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Introduction lntroduction


a sort of wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face their own, -Jonathan Swift, to The Battle Battle Books but their own. —Jonathan Swift, Preface Preface to The of the of the Books
-Stephen King, On of What writing is. Telepathy, of course. —Stephen King, On Writing Writing writing is. Telepathy, course.

thesis of simple. many—I would even venture to say The thesis of this book is simple. It is that many-I would even venture to say trinoEt"-people who read the Bible misunderstand it. This is not exactly aanovel oat" —people who read the Bible misunderstand it. This is not exacdy novel than that had teacher once who was fond of dftm, I had a teacher once who was fond of saying that the Bible is bigger than Bible readers the Bible completely, but most readers of the Bible understands us, of us. No one understands the Bible completely, but appreciate the true to appreciate the true nature of its literature. I would add that the conseof its literature. I would add that the conseces of their misunderstanding can be devastating. I don't mean that they of their misunderstanding can be devastating. don't mean that they be spiritually devastating-as in the idea that misunderstanding the Bible can tsa be spiritually devastating as in the idea that misunderstanding the Bible can tu eternal damnation-but that they can be psychologically devastating-as kd d to eternal damnation—but that they can be psychologically devastating—as n individual feelstorn between abandoning faith becausethe Bible seems l&ea en individual feels torn between abandoning faith because the Bible seems asonableand untrue, or committing to a belief system that affirms the cornand untrue, or committing to a belief systemthat affirms the comaecuracy of the Bible in all matters despite reasonable indications to the accuracy the Bible in all matters despite reasonableindications to the trent. These reactions, but they illustrate the point that the ques€gitrery, These are extreme reactions,but they illustrate the point that the clueswhqt to do with the Bible a real one for those people who want to hold &an of what to do with the Bible isis a real onefor those people who want to hold of the world. allows a realistic Eea F to a faith that allows for a realisticview of the world.

A Ftrhy Tele alt :A Fishy Tale
!fte:to.y of Jonah furnilihem a good case it'l point, It is one of the Bible's bestry t=rf Jonalr fttrniehess goocl cqse in point. ll is one o{'the llible's best' sglroolchild hsc hecrd about.frxrahand the whale. rtorles, Every Surrdey bgrn itorica. every Sunday school child hail heard about Jonah and the whale.
ili ! ! =**i I r . i ! i 1 . r,,i ,

" butJonah does not begin with such a formula. nr ." 'is l rl . The author does not exler. dd ridicule These features as a kind of satire No was never intended to be read as history but was written as a kind of satire. The only additional information about 2 lrnrih frnncs from. The opening sentence h Oth similar to and different from other prophetic books. ." Here (in the firstir ir . is the story to be uderstood? h Is ithistory or some kind of fairy tale? Could a person really sutrive fot three days and nights inside whale? some could a person really survive for three days and nights inside aa whalel Some staunchly dcfend the possibility. .book. exaggeration. . One . h || | | | hc h(x )k ol Jonah suggests rhat the author deemed the specifics about the the book of suggests that the author deemed the specifics about rhe ' of the story as unimpoltanl rhc srory as unimportant. also known as the Minor Pfophets. and ridicule. ing io fie four chapter divisions Jonah's Call and Flight Jonah s cal and Flight 'l hc book of Jonah of Yahweh came tine book of Jonah begins.' Thus. An examination of the book's content by its four him an{:lthe other characters. . . 3:r) with the additional Hebrew word Jonah" (Ex.inrthe story.a Kings 14:25.and ir is very brief: (3:4). The symmetry is even clearer the Heceniral charactcr ol brew numbering' The outline also shows that Jonah is the central character of brew numbering' The outline also shows thatjonah is the book and suggeststhat irs contents revolve around the interactions between the bookmd suggeststhat its contenls revolve around rhc nlteracli()nsbctw'(n trs l(n'f him and the other characters..r si8rill(. r the si! ] ( 'l r nr r h."" Otherwise. . a a srory abour theprophet rather than a collection of his sayings.r'The meanings'. for erample.ri tnl'Phct who lived /nh /. the son of Amittai.. l.The tr$tment ofJonah that follows points out the many instances of mesage. 'r y ir r |.rr.the son of Amittai. ''l. r ! .curring 3:. Antittal.rlr." Jonah is one of the writings within the division of the Hebrew Bible krown asthe Prophets (Hebrew Neu Im). The symmetry is even clearer inin the lle organized work of narrarive literature. such as Haggai and zechariah. (Id the enlargement of a portion of lsrael'snorrhern border underjeroboam. w lhc ( lc t r i l of l h s l . r prophet who lived during the time of King Jeroboam II of Israel (approx. It doesnot not like those found at the beginnings of most prophetic writings. Yahweh's lesson to Jonah 4.spccially the lack of chronoiogical information... . examitration lhc b(r)k s rrrn'nl i rs rrri i lpoint and scenes willhelppto answer thecquestionsNftri s\l earlier about its main | ' rIr i rxl will hc l ro a n s w (t th q u fs rn n raised frrl nr ' rh' rr( s c c nes how the details s(' lther story relate toothat point.hdactd in the story used in l l r' t he was flightyy xr r l unstable like a dove. llir lr r i( l( ll. \ from the llclt r r w root n) . " ry: l his beginning already signals something unusual about the book of Jonah: it This beginning already signals something unusual about tle book ofJonah: it h r narratjve. 'nir 8solhislam candr hat of hisf at her 'lonah'm eans dove" I lfl.11.. derives iior r r t l! Hebrew r nr r meaning "t r ur h or rf' ! r. r r 'llr r father's I. Soir m it may be that Jonah. is the story to be understood? it history or some kind exactly. while others ridi'ule it and dismiss the booksraunchly defend rhe possibility. is l k' . r y 'lizf l\ r if l. The not unusual for prophetic books to contain some biographical narrative. His in His l dtl trio name. But prophetic books are generally collections of the 0r'rflrs or speechesof&e prophets. t!. l"r t .again" "a seconal "again" or "a second time" occurring inin 3r' Jonah's prayers further divide each o. to Nineveh 4.rl. The I lftt three chapters of Hosea.unrg torleal setting of (. begin kind of Some other prophetic books.Jonahis the opposire. The treatment of Jonah that follows Points out the many iNtances ot exaggeration and &e like and dis.. r . IHe was ftom a town called Gath-Hepher in Israel. 3:1) with the additional Hebrew word ''thc word of Y:hweh'came .modal of faithfulness .In Kingswe ledn that Jonah. . 1 his . relate intimate details of the prophet's nrNringe and family life.The doveis alsosometimes used in dove.I" . y s r . .7:11). launches right into the r{y the Oy "the word of Yahweh that came toJonah. The dove is also som et im es rrl rf wr ! ilr |lr r and u|lsr ibh likf a dovc.. llrr. is l l rflBible ir r syr r h. t he the "dove. it is one of the works ni the Book of the Tvelve. Jonah's prayers further divide ea'h or half in two! Thus. Ih€ au&ordoesnot ex n whcnJonah lived or worked or gire any additional details about his life. begin kind of llhr. the book falls into four principal scenes mostly corresPonding to the four chapter divisions. Jonah is comprised of two distinct halves each "the word of Yahweh' came to Jonah" Gr. irony. but Jonah does not begin wifi such a formula. discusses how they work to make a satirical point exaggeration md the like The translations of Bible passages in this book are mostly my own and are usubook are mostly my own and are usu The traNlations of Bible passages "author: tlaNlation otherwisc. .. More specifically. Soiybet har Jonah. L. the son of "The the son of the Hebrew Bible Amittai. each introduced by the statement. t ( lisr i. and it is very brief. Haggai and zechariah borh llr. "The word of Yahweh came to Jonah. New Rsised Standard Version of the Bible md marked NRSV Outline oudide introduced by the statement Jonah is comprised of two distinct halves. and he proph6 ace). if lnr g "truth" or hl thfultum. lr 11t. absenceof such|tgcmcnt of a portion of Israel's northern border under Jeroboam. saj. . Haggai and Zechariah both Jonah by launching directly into a narrative. Its real message often gets lost amid the debateover whether the slory actually happened. Jonah is the opposite. beingnearly all narra des or speechesof the prophets. irony.rhrrrc of such details.rure of dre story ofJonah rclated to its first versehas ro(l | w rIrl! meanings of his name and that of his father. . . Jonah's psalm 2. Anr ir r i. More specifically ir is one of rhe works own as the Prophets (Hebrew Nevi'lm). How. ) . prevalent in Israel.10r{:). especially the lack of chronological information. relare intimare details of the prophet's it I bree chapters of Hosea. they are taken from the ally marked AT for "author's translation.{t| 11. also known as the Minor Prophets.2 HOW TO READ THE BIBLE I _IONAH AND GENRE 3 J ON A H AND GIN R E Butyinah is also one of the undersrood stories in the Bible lts rcal message ButJonah is also one of the least understoodstories in the Bible. • . 't lr r . saying. It iii narrative. .Iln their narratives with a dating formula: "In the X year of such-and-such rheir narrativeswith a dating formula: ln the X year of such and such rrlfr." is rl rl Il r r d I l. Jonah's call and flight r." Rathea itit launches right into the "The word of Yahweh came to Jonah. r .mg. what is irs Poinrr not history. gets lost amid the debate over whether the story a'tually happened Hovi often fairy tale? exactly. l'l. Llf f iv. The story is full aiiscs that the book humor. they are taken from the alty marked AT for New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and marked NRSV. AM to symbolize Israel an r ilr ( k or huf u.lrr. . Perhaps this suggests somcrhingaboutjonah's. The opening sentence h not like those fourd at the begimings of most prophetic writings. and he prophfilrll rhf . It does not of Yahweh riratcame to Jonah" Rather.l i as a symbol for Israel s7: .ili. But ifJonah n and in some casesthe entire Bible-as aa ridiculousfable or myth But if Jonah is not history. s(nlc other prophetic books.ry rc h tr' l l l rrl l x ri rx . while others ridicule it and dismiss the book— and in some cases the entire Bible—as diculous fable or myth. It h rrot unusual for prophetic books to contain some biographical narrative. Ie was from a town called Gath Hepher in Israel. But prophetic books are generally collectionsof the rnage and family life. Yahweh's lesson toJomh The symmetry between the two halves of the book shows Jonah to be a wellThe slanmetry between the two halves of rhe book shows Jonah to be a well organized work of narrative literature. such as Haggai and Zechariah. for example. Its beginning is the Book of the Twelve. r r 1lI l irony in the lr r ) l( l.l( never even calh him aa prophet. r 'l' . 'l hr' l'.(Hos." rtoryr "The word of Yahweh came tojonah. Jonah's mission to Nineveh 3. These features indicate that the book humor exaggeration.l1 w l'(i l|]|l'srIis suA]tcsrsomething aboutionah's character in the story— s lI Hebrew.and his'1. "Jonah" means "dove" do with the r r r . No was never intended to be read as history but was written can orilv as wonder it has been disunderstood! Trying to read the story as history can only wonder ir has been misunderstood! Trying to read lead to a failure to appreciate its uue nature and to misconstrue its primary to a failure to appreciate its true nature and to misconstrue its primary lead message. r lr t . h( . r lix r 'r . Jonah. eh comes from feature of the story of Jonah related to its first verse has other significant fi.usses how they work to make a satirical point. The onlyadditional inftrmation about 0 book never even calls him prophet. . when Jonahlived or worked or give any additional details about his life.. Jonah s missio.. during the time of Kingjeiobom II of lsraet (appmx." Jon3h is one of the writings within lhe division 'Amine. story about the prophet rather than a collection of his sayings. Its beginning is rth similar to and different from other prophetic books. Jonah'spsalm 3. I r \ of lr . the book falls into four principal scenes mostly correspondhalf in two. In a Kings we learnthatJonah.being nearly all narrahere is only one orade in llvr'l There is only one orade in Jonah (3:a).h "son of truth. ror ir ! ( attitude {n fcharacteristic Pr evalenr I sr ael.lrnah by lauchiag directly into a narrative.1..what is its point? misuderstanding A caretul reading of the book of lonah suggests A careful reading of the book of Jonah suggests that the misunderstanding ariseslrom attempts to male itit something that itit is not The story is full of from attempts to make something that is not. Jonah's call and flight 2. hllrr.

