I don’t know why it bothers me that the Apostle Paul never cited the Book of Jonah in defense of his Gentile mission, but it does. When I was taking my biblical Hebrew sequence in seminary we chose Jonah for our exegetical exercises. I had to write a couple papers on the book as well as a half dozen translation assignments. By the end of the semester I wrote the following (in “Exegetical Exposition of Jonah 4”, p. 10):
Yet Jonah 4 shows that the problem that Jesus sought to address was already apparent
even before the return from exile. Jonah is the Jews par excellence. He boasts in his relationship with YHWH. He sees himself as loyal to the God of the temple. He even sings Psalms (see Jonah 2) regarding YHWH‟s deliverance and mercy. Yet he refuses to announce to the pagan world that YHWH is a God of mercy and grace for all people
I know the Apostle is fond of using characters are represent Israel (i.e. Adam) so why not use Jonah? Would there have been a better representative of a pious Israelite who missed the point? Couldn’t he have slipped a metalepsis into Rom. 9-11 somewhere?!
I guess there is no way to answer this question, but it is one I have had for a long time. Thoughts?
That’s an interesting thought, Brian. Perhaps he used it when ministering in person to his congregations.
That would seem very plausible. Nevertheless, in his arguments in Rom. and Gal. it could have been very beneficial. Likewise, Acts never connects Paul’s preaching w. Jonah in any way (at least that I remember), so it doesn’t seem to be something people remember Paul using as a staple part of his gospel.
Hm. Do you think it might possibly be due to the centrality of the Jonah narrative to Jesus? And Paul, perhaps because of reverential reasons didn’t use it as well?
I’m not sure if that sounds absurd. I really haven’t thought about this at all minus the past few minutes.
I don’t think so because, for instance, Jesus uses Isaiah some places and Paul doesn’t hesitate to make that a central part of his preaching. The same could be said of Genesis, Psalms, et.c
Good call. Man, this is picking at my head now too.
I’ve considered (A) he didn’t see the Book of Jonah as authoritative or useful (even Jesus only mentions it in passing); (B) he didn’t interpret the Book of Jonah in such a way that it made sense to use it to discuss the Gentile mission (but if so, why?); or(C) something like we’ve discussed; namely, he may have used it in preaching but for whatever reason he didn’t feel like (1) it applied to the situations in Rome and Galatia and/or (2)he didn’t feel like it was as strong a source for argumentation as we do.
Hi Brian, I suspect that the answer stems from the interpretation of Jonah, which isn’t primarily about a challenge to mission, but rather about condemnation of Israel’s reticence to fulfill mission. Hence, Paul doesn’t quote it with respect to his Gentile mission because it isn’t a source that bolsters that argument. (See also Jesus’ references to Jonah, which always bear an edge of lurking condemnation.) Hence, if I were looking for Paul to use Jonah in his writings, I would look for passages that condemn (national) Israel’s resistance to the call of the gospel. But since Paul desires, rhetorically, to invite in and not condemn national Israel (e.g., Rom 10:1), this is something he doesn’t do. Hence, no Jonah in Paul.
Does that make sense?
@jmichael: That is the best explanation I have heard thus far! I’ve occasionally asked this question over the last couple of years and most people shrug, but that would make good sense of the absence of Jonah.
Good question; similarly Job gets little mention in the NT. There’s an implication of a similar pattern in Romans 11 on the ‘Israel as enemy for the sake of the Gentiles’ that could be drawn into Jonah chapter 4. Romans 11:22,28
@Bob: True, Job is another example, though as far as Paul is concerned Jonah seemed to make a lot of sense.
Perfect question! I googled the question and came to this blog. Jesus would have read Jonah knowing he the sign would be his death. To Christ, the book would have been one of the most essential books of the Old Testament, (thus the only sign needed!). Perhaps because the Gentiles would not understand the Jonah reference to the Jewish nation Paul may have not elected to use it in his writings. There may be underlying references that I plan on investigating.
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