?

Especially since, strangely, we pronounce the other prophets' names correctly that have the "sai" combination. Isaiah is the only one we mispronounce, for some reason.
 
Top