" 1 . Jonah heads in writer Jonah and his audience. make the point that God cares for rhem. The ad in a€cordance c||r|. is the only one of all the characters in the story—human rr ril nonhuman who fails to obey God.Jonah is aa contradictory or 'Mar. inanimate objecr dodt tthink.lhcsc ar c t he secondand third uses in addition t o the i l ttl fryl .n 1 . He boards Jonah s response to God's command is surprising on soeral levels Isracl in the a ship in order to flee toward Tarshish. Jonah is a very unusual prophet indeedl nonhuman—who fails obey Gott a very unusual prophet indeed! I hc twice uses rhe expression from the presence of Yalweh. in turn. blatandy disobeying aa directorder from at Jonah.ith What he claims to believe. not tryjng ro did not matter. r . God's judgments against people in hopes of bringing them to repenence. Then they r0 sfccial divine rmlation and go where dre divhe word sends them. e. r 'y. r r h iDcl. h . rci.c lonah is a passenger. Jonah the prophet lived in Israel in time the Assyrian empire was on the ascent and before its destruction of Israel. l.rrnous great fish. The story Or paints him as foolish.I' nj to ' rrrrl r' s1rrl l t the eighth hc c n l !fyAlso. had likely come to symbolize the foreign "evil empire" ever since it destroyed Israel in 72a BCE. Tarshish.r lrinrs hinr as foolish. writing several have known that it vas not actually rhe capital during centuries later.. whom the reader expects to be od. . 'll. Jonah the prophet lived in Israel rn the eighth century the book ofjonah.Prophets rrf messengersFom cod.hosen asthe "hero" of this satirical tale.t 1!!! not wr ir r r rn! hr 'r r r r . l l'( ikin8uf .dsince Joppa a .luAlly reveals whatit istthat m akesJonaharridiculous figure and that blinds ' ri l l y r r vf llswhat it is hat makes Jonah a idiculousf igur eandt har blinds to | l i f iix) lishncss his decds. The i( l( r issillyiinr nim at eobjectss t ) . God carcs for evervone order to in respecrile The Ninevites and Jonah comPlement each othcr in their respective roles in The Ninevites and Jonah complement each other in at the cenrury at the the book of Jonah. the prophet. Prophets More surprising for the readerisjonaht responsein the first place.4 HOW TO READ THE BIBLEH o I 4 . [ penchant f of hyper bo] The sr or is so severe r l hrt tholship Is ..who does not act in accordance s. Nineveh might have been chosent an attitude or even a larger class of People Nineveh might have been cho sen by the author ofjonah as the embodiment of the evil foreign citv precisely by the author of Jonah as the embodiment of the evil foreign city precisely becauseit once served as the Assyrian caPiral Assyria. His deeds do not correspond either to his er?ressed His . rrllrf no to Nrirf v. These problems of dec f l) lei' lir c hometown of (. he boasts to the sailors that he worships (lit.h ihweh reacts . in This is the role that Nineveh and the Ninevites plsy order to make the point that ififGod cares for them. \ . r ( sur sign that the 1 hrrl . . Anotherrlatighablel'image follows immediately. The rcfcrencc Joppa as l('rrh s that the w por of em ba rk s ti isi s o d .r'rp'i hire. whom the reader erpects Ydhwch'sclosest setrmq is the only one of a11thecharactcrs in the story humm weh's closest servant. But this did not matter. ll. ralhef than .long after the Jonah of 2 Kings r4i2t lrInfact. If readingionah as Nheveh and to cry out" agarl$t it because of its wickedness.rsiin Philistine hands. . l. Jonah is conhadictory ll|. r ll'u ln.Dslrrcr on in the story when he sees the people of Ninevehrepent. the prophet. r r ] r .Al v the Phoenician ). The statement he hr$ it clear that Jonahis trylng to run away from God. site direction fiom wtlere God tells him to go some historical problems thar indi(ar( This part of the story again Presents This part of the story again presents some historical problems that indicate that the author lived long after Jonah's time. They are privy messengers from God. The author of Jonah. Thus." The frequent use of The grl rt trr [ r r r h. may eren mean that he was in Id the ship's hire.l h fItl l r' n n i .rrl rl i rl ' h than was ' l l l ' 1 the story and are not of much consequence rril do not impede the point of the story and are not of much consequence do not impede the point 0Dlcss one insists on trying to re:d it as historyessone insistson trying to read it history.. to The occurence of an ana. in turn had likelv come because it once served as the Assylian capital.r) 1fthis lr r ! ! . Wir lr r l! shit ' grave danger." mak The narrative twice uses the expression "from the presence of Yahweh.wn bcliefsystem. rofibly thc l. 'i.personaly involved Od l. therefore. even deluded-a ridiculous character The story A r" . | the foolishness of his deeds. 'ly . s i n c eJ o p p was rr P hi l i sl i R hrnds not l t' rrrl i rc i D port tof embarkationo nodd. . r. on the southern coast of Spain (modern modern country of r i i r l { ! 1 . the reference to Nineveh raises a chronological problem. his attempted flight makes no sense VVIlateverfie motive forionah's response. representedthe westernmost exrreme of the known world for the Tartessog. If readingjonah as history. v .hoard1 t ' .on the verge of breaking up. r | .) Why exactly does Jonah flee?what r strange since it was not the closest port.hronism injonah is a problem only ifif the story of occurrence of an anachronism inionah is a problem only the story of The problem' though. On board. stormm is so sever e it mark l r lr l] . no on . { ! .l. before its destruction of Israel timc the Assyrian empite was on the asccni the Assyrian capital at the timc Jonah lived and would Nineveh was not yet the Assyrian capital at the time Jonah lived and \tould Nincveh become so only in the follovhg century. r . rof the fbook'ss pf n. writer ofofjonah and his audience essence. long after the Jonah of Kings 14:25. may not have kflown that it was not actually the capital during may centudes Jonah's lifetime. if Jonah Jonah is history or if one assumes that is lt is not a is some kind of story.Mole surpdsing for the reader isionah's response in the ffrst place. in t hec ighr century. Continuing the story. brought end to the kingdom of in 721Bcl and taking mary of of its citizens into captivityfiom which they would in 72r ace and taking many its citizens into caPtivity from which they would of Nineveh in the book ofJonah never return (see a Kings r7).rthatris. r h c cxpectationsfor his vocation 6 a prophet." makru. rather than his ll'rl(i rlrc i. he boaststo the sailorsthat he worships (lit. Yahweh commands Jonah to go to the great city" of conrinDing the sroilr Y:hweh commands Jonah to go to "the great city" of Nineveh and to "cry out" against it because of its wickedness. YNhwchis depicted as real micrommaget personally involved ( r of r l) s( .n Yillwch is the Lord of land and sea. the nation of Israelhad ceased exist The Assyrims them' destroying its capital. Jonah.n l port of Tyre was closer1r' lJonah's north• l l ri sfl xr' hl l rrrsr' l rL cm Israelite h. Assyria. . i yfervently. With the ship inir rAr iv( r lingf r .r "grants" in Jonah. prays . In Jonah site direction from where God tells him to go. r. r . Samaria. the expectations for his vocation as a prophet. Tarshish. To dricipate the story. ' h n l r r . .rhe really believes nil) Yrhweh who made the sea and the dry land" (Eo). It is not a problem. ' . l1r ( idea is silly. how can he hope to ruD away? His 1 Yahweh is the Lord of lmd and sea.facet ( ) l the(story.There wi be great" inlonah. represented the westernmost extreme of the known the oppo headsinthe opporherefore. rrr!rr y . nrn Israelite. l) rs a great city) of the word rdh. by the time Nineveh 6oot ace. The Assyrians thembecamethe capital. the appears to be an anachronism.lN I to.trLrl r lr r lil. onboard. l'hc I lebr ewlit er allysays hat t he rl !' I t ili1. . . . symbolize the foreign evil empte" ever sin e it desnoved Israel in 722 BcE' the story of Jonah This is the role that Nineveh and the Ninevites play in the story of Jonah.'rir hire or fare. hdn!for hyperbole. of hl rr l .the nation of Israel had ceased to exist.rh. r A|. deedsdo not correspondeither to his expressed beOM are nonsensical. He i asleep . i. in which the characters fePre sent an attitude or even a larger class of people. his own belief system. (This also makes his choice of Joppa all the ship Ghis also mal<es choice ofjoppa aI $e Ch a hurry that he chartered I ro| re srrrnge since it was not the closest port. ln essence.rlrw(.'wi. and "Crying out" is what prophets do.w rrr)lGath-hepherrrl ' rrrwi slJoppa. To anticipate the story Jonah. may even mem that he was in his ir r. lr ! r r t liit . sirce Jonahs write history.ornmand is suryrising on several l (. Nineveh came histor). He does just the opposite. the role of Nineveh in the book of Jonah never return Gee 2 Kings r7). God cares for everyone. how can he hope to run awayl His bedrrl. in which the characters repreis some kind of story such as a sadical Pdable. witing several become so only in the following cenrury The author ofJonah. He boards Jonah's response to God's. was r r r r writton. rl ri t' *nOtIghl about" breaking don't hidr l l rt into like lr lf Ioner occur Irepeatedly in Jonahrand are ra rsure c signr hat r he l | | r. JONAH AND GENRE 5 J ON A H AND CENR! 5 names may be at least part of rhe reasonthat Jonah chosen as the "hero" namesmaybe atleastpaftof the reason that Jonah was .Sdr||lt the to Jonah'sflighr by hurling a "great wind" and a "greatstorm" ft)JoDahk flight by hurling a greatwind" and a great storm" Y. |l|f llly in l. Thus. The reference toto l(4rpa's Jonah's author lived tong afterJonah'stime. the reference ro to prominence as the capital of the Assyrian empire in the seventh century (the Assytian empire the seltnth century (the ro prominence as the capital of 600s) DcE. | t except Jonah. Then they apecial divine revelation and go where the divine urt(I r God's judgmots against people in hopes of bdnging them to repentance.1 l tr( w rs.). Nol Jonan. This part of a rather unusual view nl !irrllr !Nona h Yahwehis depicredasaa real rnicrornanager. These are the secondandt hir duses (inaddit ionto t he ry INineveh as r gf(r( cuy) of rhe word "great" in Jonah. where Jonahis a passengerThis isis part ofa rather unusuaiview t rl i ship whf. Nineveh lay northeast of Israel in the order ro flee toward Tarshish Nine\€h lay northeast of a modern country of Iraq. Smaria. Nineveh came a chronological Problem. even deluded—a ridiculous character. He does ju$ the opposite. They are privy sends them. notably the famous "great fish. n.rN irc nonsensical. . selvesbrought an end to the kingdom of Israel by destroying its capital. r llnli'rup.rLiveryune. whr) does with what he claims to believe. u uriine away fiom? what does he fear? The writer will havejonan erdain his h be running away from? What does he feart The writer will have Jonah explain his ' {r rii. since the author was not trying to lifetime.The rl|'ir. airal from God. ns later on in the story when he seesthe people of Nineveh repent. though. rrrfr." The frequent use of r lr.rrs irr lrrr. If he really beli€ves th. w h lr dcr the motive forJonah's response.'r! )Yahweh "who made the sea and the dry lmd G:e).r h(rry that he chartered the ship. The Hebrew literally says that the l l r' l llt ' r r 'r r lx v. such as a satirical parable. The statement that he il clear lhatjonah is trying fare. ifjonah Jonah is history or if one assumes tbat it is. . by the time to became the capital. on rhe southen coast of Spain (modern for the Tartessos). There will be ||r.rrih. . blatantly disobeying dirtct order from ( i|(1. . and crying out is what prophets do. his attempted flight makes no sense lfl lrl' r.) W}ry exacdy doesJonah flee? What lx. r l . fact.

ask what rtheyy . The in the bold.ri r ridiculous tass r k idea that r r h( lish .Consideringthe nature rriry deliberately exaggerated and nonsensical features. as moral sl'. but apparently silors. The sailors contrast with Jonah—theyare more in tune with God' mofe righ' are more in tune with God. Yahweb. tio stem from the same Hebrew root. cngulfs Jonah...r xaal nature of the story: It usestwo slighdy different words for "fish"' Both w!rrh sltn flom the sameHebiev root. ngcs gcndcrWhether such aathing eas rrl r r l.e. i(l(r of s{nleonc being insidc a large fish for three daysis r'l the Jonah story. The word here (lyl. is slr r '1.nd nonsensical r'. 1( ' ittilt lly y a . In other wordq they are ty web. rlr' th l. r yis ir l( ndr d rbe preposterousous st Itetually possible r irrelevant. The latter were unaware of the scientific differences between mammals t. but rhe word inlonah 2:ris masculine. There is no explanan. as moral men. and it is understood that Yahweh has guided its outcome. some have poifted our that a whale is not a Iish. ) story is intended to ( )bc Pr cPost cr lir r ol ) . tronicalln the man of God is the only person on board the ship lips. who mde the sea and This response seems calculated to enhance tbe $ilori estimation of Jonah's This response seems cal. . caa greater regard for huan life than doesJonah and are slso more Pious re nah's Psalm Jonah's Psalm fe Nrxt comes the best known and most controversial part of the story Yahweh. the sailors are terrified. that suggests the deliberately fn il nrture of lhe story: It uses two slightly different words for 'fish "' Both f. Yet the sailors. I l! . They do lndeed become more afraid-literally' indeed become more afraid—literally importanci as well as their fears. Even then. worshiP (lit feaf') Yahwel God of heaven. "fear") Yahweh. The text ne\€r acrualty iderti{ies the fish as ts r whale. and they immediately sense the hand the divine in the storm' tcous They are not monotheisrs or worshippers of Yahweh rhev ha!€ different gods Thev are nor monotheists or worshippers of Yahweh.ulsted to enhmce the sailors' estimation oflonaht importance as well as their fears. "What is this that you havedone? their oilon"q. r 'il.oner hlng someone on rhe \hP hasdone The) castlor' s orderto rcsponr to something 'omeone on the ship hr\ done. the Greek transverb (Till. "I"I am a Hebrew I Iworship (lit.purpose is. r r .rh tells rh f rl rr) I' i I I' i " rrl ' r ( ) r r r I i . l. rhe true Garersof God."" the dry land cod of heaven.n . who turn immediaiely to prayei They throw the shipt but are religious men. more righihc sailoLscontrasr withJonah-they teous lhanJonah. they first pray to Yahweh (instead of their gods) asking him not to hold thm accountable forJonaht life. The best rx|l. They thow the ship's have cargo overboard and thus do awav wirh any economic gain they might have carso overboard and thus do away with any economic gain they might respect for human life hoped for from the in doing so they exhibit their hoied for ft". also makes clear supreme God.6 HOW TO READ THE BIBLE A GENRE N R E GE JJONAH AND N D ON A IT 77 the shiP in the hold. Also. to whom they now sacrifice and nake vows.ry. They have tant to harmionah. to whom they now sacrifice and make vows. in short. The sea halts its fury at the moment zd'af) q?ically refers to raging anger or vexation. though most readers have assumed that whale is what the writer had Inind. c out the culprit whose e d i :u b e d i Pn' ' au' cd the \rot m ro be The lot falls on Jonah.l l yl !.'rt of Jonah is concerned. '|||I 1.' q $ h J rh ' '| tl t" ' w t" " ' v' t ingly tempestuous sea. pi tantly converted' into worshippers of Yahweh. g uidedr o p. .Jonah clearly thinks that he is superior to them and no doubt has as litde tgard for their lives as he that he is superior to them and no doubt has as little regard for their lives as he does for all the other people in the book.e the one in 2:2 is feminine.1y cxiglt(rrkd. Instead. 'r 'lst . but the word in Jonah is masculine. Whet her such t hing t !rri r.rommager has appointed a "great ffsh" to swallow Jonah and keep him tllcto micromanager. Evo then. Besides. so that the story again as'af (ribes a human attribute to an inanimate object. Thev they "feared with great fear. The text never actually identifies the fish as ra belly for three days and nights.lonal's who does not pray. In other words. divine The sailors perceive that the sudden storm is no coincidence but is a divine The snon perceive that the sudden storm no coincidence but a response ro. The sea halts its fury at the moment ititengulfs Jonah. than Jonah. I r ( |I isir llill( l trrrrttrrw ry t . they first pray to Yahveh (nrstead of their gods) as|ing him e sea. Yet the sailors. The confession. Jonah arrogantly boasts about his naln response to the sailors' questioning. however. technical issues are irrelevant as far as the of modern. but that in itself well g an. lhere i\ Lharhe DrJv ior deliwrance fium rhe rtorm. Jonah claims to fear Yahweh and irrationality of Jonah's actions Jonah clalms ro /c'rYtrhwch the footishess r'( but disobeys and tries to run away. and now they try hard to row the ship back already thrown the cargo orerboud. This time the text explicitly states that they fear at' is attdbuted to the sailors. am a Hebrew.. They have lr€ady duoFn the cargo overboard. the donal origin al1dhis religion. How can he just how ndiculous Jonah anempt to run awav ftom Y$weh is How can hc Thc possibly hope to escape the presence of the Maker of both land and sea? The possiblyhope ro escapethe Presence the M3ker of both land and seal recoglition ol' 'Whatis this that you have done?" shows dleir recognition of sailors' question. rs comes the best known and most controversial part of the story. the idea . they do everything possible to savehim. or 'llrcrc is anolher detail in thc text.estio".ri.n u r th e c u l p n t q h o sdisobedience rcaused the storm to be sent. The pagan" sailors. es a human attribute to an inanimate object.l to Jonah in order to" lquiet the 'increasshould do r' ' | ' ' I . so those kinds of modern. r the ! l.n someone being inside a large fish for three days is rh. r Lr k. i lhr the fish changes gender.the voyage. who made the sea and the dry land. the saitos are terrified The confession. Ironically.h " ' rl .l . has guided its outcome The lot falls on lonah. Even after the ship's captain awakens Jonah with a request material gain. Besides. Instead. h3s appointed a great fish" to swaltowJonah and keep him In ns bely for three days and nights. so lhose (rlJonah is concerned. and it is understood that Yahweh his naIn response to the sailors' questioning.In 2:II it is again masculine.l rr (rl !!l l rrr(l frx !l men i h' Irrl " r: board. for a second time gr*t l!nr" is attributed to the sailors. howeve! rhat suggests the deliberately ve ere is another detail in the text. Jonah arrogantlv boasts about the tional origin and his religion. however' also makes just how ridiculous Jonah'ssattempt to run away from Yahweh is. nirdam) means to sleep soundly or deePlv. there is no mention of any prayer on Jonah'siips. in short. I r tThe whole l( sr ( . who tun immediately to prayer. Bible on their terms instead of those of the Bible's authors and original audinllible on their terms istead of those of rhe Bible's authors and originai audif rx. It is only as a last resort and with great regret that they tossJonah into the sea. or its very r r r t . h. ]1 nlam) means to sleep soundlyor deeply. r' r rl r r" ' r" ' l he \ lilor | ' IIII The sailors. to hold them accountablefor Jonah's life.nrlbn lies in rhe naturc of the story as a satire with its th l l! h sr explanation lies in the nature of the story as a satire with its fcatures.rh. ngcs from a historical or biological standpoinrthat makes any n r. r l!. rDc nr 2:2is fcminine. they do everything possible to sare him. he has already told them that he is fleeing from Yahweh. teclnical issuesare irrelevant as far as the erlish. n..loing so thev exhibit their respect for human life over material gain. mi. Lot casting was something like drawing casting was something like drawing discem who the respomible party is straws and occurs elsewhere in the Bible as a way for Yahweh to designate a in the Bible as a way for Yahweh to designate a straws and occurs elsewhere an person who is guilty of breaking a a commandment(Achan inin Josh 7:rG2t or an persor who n guilty of breaking commandment (Achan Josh 7:to--21) or oath (Saul in iiSam 14:24--46). They cast lots in order to discern who the responsible party is. Also. he has already told them that he is fleeing from Yahweh but appaiendy is the they did not know who Yahweh was Now that Jonah reveals that Yahweh is the thev did not know who Yahweh was Now thatJonah reveals that Yahweh clcar supreme God. however. ! . the foolishness and irrationality ofjonahkactions. Some have pointed out that a whale is not a fish.Jonah deatly rhi'l<s pleasure—especially since their own lives are in peril. but that in itself well r$r rates the point of this book-the lendency of modern readers to try to read llh a trates ihe poinr of this book—the tendency of modern readers to try to read I ch. This rime the teat explicitly states that they fear ) Yrhweh. Jonah 1 r' l l sthem to pick him' up and lthrow him" overnr gly t c nr pc s rl o u sv n l . the Creek hans' Hebrcw lation even adds the detail that he is snoring! Though humorous' the scene arso latioD even adds the detail that he is snodngl Though humorous. they have different gods but are religious men. Thesailors betieve that the tot will be divinely oatl rSaul in Sam rr:r+ -16) The sailors believe that the lot will be divinelv \enr' guided to pick l. completely oblivious to the weather and the peril of the ship. since it would have been the oily "fish" large enough to swallow a l|r n mind. they are Irstandy "converted" into worshippers of Yahweh. are reluc-Aloes for allthe other people in the book. ""yage: Even after the ship: captanr aBakens Jonah with a iequest over Jnv pt ayer msriol that he pray for deliverance from the storm. In 2:r itis againmasculine. for these changesfiotu a hisroricalor biological standpoint that makes any sol.r. and they iffnediately sensethe hand ofof the divine in the storm. rds whll. for a second time "great . It is only as a last fesort and vith great fegiet that they toss Jonahinto shore. l rr. though most readers have assumed that aa whale is whatthe writer had gi hale. shce it would have been the only 'fish" large enough to sallow a hrrnnn. ' x r l pleasure {specially since their own lives are in peril. completely oblivious to the wearher and the Peril Hebrew ve$ (E T'll. to make funrof Jonah and rhis rattitude. the scene also suggests how far out of touch with Godk adivitv Joflah has becomesuggcsts how fat out of touch with God's activity Jonah has become. and it is the non-Israelite mariners who are but disobeysand tries to run away and is rhe norl hfaelne nr' ncrs wh() the true fearers of God. The word here (137t. are reluc tant to harmjonah. urd now they try hard to row the shiP back Loshore. One( might expect hardened !rIrr llike NallOritl ltorIr l rl rl l that with r do just l rrr w i ri h. The "pagan" sailors." Jonah's confession comes as a revelation to the confesion comes as a revelation to the they feared with great fear" Jonalis sailors.Ttere is no erylana rl. Considering the nature at Any tlclil! rrr. hivc a greater regard for human life than does Jonah and are also more pious. the man God is the o'lv pelson on board on. g The lalter \rere unawdc of the scienti{ic diferences between mamals dr(l fish.

is not entirely apprcpriate to situation.75 miles. Is he . Nineveh is Nonrething that was already quite obvious to the non-Israelite sailors Nineveh is Omething city. The humor of this sceneconri'trcs lD what must be intended as a wry twist. l[ $$ tguouo. The Hebrew term for "bely" heie is different from the word used for the belly of the fish. he remains obstinate and unrepentant.ause it ordeal thc fish."sBoth Jonah and the great fish agree. intoning rousing hymn of thanks inside of a large fish. also called the "Pit" later in the poem. The psalmist "near death" that he cried out to Yahweh from belly of Sheol.ll r l . l. At its height. The humorous the reason rhat thc psalm was included. Still.)w )i v{ i saying that ' ' I t ir and { r ! . was included.bchavior is out character a prophet (remember that prophets 3:4). while Jonah was from condemnation of idol worshippers as forsaking rheir loyalty fits ill with the story worshippers as forsaking their loyalty fits vith the story condemation faitfful are in Jonah. As a a r esuh. llr . The mention of Yahweh than Jonah The mention and obedient presupposesa setthg on land ra$er than in the fish s interior. The psalmist saysthat he cried out to Yahweh from the ''ne:r death" experience.l . Thus. the reason that the The original setting of the psalm was apparently its author's survival of aa author's survjval of The original setting of the psalm vas apparenrly qpedcnce. rhough they ale borh different from *1e vord used for the translated the same in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).r 'r sr . discrepancy is only a problem if one aBemPtsto read 'llr h as history. The humor of this scene continues. raNlated the same in the New Revised Standard Version reference toJonahbeingin in the "belly" of Sheol easily brings to mind his predicareference to Jonah being the belly" of Sheol easily brings to mhd his predica poem ment in the recesses of the f:ish. lc is . Following Yahweh's colnmand. th"l Nineveh was sixty miles across—huge even by modern standards! In fact. In he remains obstinale ar)durtpentant. . of which there isis nomention yet in by the psalmist's restoration . distasteful vomits") Jonah's Mission to Nineveh Jonah's Mission to Nirev€h Y hweh tellsJonah a second lime ro go to Nineveh. |f rcpcats the message. Jonah finally such js not entirely appropriate to his situation. r r r r r r r r r r r r rto tchangertheir w. As wr|rt his audience to repent.c ro fcpcnt. what mustbe iDtendedasa wry t'ivist. even though drowning.rrt. The kingdom 1em. the scene in Despirethe inappropriateness tbe psalm tojonah: situation.' Here is the wayward prophet. a great city to God. He retusesto prolong his nrrF!{I{r or his visit becausehe doesnot want them tobe effective. r r r |l! ' li. fish is comical enough.6Again. its referenceto diameteris evident though the expressionaloDe is ambiguous. he does not yet know that he will survive ordeal in the fish. at y igo. however. r yf ] ll! 1) ." (NRSV) indicates an enormous city indeed. Cation. and adding to the comedyd ywhat Yahweh tellslthc fish to do.||ilrr. the capital ofJudal. l the oracle is also | l . Thus. . he does not yet know that he will surive his lonah has not drowned in the sea. rather than rhe sailors.h rc l s (hfl i shr.rl||.ares an enormous city indeed. r nnr r n issuf ingr hem t hat 'l lr (ir ways? The point .rriL is lfss straightforward than initially aPPearsbe. Jonah does not want his audienceto listen.l The idea of the Almighty personally addressing a. In spite of his experience in the fish. the scene the belly of the fish furthers the story and the characterization of Jonah by what the bellv of the fish furrhe's the story and the characterization of]onah by wh:t it does notsay. There is no mention references to Yalweh's house" stances that landedjonah there in the psalm_ The references to Yahweh's "house" stmces that landedionah there in the psalm. Following Yahweh's command. But f or t days" r h lypicKity ai round-number metaphor for ai longgt im e in f ieBible.rtrlicr.' (1. This is another problem for a historical reading of the book. failure carry out Cod order..Jonahseem s r l\ 1i.. . TraPPed inside of the fish."(NRSV)indi. Sheof dead. "aftree days'valk across. at Nineveh was tlx ligure is exaggerated beyond any sembtame of re3lity and can only be configure exaggerated beyond any semblance of reality and can only be conrl(lffed h}?erbole. ynnt. rtt. he apparendy turns abruptly and leaves. The humorous image that this chapter conjures up may be precisely cbaPter conjures up may a large fish.lirerall. however.rlmore.qF 8 HOW TO READ THE BIBLE AND C JONAH J ON A E AND GENRE E N R I 9 The entire scene now becomes even more comical.. . r . though for differ€nt reasoN. who throws the the psalmist into the sea.rvr adequate time . "temple" are also inappropriate tokinah's s situationi the temple was inJerusa or "temple" are also inappropriate toJonah situation.. literally. he apparently turns abruPtly and leaves . though they are both of the fish. Alrhough the ex?rcssion aloneis:mbiguous. the hedt of Nineveh. lrrll of text ||Ihlr+lrx. shce the foreignus.. he does not Iis. il1r . since the foreigners. whne Jonah was from the kingdom of Israel. As he soon makes dear in the story.calling i l! . the temple was in JerusaIsrael The lem. Unlike everyother ProPhet lri l lr' llihl. Jonah does the barc midmum. He has avay from the Mater sea and dry land— nl least leamed that he camot run away from the Maker ofof sea and dry land least learned that he cannot rlat ws already quite obvious ro the non Israelite sailors. 'r though for different reasons. Trapped inside of th€ The entire scene now becomes even more comical. this would mean miles aaoss-huge wen by modern standards! lD fact. the capital of Judah. Ninevites to.3:a) There isnoindtcanorinthe text rrfl lfir'tlcd'(nl5. r lr k( r I r ! r lit t lir sur r n r lr inr r t unr . rather than the sailors. the city had a circumference of only about 7 75 milesi at It I widest point ititwas about three miles across—nowhere near the size that Jonah w t(lcsr point was about three miles across-no\theie near the sze tbatJonal l|ulcs ro it. There is no indication on Jonah's part of any regret for his disobeir does Dor say. after three days Yahweh speaks to the fish. Jonah utters a terse otacle walk only five words in Hebrew: Forty daysfrom nov Ninev€h will be |'Drii$rirlgof only five words in Hebrew: "Forty days ftom now Nineveh will be listing of 7l!. "Fishh ir r l guests stinkkafter three days. We. intoning a rousing hymn of thanks hside of who not exactly the grateful type. Another imagc for death used in the recesses of that of drowning. The verb for overt tinted" (11:01 nehthicet) may mean "destroyed" . lh(|t he repeats the message. He appar lOttah's oracle is less srr.At its height. .Jonah utters 3 lerse oracle lhnrlirg Entering a day's walk into the heart of Nineveh. Another image for death used in the poem is fish. immediate action or assuring them that the NI r vr t ( * t ( ir r r r c( liir . l|f Ninevites will ignore his message and that God will desnoy them Nn. Jonah seems l | Frl . the city had a circumference of only about 7.aftcr three daysYahwchsPcrksro rh.. the psalm. !ir(s will igDorc his mcssrge J'.Unlike every other prophet g more.hedoesnor Sage or his visit bccausc he does not want them to be effective. red hyperbole. r oldirl laugu:ge and vivid metaphors..Jonah does the bare minimum.. There is no mentioD of the fish or any of the circumthe fish or any of the cirom psalmist inro rhe sca. such who is not exacrly the gtaretul b?e.ddfcssnig lish is eorrrr rl errotr8h.s ts s ti n i l i . even though situation. in satire. he hopes thar makes dear in the story he hopes that and that God will destroy them. the psalm of thanksgiving is inappropriate because n is thanksgiving is inapproPriate be. who presumably wonhip idols.There is no irdication onJonah's part of any regrer for his disobc in dience dience and failure to carry out God'ssorder. and ir also rcminds one ofJonal's that Jonah has not dro ned in rhe sea.ry l l . and lhis time he goes. and it also reminds one of Jonah's situation. There are other differences between Jonah's situation md that rcllecred in There are other ditrerences between Jonah's situation and that reflected throws the lr is Yahweh rhe psalm. Au.i11 occasionedby the ps3lmist's restomnon . lv) tl | rr have r . its reference to diameter is evident lir. "Sheol" is the Hebrew nme for the undeNorld or place of the the Hebrew name for the underworld or place of rhe bclly of sheo]. who presumably worship of sacrifice at the temple also sacrifice at the temple also and obedient to Yahweh thdjonah. Even so.r . a three days' walk across." The further sPeci f'rllcd an exceedinglylarge city. the discrepdcy is only:problem if one attempts to read butes to it's Again. the Even so. The Hebrert rerm for "belly" here is dead. He has weh tells Jonah a second rime to go to Nineveh.11 jllltllVn A"flN urned" (nDni 11' Dll Rather. the ffsh spews (lit "vomits") up the distasteful prophet. In spireof his eaperjence rhc fish. inr. premature. in sanre f'r ah trshisrory This kild of exaggeration is to be expected. Jonah ffnally prays. .his behavior is out of character for a prophet (remember that prophets In.rn the statement thatJonal wafts aa day's journey intothe ciry Figuring twenty m the statement that Jonah walks day'sjourney into the city. "agreat ciry to God " The further specied an exceedingly large l l( irion.also called the Pit" later in the poem. One expects a rrl rrri l l y r {r .. Figuring twenty [rllrs as the approximate distance rhat one cm walk in a day this would mean es as the approximate distance that one can walk in a day. The reason for rhistersenessis simple. fhc fsson for this tersenessis simple.r1. of whjch there no mention yet in occasioned the story of Jonah. This kind of exaggeration is to be expected. The vow menpresupposes a setting on land rather than in the fish's interior The vow menpay') is presumably tioned at the end of the poem ( 'and vhat I have vowed I twill pay") is presumably tioned at the efld of L\e poem ("and what have vowed $.r rl rf. But "fortyydays" nleans to say that Nineveh's "overturning" is com ingsoon. This another problem for a historical reading of the book a location of ancient Nineveh was identified and excavated well over aa ceD'l hc location ancient Nineveh was identified and excarated well over cenlur y ago. llsh The idea of rhe Almighty personally . Jonah's prayer is lctually a hymn of thanksgiving and as Jonah's prayer is actually a hymn thanksgivins ud as fth. and this time he goes. are more faithful in Jonah. ) vcnur ning'iscoming soon. Srill. There is 't I y 0rrr"indication in the stubbornness.rlrrrl rl ! l l rrrl l .of r hr ( r 'i. ir yr l! r l Nir f vf h s ". r l( . . other prophets deliver extended oracles no xnd reflects ol colorful language and vivid metaphors.l(nrnhdoes not wanr his audience to listen He refuses to Prolonghis *Bible. |1 rr' l HA. Despite the inappropriateness of the psalm to Jonah's situation. r time in the Bible O ne dpect s a d rr .5 Here is the wa''ward prophet.righrlinwdrdlhanititinitially appears torobeHe apparttrl l yrn. the fish spews (lit. It is Yahweh in the psalm.lhave a sryi rl gtl ri r ac lc inigt ot hc c (n n c is i s w h i rYi h w . As result. like three days for suchhan ultimatum. xl r t r 1r r l) . Other prophets deliver extended oracles out"))and reflects his stubbornness.

Imagine sheep. . the royal decree highlights the ridiculousness of the extent of effectiveness of the rcil decree higt ights the ddiculousEess of the eftent of effectiveness of Jonah's oracle in the story.a. and now Jonah is angry—angry with Oud lbr beiry mercitul." Thus. "king of Nine!€h" is to sit in the dust dressed in sackcloth.000 pcoplc . and who changes his mind ciful God—slow to become mgr' geat in kinalne$. great in kindness.Instead. The Ninevites are amazingly perceptive. The entiie . react. making Jonah the most efective piophet in the Bible by far.od to take his life. makingJonah $e ridiculous extreme.which didnotworkorgrow. (4.the citv wi! be destroyed.He apPoints to togrowup andgiveJonahshade. which came to be in you about Nineveh. l'hlt jt tttrorhc' ol rhc brrlk' gr''rtr lrorrlcr' thal hns kcDt l(nrnh Y." not attested in the voluminous literature recovered from ancient Nineveh and in the voluminous literature recol'ered ftom ancient Niner€h and not attested Assyria. Following divine command. The king of Nineveh himself comes down from his throne of mourning. The ProPhetis miserable and for the second I down oppressiv-ely g$r uko God to take his life. Jonah's prediction will prol€ true regadless of how the or "changed. but it will be changed.1 lhbrcw llilrlc )trchdt$ with qucsdn. which youdid not work or gro*. Tarshish.n whi(h the Nitr0viLcs that has kept Jonah hinrs(ll alive. the very mercy evil. evil. it seemq wmted Nircveh to be destloyed.because hehe knew God to be mercifuland gracious. and again suggests the unhistorical nature of the story. now appoints a Pet. That is pr€cisely what happened. patient ran away. rhrnr In which there ere more than 120. This means that. lollowing divine command. and he was d forgiving." Yahweh's speech concludes the qucsrion: wlrhLr benl with a question: to iru rlifd about' the bush. There is some other reason that Jonah gets angry a reason that gets at the heart of the booLs message reason that g€ts at the heart of the book's message." So Yahwehalsorepeats his rejoinderqu$tion: "Do you do wel answ€rs thistime adding aboutthebushl'Andthis timeJonah {ngryt" Fb$ angry?" this time adding "about the bushr And this time Jonah answers— speechcondudesthe &flrntly: "I do well toto be angry enoughto die. b!sh. Jonah is so angry that he asks God take his life. it seems. if they repent. appaiendy hopeful that God willchange his mind again and deNineveh. now appoints a AtrDr. the ciiy wil not be destroyed. the Almighty who previously spoke to aa fish. because 'r changed. "Do you do well to be lhtn to lii€. Nineveh is i5 nor desrro\ed be'Juseit ists ' hangedOne might rhe ciq. lronicauy. in a nigh . Jonah.. onJonah. wanted Nineveh to be HOW TO READ THE BIBLE JONAH AND GENRE J ON A E AND CENRI or "changed. Incidentallv. fasts and dresses in sackcloth—conventional in rnd dresses q'Ldo$ rhe smalesr or leae imponanr . and who changeshis mind nbourbringingdisaster. For II knew that you are a gracious and merpreemptively fled towdd. The idea is ludicrous. Then. he takesa position overlookButjonah does not answer. His record remains intact however record' (i. All the people of Nineveh believe in God.. dress in sackctorh Pray.ll nriDyinitrrils? *OM their left. AT) llca ran awall he says. Instead. the Almighty. thc ro(llnR.God appoints a dry eartern wind that. In spite of the curtness of Jomh's orade' is enormoudv successtul-to a In spite of the curtness of Jonah's oracle. He appoints Big Yahwehdecides try yet oncemore to teachjonaha lesson." he says. Jonah finds greatjoy" in the bush—in Jonahtuds "great joy" in the bush-in a6llllnrt to the "great evil" that he felt at Yahweh's decision not to destroy trait to the great eral" that he felt at Yshweh's decision not to destroy lllttwch.lonahand un(. He makes this decree wir hourany certainty of the k ing incredbly Per( ePtive He mdkesfiis deo ee without any cenainD of 's the abatement of divine punishment but only in the mere hope that Yahweh the abaiement of divine punishment bur onty in the mere hope tlat Yahweh may relent and decide not to destroy the city The decree appears at frst glance destroy rhe citla The decree aPpearsat first glance may relent and decide not to be superfluous. He is not expect Jonah to be gratilied at the effectivenessof his Proclamation.he takes a position overlook ttlltty?" (AT) ?" Ing Nheveh. "king of Nineveh. the city with its inhabitmts. he says. The Hebrewliterally says that he perceived it it asa Srcar Hebrew literallv saysthat he Perceived a "great as Instead. The prophet is miserableand for the second be{rr down oppressively on Jonah. the title. together v'aththe hot sun. Not only do they discern rhe implicit threat perceive that the threat comes fiom God.h came bein You eared drrr/rh.o.He is not. on Ninevit."Do you do wel to be live. or Nhereasoning behind it..itizenry of Nineveh. from the greatest or most imPortant to struction. the city will not be destoyed. insteadto lament their evil deeds sackcloth refusing to eat or drink. they irtttit how they should respond in order to ala)id de struction.hw€h'! L€sson to Jonah Yahweh's Lesson to Jonah In the ffnal scene of the storyJonah at last explains why he so foolis ydiedto to the final scene of the story Jonah at last explains why he so foolishly tried run aFtsy when Yahweh first ordered him to go to Nineveh. the worm attacks the bush so that it withM. md now Jonah is angry angry with nt. and other animals dressed in and other animsls dressed Jonah's oracle in the story lmagine sheep. His record rcmains intact however the Ninevites iespond There is some other rcason that Jonah gets angry—a th€ Ninevites respond.. "l do wcll be angry enough to die.thc v'ry nle'fv rcly is trlsorhc rn'f'y of God that infuriates Jonah and upon which the Ninevites rely is also the mercy of cod that infudates. Prefeffing sa. apparently hopeful that God will changehis mind apin and de tltoy thc city wirh its inhabitants. but wil be changed' ft€ other hand. Alt the peoPle of Nineeh beliel€ in God. follows the notice that the people repented Howevea to be superfluous. Jonah'ssubsequent anger isis notoccasioned by his concern over his "pmphetic subsequent anger not occasioned by his concern over his "prophetic Jonaht record" (i. it is enormously successful—to a ridiculous extreme." he says. Ilut Yahweh decides to try yet once more to teach Jonah a lesson. though the orade did not mention perceive God. od for being merciful. llt. pray. The explanation. "It is better for me to die Jonahis so angry that he 1sksGod toto take his life. cattle. is even moie stading thanJonahi flight. they also Jonahi oracle' they also tive. of oil deedsand violence' Like his People' fast. No other scene in the book quite so mercyl The idea ludicrous. H€repeatshis earlier lament: "It is better for me to his th[n to livc." and he became angry—angry at God forbeing merciful. Assyna.e. SoYahweh also repeats rejobder question: "Do you do well $i than tr) live. If thev fail to listen and resPond' the city will be destroyed On the other hand. If they fail to listen and respond. and again suggests the unhistorical nature of the story peoPle and the animals in the city The king issues a decree requiring all the people ad the anirtals in the citv to The king issues a decree requiring fast. The entire citizenry of Nineveh. Incidentally. who Previouslyspoketo fish.ltt which people whodo not know their right hand who do not knowtheiright hand lirur lh. AT) about bringing dirastei (42. Like his people.lrnnrh uru$url ind poimsto the booKs Like its beginning. humans md animals alike is effective The repentance of the Ninevites—humans and animals alike—is effective. He repeatshis erlier lamenr "It is better for me to $L{ (.and the king is incredibly perceptive.Yahweh responds (AT) But Jonah doesnot answer. What ls more. preferring instead to lamenr then evil deeds drinL. Oh Yahfth. Jonah. the accuraa/ of hjs predictiont. This is another of the book's great ironies.e.kcloth retusing to eat and pray for mercy!. is even more startling than Jonah's flight. catde. expectJonah to be gratified ar Instead. is this no! what II saidwhen IIwrs still in my oM coutrtryr This is why Oh Yahweh. is this not what said when was still in my own country? This is why II preenptiltly fled towards Tarshish.Nineleh not destroyed. w. as well as many animals? (AT) (AT) ond 'r$ peri ir LlL! she lt| h!*hnrItx. he is displeased.)l.he is displeased. the accuracy of his predictions). God appoints a dry eastern wind that. hwerbole." Thus. The Ninevites are amaangrv percep most effective prophet in the Bible by far.2. patient Ind thc|t ir. and he was r&cld that cod would relent if his preaching caused the city's residents to reaid that God would relent if his preachiry caused the city's residents to repoll. if they r€pent. The king of Ninel€h himself signs 'omes to sit in the dust drcssed in sackdoth. himself rrliv. whx is more. the title. the I i dry irn(l Irnrlfrl Lri niBhrAn. ftom the greatest or most important to the smallest or least important (4:6). Yet. counter to an interpretation that has sometimes been offered. gleatcity.lshould notcare *do) . since it follows the notice that the people repented. ddhe becameangry-angry atcod for being mcr'ifDl Yct. ahuh to grow up and give Jonah shade. !finally. Not only do they discern the implicit threat inirJonah's oracle. Then.{hi. Jonalis prediction wil prove true regardless of hov the Ninevites react. No other scene in the book quite so and pray dearly illustrates the satirical nature of the story with its ridiculous images and clearly illustrates the satirical natue of the storv with its ridicuious images and hyperbole. The explanatio4 or away when Yahweh first ordered him to go to Nineveh. a reasoning behind it.or' Fa\rs 'on!'enbonal down Fom his $rone signs of mourning. It is better for me to die witi a!. d UMW Only one other book of the Hebrew Bible concludes with a question. and repent of evil deeds and violence. That is precisely what happened. rhr . the ending of Jonah is unusual and points to the book's gikutno ODlyr'rtolh(rhtr)L(. However. counter to an interpretation that has sometimes been oFered' This means that. The repentance of the Ninsites Yahweh is moved by it to change his mind about the disaster he had intended for it to change his mind about the disaster he had iltended for Yahweh is moved the city'lcll. because hew Cod to be merciful and gracious. eventhough the oracle did not mention thnt the threat comes from God. together with the hot sun." Yahweh's tly. they intuit how they should respond in order to avoid decod. one mrghr efiectiveness of his proclamation. the worm attacksthe bush so that it withFhrully.For ldew that you are a graoous dd mer ciful God {low to become angry. dress in sackdoth. Yahwehresponds with a question.

stereotypes. repents atatjonah's one-sentence utterance. Again. and forces of nature. induding fie animals.' du to understanding the message of Jonah is recognizing its genre.aes. in 'l'hc interview between the two principal characters. not to mention the prominence important for recognizing the story's s un] sroncalnrture is irs Penchanllor exaSsrory unhistorical nature is its penchant for exagimpoflrr for rccognizing$e geration—the "great" wind. or better. He isis a self centeredbigotwhose reasoning is pt tries to run sway ftom him. Thus. no date or sort of speafic information that one expects of such works Thus' no or the time frame is supplied for the story One assumes that Jonah is all eighd'century thatJonah is an eighth-century dme Fame is suPPlied for the stoqa one assumes But Jonah-s Israelite prophet becauseof the mention of him inin 2 Kings 4:25 But Jonah's lsraelite prcphet becauie of the mention of him a Kings Lezs. inaccuracies. His flagrant rebellion against God's command contrasts with picty and obedienceof dle "pagan"sailors md the evil Ninevites. to Jonah.As aa result.'arne of the Ling of Nineveh provided. which. serious points about the nature of God ard human of Yahweh is an orrunpotent micromanager who controls not only the forces of Yahweh is an omnipotent mrcromanager who conEols not only the forces The nature but also personally appoints and commands fish.but the lessonis meant for the book-sreaders. the ty ahout him is not hisbry but satjreorparody. no biograPhical details about tocation wtre" le is . to the point that he harbors deepe. Jonahrather die than have God be merciful to other people. a ridiculous story that mates seabout hlrn is not history but satire or parody. the creator of sea and land. He is e de are the oppositeof what the reader expects a man of God.plants. Yahweh remains patient and tries to irony of the story may be that the divine mercy that ln$fuctjoflah." y lhr h. not to mention the prominence of Nineveh in the eighth century Even more Nineveh dt size. repents Jonah's one seitence stereotypes' that at The characters in Jonah are also exaggerations. and plants." who does not want to prophesy and whose behawiorand att"antiprophet. cod of lsraet is also the God of the entire universe' the creator of sea and ddsorms lllh plants.r'r. . ffilnl scene of the book is where its message through satirical characterizasceneof the book is where its nessagethrough satiricalcharacteriza cr final I| 18 ea clcdrest. The greatest irony of the storymay be that the divinemercy dlat uct Jonah.Yahwehremainspatient and tries to in the face of Jonah's pleas for death. ititisis usecl tomake used to ma{e The comedy n not merely for Purposes atdtudes' serious points about the nature of God and human attitudes. and lvcn in the hce ofJonal's pleasfor death. and his deep atrection for a plant. The greatest is is what keeps him from being the target ofdivine wrath.Both questioN rhetorical.kmahis full of conffadictions.Again. Yahweh and Jonah. is term used to refer to the tyP. Some of these go beyond mere hyperbole to to ridiculou"ness $ese go bqond mere hwerbole ridiculousness— so-. snot punish him despitehis disobedienceand his selfish and arrogant attitude.r-orred bc creatures also contrasts with Jonah's callousness toward his fellow human becreatures also conuasts with Jonatis callousness toward his fellow human ings in wanting to see Nineveh destroyed. not to dl( l— piety and obedience of the pagd" sailors and the evil Ninevites. Indeed. do not match the m dun tric$ to run away from him. type or category of a piece Otti fi'om French. is rultLrdcof prejudiceandhatred tov{d non-tsraelites wh3t the book sati !ll| tor attitude of prejudice and hatred toward non-Israelites is what the book sari*m. This is an unreal luurc-a satidcalimitation of a prophet rather than the histoncd prophet of mi —a satirical imitation of a prophet rather than the historical prophet of lhcca It |. a ridiculous story that makes I l:flrrtuFntrl. we de also not told ar what place on dry land the fish vomits are given.'(nrlhisrcfoAnizinsirsscnn:.atted is not specified lndeed. rn( rcl God's purposes throughout the story are unfailingly redemptive and merciGod's purPosesthroughout the story arc unfailnrgly rcdcmFivc rnd r(' () bring the Ninevites to ful. He embodies an h|(k present or at least perceivedby the author to exist in Israel. it is desigled to teach a theological injonah is transparentlydidactic. hispriorities are dreadtullymixed to ded by prejudice and hatred. Otio point. to the point that he harbors deeper ftlllngr for a plant that shades him than for myriads of people and animals. That is. The two main characters are God and Jonah. and great Fsh toname e".l|(llir||r llrl'lr( h rarfr||r lrfrl lo frli.lflrtcrxlhrl{|hfllr|Nri'rlir(n. is Jonah would would rather diethm havecod be mercilirl to other people. it is designed to teach a theological question lesson—that God cares for all people and indeed all creation. his priorities are dreadfully mi{ed hhweht mercy toward other peopleor y ftuitmtes him to the point that lF. rini\.. Pldnrs rhe jdea of rhe Almighry sPeakingIo indindudl that God is the point that God is bur makes i5 sending them on special missions is comical. Yahweh andjona}. Everything Jonah Jonah is by far the most ridiculous characterin the story Ever]'thing doasis comical his attempt to flee the creator of the uni\€rse. lesson-that cod caresfor aI peoPleand indeed all creation The question is directed to Jonah. for he confessesthe Creator and his beliefs.12 HOW TO READ THE BIBLE JONAH AND GENRE ] ON A H AND CENPI It is the book of Nahum. his exit ing rcgurgitation. As resuit. God is especialymercifin to Jonahand revere him but does not destroy them.for he confesses Creator ud dtludcdi his Ildeci. interestingly is also a prophetic book dealing with Nineveh. not to lh$tion the dumb animals. and for. iisects' and Plants and land God of Israel is also the God of the entire universe. The reason nfo rJ o n :rh ' s i s s n r in thecfirst (place issto bdrrgrl ( N i rrcvnc$ m f ul. Eren more than an imitation of a prophet. hition the dumb animals. and The idea of the Almighty speaking to individual fish. He a self-centered bigot whose ieasoningis do{ded by prejudice and hatred. His flagrant rebelion againstcodk command contrasrswith same name. flethweh's mercy toward other people only frustrates him—to the point that docldcslife is no longer worth living. fix Jonah's characteris a mirrorfor the book's audience. in e • tnterview between the two principal characters. no biographical the fish vomits Jonah are given. Both questions are rhetorical The difference is that the question in Jonah is transparently didactic. The ludicrous featuresof the story ridicule this attitude of bigotry Ideally.That is. including the animals." who does not want to prophesyand whose behavior ard in ttllludc are the opposite of what the readerexpectsina man of God.Even more than d imitation of a prophet.. he Jonah is full of contradictions. Yahweh'snpow c| rtnthcsthcsailors r c Dc nr an( s th n th c In a avert d .-. The concluding question points to the story's didactic purcan lead them.torm.rrrSrn rn n pif(( g a . The concluding question points to the story's didactic li l li nrih s character a mirror for the boolis audience. and worms.$r. th p lbr a plart that shadeshim th3n for m]'riads of people and animals. The border on the ridiculous The two main characters are God andJonah least rlief other people and the animals provide contrasts to Jonah aswel as comic relief. The natu* but al"o personally appoints and conmands fish. especially the claim that it is sixty miles across the city of Nineveh and the idea that claim it n sixry miles adoss the city of Ninea€h and the idea that especialy the utterance' the entire city. The diffetenceis that the quesdon with Nineveh.rl n rd l (!r ' Y rrhw rhpower teaches the nrri Irr l0 reverehim but doesnot destroythem. help rhe audienceto perceiveinjonah the si iness *t th lrrnur and exaggeration itUrnor and exaggeration help the audience to perceive in Jonah the silliness rlwn attitudes and rhe ridiculous lengthsto which arogance and preju' th. to name grfa( .amename. he s h nn "antiprophet. the entire city. This Jonah is an unreal by co regurgitation. s"cfr as tne title "king of Nine\€h" the description Ninereh s Even size. hi s rnd Expcctstion Eanrcand Expectation na p Thr|!yt'. interestingty is also a proPheticbook dealing It is the book of Nahum. God's concern for the lowliest of for in all creation Gods concern for . He is his actionsdo not match his beliefs. about location when he is called is not specified. gr€ city. ings in wanting to see Nineveh destroyed. There are historical nor is the name of the king of ronah -l"accu'. the er de lr rsrrl or dt lc ast perceived by the author ro exist in Israel. insects.:tion . "Genre. plants. m rngersJonah angers Jonah Jonahis by fd the most ridiculous character in the story. but ititmakes the Point sending them on sPecial of concerned ro' and involved in all creation. dd his deep affection for a plant. his intonation of a hymn of praise in the fish's belly. of 'l'he ludicrousfeatures of the story ridicule this attitude of bigotry ldeally. hl e Rides life is no longer worth living. We are also not told at what place on dry Jonah provided There are historical Jonah up. his nap during a ee trShrg storm at sea.oncerl'ea "ni. what keeps him ftom beingthe target of divine wrath. "great" storm. but the lesson is meant for book's readers' directed The Messageand Purpose Jonah The Messageand PurPoseof Jonah It is obvious from the foregoing examination of its content that the book of its content that the book of It is obvious ftom tlle foregoing examimtior Jonah was not written as biography orhistory There is an almost total lack of history There almost total lack of Jonah was not witten as biography or the sort of specific information that one expects of such works. such as the tide 'king of Nineveh" and the descriPtion of Nineveh's "o. well as comic other people and PrNide cofltrasts tojonah of entertainmenti The comedy is not merely for purposes of entertainment.rhe q'ear ""nd.his intonation of ah1m of praisein the ltsht bel\a his exit ls storm at sea.He embodiesan iv .n . God is especially merciful to Jonah and docsnot puish him despite his disobedience his sell$h andarroganrattitude. a few of nature. which.'ccnrc. "great" " cir)and "great" fish. .no" is the . that at o' exaggerariofls.h own attitudes and the ridiculous lengths to which arrogance and preju€f e ir pur' ti[ un lmci thcm. T he r c as o for Jonah's mission m rh l i N P l ' rl i repentance soothat ltheyymayyl rv c destruction. i t * "t """*pt. The characters injonal afe The least border on the ridiculous.

*. etc examples Illustrate how a text's genre in and of itself may convey a gr. examPle'is a subgeffe biograPhy r.By the same &||lD. A business A tndr. Broadly. Bur if that were to happen."Sincerely" instead of "Love.. Autobiography. By the same hft it was part of some kind of publicity oror advertisingcampaign. Jnd of kand" re!1s doflmenrs that they were using or producing different kinds of texts and documents.. magazines.In the ancientworld therewere insgiptions." indicate that they are reading a3 newspaper tht Words. "Sincercly. letters. p*"i ia to. and catalogueare subgenres noDfiction Each of thesesubgenres turn may of and caralogue aresubgenres of nonfiction.". to at least some extent. l|r gcr i the changes.. r 'cr iir $u. They --p"r"a leople qpically"absorb" language as they grow up in a culture Thev c. people automatically recognize the genre of a work produced withitr Similarrypeopleautomaticallyrecognize genre a work their culture even if if *eycannot explain the process or rules by which recognithey cannot explain the processor rules bv which rccogn' th"lr culture . This is nicely 'llustrr crewof a aboutthe senes movie Galaxy Quest. an author could create a new genre that was unlike any plcviously in exjstence. are no firm rules Despite the imPortance determining a work'ssgerre' there are no frm rules Despitethe importance of determininga work genre. For modern American readers.ntirelv difierent culture and dme-such asthe Bible' t l""i' fn*". isalways harder for people Genre recognition." "" when reader.'n'o 'peJ grammar."* flexible' so a literar/ Genre categories are not firm fixed are fluid Genre categmie"are "ot f'm or fixed but at fluid and flexible. Tleoretical\.tsftom a new genreor aa culture withwhich we are unfamiliar do counter texts from anew genre or culture with which we are unfamiliar w! becomecogdzant of the issue. is xrl gi. Rarely does aliterary work expressly identify its own genre." indicate that they are reading newspaper words. without even being aware of what we are doing. Only when we out thinkin*. like learning a foreign language. r whr l ir r lr t ll|r t . lirrlof.. just as a languagehasgramatical rules. The message is subtle to the rot a rh' ol|ly r . Hence. r l.e. * essential part of the process of communication di". instruction manual' . buriness thrt begins Dear Sir/Madam" would hardly end with :All my lore. Eachof these subgenres in turn may havelt" oui' *Ugs". providesa titerary ftame of reference" within bemeen "othor interprets and makes useof a text Miscoflsffu4g the genre of which the reader of text. are subgenresof {iction aiographt instruction manual. a".opt.and age. 'r 'l'hrrr lxrrr|lrs ilhnrrrc how a textt genre iD and of itself may coN€y a . w{y {s t i) r ukr . contusion increases oaoi fronts literature from an entirely different culture and time—such as the Bible. of fiction_ Biography. playing upon the knowledgeand expectations of their readers. no reader would be l|olk previously in existence. canbe disastrous." 'l'hc creation of literature has always been.insread "Love.i.":... Someone as educated as a surgeonwouro not scenariosmay seemfar fefthed Someoneas educated a surgeon would or vice wrsa' at least likely mistake a work of fiction for an instruction manual or vice always of the culture of a But. though ancient readers and authors were certainly aware thoughJnoenrreaders au$ors werecertdiy avare recentDhenomenon. for instance. such physical ditrerencesdisappearedin the forma must now rely on clues within llon of collectedworks like the Bible. ly ii r r iliiI wir h t E i l ilit that ronly readersr who arc Intimately familiar with the hf ust lil gcnr csi'r d usual genres and ( llh io I 'l([ I fi {l u' r r S l l r Ammo.'"g * tf'. New York. psalm in chaPter2 the Discernment of genre is an essentidpart of the processof communication of g. is interpretive m "p""fig native speakereven can tell ififsomeone makes a grammatical error oror not a native speaker even can tel someonemakesa grammatical error is is not a rhe grrmmrncrl rule rhat hasbeen though they may not be able to describe the grammatical rule that has been thouehihev mav nor be rbl€to desgibe lust broken." of he nrikiDg a not-too-subtlepoint about the reiationship. even when they are in an unfamiliar $! cesilydistinguishedfrom one another. outsiale of the culture of a work. der to certain expectations about its content. those eenres thereareother genresor subgenresNovel' short story fiction.yQ*"'rn space shipois mistakenty aliensfor real hjrtory or ioumalism The aliens draft by aliens for real history journalism. But if that were to happen. folilrred by a signatureof somesort. imagine the disaster that might ensue if aasurgeon took an might ensue come. and we expect it to end with "Sin• typical begimiry of a businessletter.obiographv. r ( i. Sometimesthose dues magzines. oro in those cultures would xp. to at least some e:tent.o#. inr hcynr ixf features r om dif f er ent genr es. just as the book of Jonah incorporates the psalmin chapter 2. Similarly. a science fiction television series about the crew of d fictiontelevisron ir' r scienc€ *l*i" crl. The film illus--'*t* history could betrates how confused someone who reads science fiction as history could bebates how confusedsomeone**ro reads sciencefrction as surgeon took an come. The ali€nsdraft "frto the cast i'"-t"help them fight real interplanetary war' The film illus-". Broadiy. Theoretically." il . or aa worL of fiction asImedical guidebook. "* "Jgenres in ^. Itlt is an inrerpretive we possess for documents s Pr trl'rct\r rool tion hasoccurred is an interpretive tool wc posscss do'u wcapply it with ht within our culture simply by virtue ofol havnrgbcctltriscd it We rPPlvit with bv virtuc having been raised in ir *r. Sometimes those dues there are guidelines or dues for determining getre. become cognizant of the issue. inr . lh."""-"". and readers in order to discerngenres. texts themselves 6uch cluesq?ically comein the form of features in a .'. $! lcxts themselves in order to discern genres. as work can incorporate different genres. For modem American readers. In fact. difrerenr rharr}iy wereuing or producins Discernment of genre isi" something readersdo subconsciousba has been something readers do subconsciously. Newspapers. a personal letter between (former) lovers that is written on letterhead n. authors vary or mix genres to creative or lbh to ccoSnize understandit. Unfortunately such physical differences disappearedin the formasented. Thes€dues often occur at the beginning or end of the text and lead the . a fairy be making a not-too-subtle point about the relationship.letters.. conperiod." unlt wt's part of somekind of publicity advertising campaign. a creative be creation of literature ho always been. Similarly. "Dateline New York.r r)l t|. r.rltri.t surgeon is reading literature from long as that i' teadingliterature ""tg. People learn to speak their native language first. ud we expect it to end with "Sintrrcly. i.*. evenifif it doesnot appearin newsprint.. The greeting "Dear Sir/ Madam" learniry a a*' " literary work erpresslv of textsis a relatively in the idea of identifying genre as an imPortantsteP the study of texts is a relatively tne iaea-ofiaent$ng gsn'e asan important step in the study and recent phenomenon." tirI than personal stationery and that ends. harderfor people cenre recognition. It It provides a literary "frameof teference"within and readers. and readers mustnow rely on clueswithin n of collected works like the Bible. These clues often occur at the beginning or end of the rext and lead the htdcr to certainexpectations about its content. Similarly. is a subgenre of biography. and books me in the physical form of a literary work. or not scenarios may seem far-fetched. or the like. "Dateline Itll(lc. and then they learn the theirnrtiwlanguage andthenrhevlearn'hu s.-. imagine tle disaster instruction manual as fiction. followed by a signature of some sort Fairy tales commonly Onceupon a time" md end 'They lired happily mr after" hlhl n "Once upon a time" and end "They lived happily ever after. Fairy tales conrmonly or the like.ext thar signalits genre Such clues typically come in the form of featuresin a text that signal its genre within a particular culture or reader through th€useof conventionsestablished within a particular culture or readerUgh the use of conventions established drlp. But. Such work of fiction as a medicalguidebook Such instmction manual asffction.oen n]crl produced for tion has occurred. there are fiction and nonfiction genres. cv€n it does not appear in newsprint.".there are fiction and scrence short story and science those genresthere are other genres or subgertres. a literary incorporates work can incorporate difierent genres. members.fe engrained within tool engrained within compared to speaking a language ltIt n an interpreti\€ language.andwithin eachof nonfiction geffes' and within of of literatue. and Othcr docume'ts that might be distitrguishedby &e way in which they were r documents that might be distinguished by the way in which they were prtlcnted. a creati€ ldtlvlly. Itlt has been oi"cernment oige. its own subgenres."* *tiiir.HOW TO READ THE BIBLE T EE T O RIAD HOW B I}I'E A GENRE N R E GE ]ON A I{ AND N D JONAH of literature. royaldecrees. Hence.. tside 'orL rc there are guidelircs or dues for determidng genre. md books oomcin the phFical form of a literarywork. any reader. 'l'hcnlcssagc subt let o t he E l thl l mixrgenres In suchlr! way as to make a point. In it.erefable to pick upl! ll|| r ir . The features of thc texts just described do not match conventions that Ftdf$l !tl h( 'f f ulr of t Nwr nr l( l( expect. one another."". In the ancient world there were inscriptions. therefore. between authoranJread.. royal deoees. "t-pry beirr*rrwurtol wh{l wc rrrr d(}lng ()rrly whcn wr out thinking. producedwithin rhe Similarly. People typically " absorb"languageasthev grow up in a culture. there identi{v its own genre ln fact' for doing so.n'. n. Misconstruing the genreor which the reader interprets and makes t€dby rhe s a Djeceof bterarurerhere e.can be dsasnou This is nicely illustrated bv the for a pieceof literature. o author could create a new g{fe that R€s uriike any ey. similar\. Unfortunately. or they mix cat ur csffrom different genres.t. The potential for confusion increases when a a readea anv rcadea conrr'. Newspapers. a fairy thrt b(Blr)s oncc upon a time" but ends without "They li\€d happily el€r that begins "Once upon a time" but endswithout "They lived happily ever ' drlci nor bodc wcll for the rclationship of the couple who 1re the subject does not bode well for the relationship of the couple who are the subject I story.. The greeting "Dear Sir/Madam" I thc typical beginning of a business letter. tcrrsiusrdcscribed not matchconventions do that op.ip them fight a real interplanetary war. just asa language has grammatical rules." un latlet that b€gins "Dearsir/Madam" would hardly end with 'All my love. ln. at least likelv mistake a work of ffction for an insffucnon manual owr culture andtime from his or her own culture and time as f. no reader would be to recognize or understand it.evenwhen they are in an rnfimiliar easily distinguished from Itnguage. Novel. for example. u llc'sonal letter between (former) lol€rs that is writren on letlerhead ' thnn pcrsonal stationery and that ends.i'le * R".authorsvary or mix genresto creative ' pl0yingupon the knowledge and expedationsof their readers. withotrl cven tncounter ter.

a classn.t. Proph For the they could be retained in memory and recited orally. or nny orher of the myriad of activities that human beings etrgage in. "" author if they-areto profit fully ftom a terltheyare to profit fully from text __ :uthor if ge e Our treatment of Jonah illustrates the importanceof the discernment genre uslratesthe importance the discernment of O*"*. .* 5et -* -eant genre of Jonah ast'j. do not automatically recognize *"o *o"nt lsraelitecounterparts'do not automadcallv Li."n allusion. a fineral.. nate'\ biblicJ scholar'hiP longbeen ' rn ot thebrerurure rheBrbleForru recendvmade of the importance of properly discerning a a s'orkgenre and has recently made a p'Perlv discerni4 works s senre and has . often in scriul large literary works of the Bible also had settings in lllinAsui( igarDst Yahweh as "filing suit" against Israel for breaking the covenant. The external component is the comparison of ty careful reading ard malysis." and *hlah are "distinctive" to the particulartext in question. For example.a prophetmighr de li h*{l {r. ing... in.. significance t.LrlJl. The principal genres h lirgr lhr'rlry workr rn th llil)k rlso hnd scltiDgs life. Jonri like man) literao works.Ut "e itsits readers readerswhofail to discern its genre but with readers—readers who fail to discem its genre vith *^ltfr tt'e Soot itsaf and purpose The from internal dues and.omparison of tcxt with other similar tets insidemd outsideof the Bible. declaring it "untrue" and implying that it is somehow of less i"*. .. cru.-*..'iit ..genrerefersro the categoiy the passage a 0[ ltleratureto which one assigns a text.. thereby to appreciate its true nature and purpose.u*.". Thr rhid and fourth stepsof form criricism representthe attempt to trace e third and fourth steps of form criticism represent the attempt to trace hlilLu y of the text being analyzed and its genre.ial insights abour viflous genrespresent in more precise understanding of their nature. This was the Components that were assumedto underlie bibiical ]iterature.This was the that li)cuscdon the smallesrpossibleunits-because it was assumed n ithfocused on the smallest possible units—because it was assumed that y firy fould bc rcrained memoryandrecited in orany. blame the l"*. example. Djicerning a ter_r's rd for shape or structure.1il:: .iure from '.-. a funeral.*". ' order to understand what irs what '(nnon'rn'ir( oi tit".. 'av so it is also .. . at the Bible is and what is trying to sa)4 entails the genre A secondphaseofof form-critical investigationentails determining the genre A second phase form critical investigation determining under examination-As we have seen.{ol lhiNrcrf.A leading scholarhasdefined tr a collectionof books. The extenal component is the .rilicnlinrlysisttl).r:.a'"' with the book itself"".*.""ft doesnor identify worLsdoes notrdentifi for interpretation of the Bible.. a dassa gs include temple worship.ff. Jnd rahost oCorher features of language and writand host of other learures language 'nd^w. In so doing an author plays upon the reader's expectations.rr*" rr ".}urt of ancienrhrael....*" its genre Ut ledes rt ro the readerto d$cern srill the book gives significant but leaves it to lhe reader Io discern.i. atreast in the way intendedbv its author' in to it.. form cnticismfocused on small literary units and was sometimes defined as a rm criticism focusedon small literary units and was sometimesdefined as a trcatment of the smallestpossibleunit. be it a speciffcpassage.. a entire book. genre refers to the category of the passage under examination. unlike their ancient Israelite counterparts. . .potential $ttlng in the actual.o to *"a*' ""derstan'r subtlevariationsin genre employed by an up readers.6 16 HOW TO READ THE BIBLE T O READ HOW A GENRE E N R ! C JJONAH AND N D ON A H V Authors can use genre just as effectivelyandffeativelv astleJ canword c]::::' and creatively as they can word choice..1. like many literary ari... Genre can be discerned only through detailed study and canbe discerned . origifor Ynhwc|. Authors canusesenrejust asetrectivelv sentence structure.As w haveseen. is important to rec U*tn ognize. including entire biblical books and even units that transcend books.ruebibLcJscholrr'u'e help discern the genres repreanalysis.ri's. at least in the intended by its author.i: "p*'r" .'.o recognizesubtle variations in genreemplovedbv an to recognize t.when ir is ". *reir nature mort preciseunderstandingof ".'0.' r"" "' o*.'.&ily life in which the genre would have arisen.r rwd ha of the literature in the'...:. aoesnot fit thoseexpectations' tendencvis often to the book does not fit those expectations. a contract.o'..luding entire biblicai books and even units that trarxcend larger units. legal proceedings.The internal lltrlg to this are two compote There definition.iJ..o a". Just as one musttext's genre::::':a il:il:':'i discern "' -a''k content.Where does the unit of text begin and end? Initially. r f. . ."".. Discerning a text's shapeor structue meansaleter shape or structure means detertust of all its extent. What hope to do is to show how recent advancesin our understandirg of the main pe to do is to show how recent advances in our understanding of the main of Scluescontainedin the Bible help to counter broadly held misconcepdonsof nres contained in the Bible help to counter broadly held misconceptions Whatthe Bible is and whar ititis trying to say. hining g firstof all its extent. . ottr ttl' 'lh' wltrthritirlty (lLrc$rl(trr' !'lrolulri tare or shape of the passage in question." foreign culture and written inin a forcign 1*9"-g* "**'o"ed and {ritten a foreign language. Thb shift is \. The scholars who initially (AMC up .ssrl Godsgrievances against Israel by means of the genre °Mistimes expressed God's Thus."'a4"". pr.rr *^' trhe Brble givul P(!1 is uricllrc what unique about a igiven piece cism attempts to determine what is is q?ical aDd is what typical and what ar."-"ri'"'0"".' t' undcrsrand its author wished to communicate. literature to which one assigns tel't.legalproceedings.r"'".8iIlsl)ylr|(ll(i!]}llIl|$l'||' There are four parts to a form-critical entire book.:.." external. Hower€a in more recent yearsbiblical atment of the smallest possible unit. modern the literature of the Bible is so far remNed in time andculture' modern Because recognizc readers.* *'a*." nit a"es not describe historical events ltItis important to recbecause does not describe historical events..pp-". The internal 9 to this definition.'. t avertherefore approached q irhan erroneous set of approachedrr with an erroneous of it " history have herelore ""-"* "r r"*t and have often tried to force itro fir rherrexpectations. i. that the Problemin the interpretation of Jonah does not lie problem in the interpretatios of Jonal does not lie i3"'. but sometimes more 1 7 In nature. it begins by plotting the strut'..ln-. biblical scholarship has long been awarere Bible. Readers who have misconstrued the dues who hal'e misconstruedthe "" to be read Readers ia..'i"' Form Criticism Form Criticism Because ihe iiterattrle of the Bible is so far removed in time and culture."t1"' . daily life in which the gr lncludetemple worship. A leading biblicalscholar has defined genrethis way: "a a collection of biblical genre this way: lt oup of written texts marked by distircdverecurring characteristics which conup of written te*s markedby distinctive recurring chdactedsncsvhich con' Itllutc a recognizablelnd coherent tne typewriring. hw c. nl .'f . the tendency is often to ot-'.".10...f. wedding. The third is the positing of liiitory of the text being analyzed and its genre.inr rhc violrtion ilagal complaint for the violation ofof a contract.."""p:'*'lvd':::11: -... *f*"*" which allows for a crucial insights about various genres Prcsert in the Bible' which alows tor a Bible..u'e Fortunately. rhe book si\es significanr *-J '"'"1' about how it was meant to be read. Careful compari" lhr text with other similar texts inside and outside of the Bible. ."":." md tten texts" to allow one to recognize a "coherent type of writing.".f.f'-eby to aPpreciate true naiure t a"litera' "'""f problem is only exacerbated by the fact that Jonah is an ancient piece of literabi the fact thatlonah is an ancientPieceof ." internaland the other external.. The approach that biblical scholars use toIo helpdis'rrn rhegcn'cs fr1 . tible jonah. often in scribal ( scs."" There are two comPo te a recognizable and coherent of of vvriting."Ur.. to which properly text's genre. elpectrrrons When it is expectations to Lried torceil to fit their '"xp".Jonah to much bevond JonJhro much ro dlvern a book" genrcgoes it"' p."t r-it. The principalgenres tang of this genre was the law court of ancient Israel.and Form is the German word for shapeor structule." Basically. a prophet might dethe The Israel breaking covenant. what II'.*r' only tluough the genres itncontains. and Form is the German with the approach of form criticism were Germans. ture from aa foreign culture ..'T:::'l':l:"1 ::::::'."'.rp" .rnp.. ch nre "distinctive" to the particular teat in question. Still.ery important for our work in this presentbook.'"iu. Thus. form critibcdlledIorrncriti' *. a*r"n"g it "untrue" and implving that it is somehow of less book. order . Potential Eng in the actual." f'*si*c irr with the approachof form criticism were Germans.r' tf'ar li'rmirr' rsm BrsrcJllv sented in different parts of the Bible is called "form criticism. wis rh.: readers must be sensitive. The origil!llhr. The i$ a"* *a . "a books. the prophgrievances againsr Israel mearsof the genre by !|'rflcllrcs cxpr. u. This shift is very important for our work in this present book. This means that there is.rr. deoiled studv alrl "'U* .. one internal and the other a0rrlpon€ntconsistsof the chdacteristics of a given text that can be discerned ponent consists of the characteristics of a given texr ftat canbe discerned eurcful readiag and analysis..e 'rb('ut r() wishd of literature initt ora.*". where does rhe unir of text begin and end?Initiall).f ii. or any other of the myriad of activities that human beings engage in."itf. butsomctimesmore evrnls nnd rprlnrrlIrAI0rlxllilr lrNrorlial rearonding to specific historical events and crises.. r icism was initially conceived particuhly as a meais of uc(mdng the criticism was initially conceived particularly as a means of uncovering the frtlp{)ncnrs that were assumed to underlie biblical literature. 'urhor "'ir'".."-.f.." therefore..This problem of failing to discern a book's genre goes beyond .ia..."t". Careful comparir'cvcalswhich characteristicsof a text are "recurring" enough within a group !0ll revealswhich characteristics a tdt are"recurrilg' enoughwirhin "a group of w tten texts" to allow one to recogaize a "coherent q?e of *riting."J ** "oen discovered that . il. by necessity. be it a specific passage." understand it."'iti) rt r. in more recent years biblical airalysis rcholarshae recognizedthe valueandindeedthe needfor form-critical analysis olars have recognized the value and indeed the need for form-critical of larger units."to.'i*.irv give-and-take between a circularity or gi't and its u'**' il:.. The third is the positing of genrewould hil€ arisen.

AA number oflate linguistic featuresin the book century when the story is set. Form critics should also be interested in the setting of the be inre*s.e good hdicatiors that the story was not intended to be read as a Story are good indications that the story hirlorical novel or biography. Dererminingthat Jonah's gerue is not historyfrees us to examine the quesDetermining that Jon3h'sgenre is not history ftees us to examinethe ques tlon of the storyt intent andpurpose. original genre. bUte to this theological debte. -.-re predicament. the rhemesof Yahweh'suniversaldomidon md concdtr for all people.along with the caricaturat rical novel or biograph} Rathet these features. This is important phaseA r.and fr)r1'r'r'rrnu xs The unhistorical nnIUrcoffert'lin details lrn\trh natureol certain (lrrtrils in • srrrlr rlr('NC in Thc unhistoricrl""1r.J" as i"'. which appeared to be a poem of thanksgiving for resappeared be a . .t tsrdlrr whoobxer'vc t?tdd into focusing on relatively insignificant details—such as whether aa oder lor0 litrNing . religiously conservative commentators who advo rhf rr(x'y rnlry ..u. '"nJ.d in the s€trus or the Fo."* 'j rhat oracles.JonahwasliLely written to conod..0 prophets as narrative with plot rrrher Lhan colleoionol ness among tft. aentury when the story is set.okJl l-he "i. withjonah is the focus of the book' able make a a de On the basis of these form-critical observations.which is the marn objectir of ifterpretan of the story's intent and purpose.. Since the 1 9 ol ..mpl' above the form critic who ". We did have to consider where it ended we did have consider i bepn and "u."..r"rr."u.The treatment of Jonah earlier in this introduction was basically a formjltroduction was basicallv a form A l.'" the question of whether the psalm in Jonah a wrs ar oriSral part of the book. U"g"o-itft mattersof sructuJe Because .urface inJonah and which becameespeciallypointed issuesof debatein the tface in Jonah and which became especially pointed issues of debate in the ostexilic period..u."*. The many exaggerations and absurd elementsin thor's purpose in writing.$e firrm(riLi: Comiiuing wirh theex. which is the main objective of interpretsofJonah. in the setting of the prophets who adapted -." W.'*. t.^ ***rrr." this involved rr'" r.worst of all. Other examples ofof nov'l novela pmblemthathasalisen OtherexamPlcs . The many exaggerations was not intended to be read as a th! rtory a. there question discerningthe genreand about its extent—where it began and where it ended.*-""J* with Jonah is the focus of the book.'". "r 'he volves around the interaction between Jonah and the other characters in the other charactersin the volves alounal the interaction betweenJonah and story Further examination of its contents showed that the interaction of God of its contentsshowedihat the interaction of cod *"*". number of late linguistic features in the book This date{its we with hdi€ate aa date in the postexilic period (around aoo soR).". Its genre hnx 'y has no specialclaim to correctnessor legi. We began with matters of structure.f. . tlr. to which Jonah might be compared. in which a series of episodes involving the same set of characters leads to a tl involving the same set of chara€tersleadsr(t "'UuJ t *fti..r{$rs it$ $'rrrrrL Ni'1cvch. which e themes of Yahweh's universal dominion and concern for all people. A careful look at the book's content further confirmed its uniquebool s conrenr *..nbed uncovering books. Jonah's intent must be !lo[ andthe focusof our form-criticalanalysis of Jonah.'. This date fits well with dicate datein the postexilicperiod (around aooBcE).rurllyLrnscprobkxnstbrthefaith vrfr.dl ilie veracity of the story may actually cause problems for the faith lintrrrr hrthr rrrny rl$Lf(r)llll wirhwhurthcycxpc."1rr'" are no**" for uncoveringthe intent behind a ten's useof a given ""^.-"".nm not more so. genre of acterisncs the text ir comparisonto o$e$ of its -. Again. "f "pitodes "". Ironically.f.. along with the caricatural 0r rtcr€orpical nature of its characters.. d bigotry.especially the question withwhich the book ends. critical one.. determination of the book's s genre is termination about Jonah'sgenre Again' detetmination bur nrrrative a a fictronal the key to its interpretation. in"" *.'--criucal issues the havins do lrrh rheoriS! specificaUv .'.. Each reader of a And of form tcxt makes an assumption about the genre of that tert The reader then SVlr text makes an assumption about the ge. ud " While the extent of the bookwas not an issue.. Its genre no special claim to correctness legitimacy hc uddlrcd from its content.imacyat the outset.*"*.n) fcl tivcly nrsignificantdetails such as whether ro who observe features in the story that conflict with what they expect . t bo adducedfrom its content. 'include the books of Esther | miShrbe compared lasin the Bible.f includcrhcbo( ol I lsth| las in the Bible.ilr.i.f'. and absurd features that are essential to the eilf ! xu$lc rlli(nrs.. if mo. lead to the reasonablededuction that lht Nory rvasintended asaa satire or lr Irorx'lirhir'nr)d the risk of missing the book's richness. mate goal of form criticism. There rules for of a given behind text's **" i. as there is no statement in articulating the and absurd elements in t$lhor's purpose in witirg.."ah earlier ir this ir'" i*". Continuing with the example above.ri"r.. of "irnprv'.turther indiand Jonah. priorityto an assumption as aboutits t thc Ercn1:rto readJonah historygivespriority to an assumption about its ta attempt to readlonah as history gives Uvfl lrr ..1"."-' "r because of the uniqueness of Jonah among the pro' of to be extremely important because the uniqueness Jonahamong the proof to be stremely imPortant lilr$erconfirmed irsunique phetic books.ivcd in the book's intended readership.. ot.and 001Ild live in a whale for three days—and missing its main point—the stu'r rrlltiorrly conscrvrtivc commentarors advowho ol hlAory."i." rs r anarrrbvewith a Plotrather than a collection of the l"*.re of tl'at text. illusrrating in bold relief the stupidity of the attitude that the author n. 'iso oradesinro-Mirten scribes whoir'* transcribed and rrrarged LbeProphcric oracles into written then and arranged the prophetic '. Ittti"nor h.on. The reader then rh assumption in the couise of reading rcording to the signals in the til thatl assumption in the course of reading according to the signals in the l[J the reader's fami]iadty with literary and cultural conventions..rLr rl conrcnt .. caricatures. the historical Ur the story as satirical fiction. further indi' purpose was didactic-Jonah was intended to setre as an object ttl$ that its purpose was didactic—Jonah was intended to serve as an object that its l mr..0 n is just interested.. absurdfeaturesthat are essential the readingof 0l thc st{r'y rs satificalficrion.--ffitical analysis becauseit gets at the very reasonfor of form-critical analvsis at the very reason for becauseit *"."tpr.:. Jonal's intent must be and the focus of our form-critical analysis llllhrred ftom the book's content.'||[1rlly. Of special importance in this respect are the distinctive chartext.. The outline of the book alone led to the recognition that its plot reled book.ton is not historical narrative but fictional story. lead to the reasonable deducion that litereotypical nature of its chda."""" * **f"O. Jonah was likely written to contrlbute to this theological debate. Rather.. 37 the story Joseph in nr Ccncsis 50' andRuth. we were able to to makedeOn the ba* of theseform-critical obseflations' we were of the book genre is termination about Jonah's genre.o i"lrt.. suggests that its concerning considerably removed from the eighth wrrr thrrr s(lJ."." a kind of short story lonah charrcreriTe r" novclld akhdof shorr$"rv *r'.i conclusion"or resolution of a problem that has arisen. be inferred ot deducedftom the . Since the 'inti lhc reader's familiarity with literary md cultual coNentions. Biblical scholars generally characterize Jonah as a "novella. especially questionwith which the book ends. this respectarethe distinctile char i"".* "" must simply be inferred or deduced from the features and features and genre. its beginning and ending proved *" boor wd noran isue ir( begurning endingprowd r'.e so.^" the passage's existence—the author's intention in writing ir -and ilus is the ulrifie authors intenrionb wriring it—and this is rheulti. A historical reading ignores or struggles to explain to and rlltt' exaggerations. -.*." r.f .t .hy('l thFhhr'It. A hisrorical Fadng ignoresor srrueglesto explr in over its actuall content.-. These matters loom large in other biblical books ftom this ."oilt' t*r*a thanlsgiving for res' to nal setting of the psalm. and the story ofofJosephGenesis 37-50. the assumptionthat it is of Jonah does not expresslyidentify its genre. suchasChroniclesand Ezra Nehemiah. "f "f'"**form-critical issues.n 0""-' ""ir""t"* cue from near death that -ntchadopted—not endrelyappropriately—for Jonah's was entirely apPropriately forJonah's ftom'near deaththat was adopted-not c.r in their oracles against Israel as in the legar Engor as ag'in5rlsrael in chelegal ser the setting of " qenreof an indicrmenr $eir oracles the genreot an indictment ln the ".--r'. . the historical reading of the misleads funs rhc riskof missing book'srichness.-n"i-r. Ir.-". such as Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah.ters.i. thesefeatures. book fhc book ofjonah furnishes a paradigmatic exampleof rhe importance of of Jonah furnishes a paradigmatic example of the importance of appreciating ldlndlllng the geme of a pieceof biblical literature for properly appreciating its ing the genre of a piece of biblical literature for properly its giticism asa tool for genre identilication.18 I8 HOW TO READ THE BIBLE A GENRE N R I GE J JONAH AND N D ON A H is The fourth part of a form-critical treatment is the discernment of the in' The fourth patt of a form_critical {xeatmenr the discernment of the intended purpose of the genre in most urder scrutiny This is the most tended ouroose of the genre in the passage under scrutiny.. which .iJ discerning the genre and purpose of the book as a whole therewas no quesnon purpose the book s whole.'lone ro the recognjrion irsPlorre . the aisumption that it is or ar the outiet. . caricatur€s. specifically having to do with the origi(o and"".louah does not expressly identify its genre.. such as those setting was (r)rl|il(l'tlrblv rrrrovctllirrrr rhr'rilll1rl1 Nineveh.The intent content of the ..r.'*" '.in *e semngor rhe Prcphecs adap(ed i"l'"^ ".to whichJonah 'ks and Ruth. These matters loom large in other biblical books from this lortexilic period.". illustrating in bold relief the stupidity of the attitude that the author ived in the book's intended readership lflc.erlod.he plarrnin Jonahz was an original pafl of rhebook .m ..|rn. Worst of all.. Eachreader of a $t!nt $rtd of form criticism as a tool for genre identification.sro"cal 'tory . The concluding interview between Story was intended as satircor parodlaThe condudiag interview between the ood 0ndJonah.r. acteristics of the text in"oecial comparison to others of its genre. Because we were interestedin interested in o.s shourd ... It misleads ii monolithic and runs missing main point the stu' its lnlr|l llvr lri whllc lirr rh(:c dlys .''. asthere is no statementin irit articulating the rred from the booLs content.

a genre is correctly idendefinition of the and-enr genre. apocalyptic. loch of Each of following chaptersdiscussesa distinct genre of biblical literature.wisdom. Misconstrual of geffe leads modern readers to uniealistic and sometimes unreasonable expectations about the contents and message of the Bible sometimes unreasonableexpectations about the conterts 5nd messageof dre Bible fact almost nser' identical ro a modern An ancient genre is not always. I hope to show that many of llriFihout the nature of the ancient genres. As result. each chapter contains dose readings of specific texts. since there to read it all as law fail to seehow dangerous this move is' since there are plenty of stories in which the actions of characters—even "good" ones—are plenty stories in which the actions of characters-el€n good ones-are not meant to be emulated. .rlr rls" drrw . ftom a historical accout. . in comparison with features of similar texts in and outside of the Bible.can be impor (ll (.do not usually explicidyidentiq. Our main objectiveswill be ro net'willequal space alwaysbegien to eachone-Our mailrobjectives be to Will always will of and hllhllgh Lthe characteristics of the principal genre under discussion and io show lght tlre characteristics the principai genreunder discussion to show and It! hllcflrnr its historical culturalsetting. such asthe litany of ridiculous ideas and images ctures and internal features.rl. quite naturally. The Bible is an anthology containing law. wirhout properly e Bible but with the way people try to interpret the Bible. American law. there aresignificanr r less familiar to modern readersj in eachcase. Readersof the Bible have long recognized the diversity of its are misconstrued. These for t0fl(crns will not be dealt with mechanically or systematically for each passage. Misconstrual of genre leads modern readers to unrealistic and liter"ry genres. identical to a modern An ancient genre not always. lltl tines. contracts. Neither should we expect it it use modem literary genres.Most peoPle recognize fiis and do not want to read everything in the Bible as a law or commddinent Those who not want to read everlahing in the Bible as law or commandment Those *'ho do attempt to read it all as law fait to see how dangerous this move is. is to rn i s (l ci i trcland to r.all d correctly chaiacterze rheir intenrs. rading. nres of literature in the Bible to identiry i$ genres. like the . wisdom. but in each case.rd€r determine a work's geme intent. likeJonah. Ttese Sl tour major concernsof form criticism (structure. r.f is often in the uniquesl!r'ilk lFErldllrlrlhrollBlr. That is where form criticism comes in: It seeks to higtiight those inter' diticism comesin: It seeks highlight thoseinterlu Jonah.that Its Intent surfacesrmost clearly. one.dtten. terns will not be dealtvith mednically or systematicalty eachpassage. Yetbib $lders make assumptions ders make assumptions about the genres of texts as they read them. can be impornr h. law ir the Bible indudes "secular" and "religious" legislation law in the Bible includes seculai' and religious" legislatior one. fh. quite naturalla rflects the culture of fie sncient Israelite and GrecoRoman societies that produced it It was written in Hebrew and| terms of lmodern law in the caseof Jonah. The definitions are bared on internal alld external considerations. prophecy. For instance. Indeed. gem. II also draw on other ancient sources outside of the Bible for evi{h. The example of Jonah shows that correct discernnot meant to be emulated. The purpose of this book is to help readersof the Bibl€understandthe major e purpose of this book is readers of Bible the major properly. like the book of Jonah within it. and II make use of such items where t fOr d.ident).uniquct!.and lettels. the geire was misconstrued as ltrstory and then the satirical Injon3h's comparisonwith features simild textsin dd outside rhe Bible. ln lg. intent). define them properly. genre is crucial for proper interPretation ment In Jonah's case.n idiots through careful reading of specific texts. dues. In order to determine a work sgenre and inrent. Familiarity with the history and cultue behind the wrll nr rhc languages which was originally written. the intent is misinterpreted.That is where form °natl. cqualspace be given to each one.h things as their suchas the litany of ()rhcrdncicntsources outside the B. It is closer to what we might call "catechism" than itil is ri) (trrr ri'rtrlnr l'rw To think of thee t-a wo lMoses. biography. the easierititis to pick out what r we undcNtnnd what is typical of a genre. chapterstypically begin with an attempt to define the gdre in its ancient chapters typically begin with an aftempt to deffne the genre in its ancient ittllng. We do not expect find references to modem Western dothing styles or modes of transportation within itsits pages-Neither should we er_pecttoto use modmodes transportatiotr within pages. isis misundetstood As a a re_ entailed for its ancient lsraelite authois and readers. Then. As we saw in our discussion of Jonah.J(|s.the genreis more hy.define fenres of literature in the Bible—to identify its genres.or define their respective books." so that biblical law is really primarily rclign)usinsrftrr don. r. the definitionsrepresent it everycare.the definitions represent advances of recent comparative scholfocusingon rhlp.nrin8 lhc tctring of gcnre. all tnd correcdycharacterize their intents. nt iI ir . without properly derstanclirtg its genres and their intents.aswell. ol thc incicrr ltcrrrus. The tt!r'wc understand what is typical of a genre. lbut major concernsof form criticism(stluctm. not EnRoman societies that produced it. The separation of and therefot quite diferent ftom modern.the genre is more or lessfamiliar to modern readers. the genre was misconstrued as history and then the satnical cotmonly in t}le Bible. and a host of other genres.i|tlrlr.rr thr nirr.l cluas to proper understanding of the Bible's literature are available to non-.Biblicalwritings do provide dues to their genres—in such things astheir res. Biblical writings do provide cluesto then gmres in su.In advaftes of recentcomparative schol llmostevery case. For instmce. For l . -tion. as wr iiw lr lr t r r {h. hymns. lliblcrlircrL[ufc arc. The letters. Most people recognize this and do letters. like Jonah. setting. and a host of other geDres. its UDderstanding genresand their intenrs.stherefore. $l | rl rrP its rintent. (t and is therefore quite different from modern. The deffnitions are based on internal and e"\tenal considerations. een the ancient genre in the Bible and the modern wey peopleusually deffne it. l( . as the case of Jonah. there are significant dlff€rences betweenthe atrcientgetre in the Bible md rhe dodern one or the the erencesbet. More commonly in the Bible. discussion ofjonal.h case.ilr r l lli llr l. In ea. reading. slt.rrlilirS.'o Recognition rhat the story is satidcal alctws the reader 4 Recognition that the to perceive truth in its message about Prejudice apart {iom the question of hisin irs message about prejudice aPdt from the question of his ro percei\. To put ititanother way. contracts. American law The separation law" (16rl'4)d(r!r church and state is not eEn imagined lndeed' the very word "law" (torah) act church and state is not even imagined. has been and continues to be widelv misunderstood because its principargenres it. less dramatic vaynot by improper classification or identification of its genre —but by improper not by improper dassification or idefltification of irs genre -but by improper definition of the ancient genre.rvailablenonro &lrlLr!|rolrrr4rr.{rllrlB. Yet bibllrul boots.As we saw about the genres texts asthey read them.rgcs inwhich itit was oliginally \l. To put another way a genre is correcdy iden irs ancient setting..$ i r l 0 misdeilne it tr' tr1l misinterpret r' r I' n' rrl The sameis ffue of eachof the five geffes treatedin this booL hirtoriogra The same is true of of the five genres treated in this book: historiograpbi prcphecy. and letters. and make use of such irems where li. RurI hope ro showrharmanyof But rh. Readers of the Bible have long recognized the diversity literature one is to the kind of literature one is literature and the importance of being sensitive to the kind literature and the importaffe of being an anthology containing lala history biographv. has been and continues to be widely misundestood because its principal genres its are mjiconstrued. itir isolicninrh. di we saw In Jonah. the very word u means insrruction. eachchaptercontainsdose readirys of specifictexts. Thcic rcrdings will pay closeattention both to what is tpical of a particular hope readings will pay close attention both to what is typical of a particular [n!l to what is distinctive in a given text thal represents the genre. but the nature and meaning of the genre in its ancient setting. the intent is misinterPreted The Bible. misunderstood. We do not expect to find references to modern Western clothing styles or glish. reflects the culture of the ancient Israelite and GrecoThe Bible. ai well as the lnDgu. like drc book ofjonah within The thesis behind this book is that the Bible at large. Familiarity with the history and culture behind the que in a specific text.In each case. what n the getre tified.rrrrr. the gerre of a intention of the story was nor with y usually define it. in fact almost never. setting.focusing on p. h)'rnns. tent In its historical and cultural senins. o Cons t it ur i( ln th United ds l tl . nr ly ol i tom. is not with lhc Bible but with the way people try to interpret rhe Bible. the followingchapters discussesa distinct genreof biblical literature. less dramatic way— book or sedion of literature misconstrued in a a different.ulous ideasandimages llnrctures andintemal features. The And Lr) what is distinctive in a given text that represents the genre. as well.20 HOW TO READ THE BIBLE HOW TO R!AD AND CEN JJONAH AND GENRE 21 R E ONAH from a historical account. Then. It is closerto what we mighr call 'catechism' rhan is to our secular law. l] I r ) sl . but the natuft and meaning entailed for its ancient Israelite authors and readers. history. do not usually explicitly identify or deffnethei' respective grnrcs. problem. T o t hink of t h Law of Mo s c rh o l rl i n c i r onrs (' rrr)cl trnl xw ' o(l (s l l kf Ihr il rrrl i Constitution of fthe c tJ ' ri l { States. lt was written in Hebrew and GreeL not En_ glish. apocab?tic. The problem. genre.€ torical accuracy story is satirical allows the reader The Purpose of This Book Book Purpose of The thesis behind this book is that the Bible at lfge. the genre of a intention of the story wd missed book or section of literature is is misconstrued h different. The exarnPle ofjonah shows that co ect discern ment of genre is crucial for ProPer interpretation.blefor evitoprigte." so that biblicallaw is rcally primarily religious instruc ally ally means "instruction.lcrir.r discerning the setting of acgenre. what it tilied. the easier is to pick out what Uulqur [r r sfeLilic rc](t.

STEVEN McKBNZIE DEC ? 2005 Dtc 2 7 2005 OXFORD OXTORD 100 106t 9 UNIVIMIITY PRUNI E TT UF IVg NBIT Y PC . Prophecy. McKENZIE L. atur History. and What It Means for Faith Today andWlnt It Mea$for FatthTodary STEVEN [. Literature— History.HOW TO READ THE BIBLE HOIV TO READ THE BIBLE eLitu fuoPheq. Need Readers to Know theDiffuence' Why Modern W Modern Readers Needtol(nowthe Difference.