Skip to main content

On this week’s episode, Jared digs deep into that theologically deep, literarily complex, and definitely not “children’s story,”  the book of Jonah.

Powered by RedCircle

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.

5 Comments

  • Scott Espling says:

    I am not opposed to moving beyond a literal (historical) reading of Jonah, and I appreciate this conversation. My two questions, or pushback would be:

    1. Labelling Jonah as a parable is not unconventional, however, I would love to hear how you might respond to those who who counter by saying that parable is only a step away from myth, at least in the case of Jonah? How would you clarify the difference? Are you comfortable with saying that Jonah is mythic, or at least has mythological elements?

    2. I would probably admit that I would have to express some concern with the comparison of Jonah to either Aesop’s fables, or a “comic book,” even though I think that I understand the premise of making both comparisons. The reason for my concern lies in your own highlighting of the importance of genre identification for the act of reading. Aesop’s fables seem to have a more tangible ethical thrust, or ethical component, whereas Jonah’s literary mission is much more than that, especially as it fills its canonical role in the book of the twelve and the rest of Scripture (particular on the lips of Jesus in different gospel situations). Because some of the inanimate objects (boat, storm, sea, sea monster) are given anthropomorphisms doesn’t justify an encouragement to read this as a comic book- in fact, and the reason for my concern, the characters here are given these traits to convey some pretty profound and nuanced theological points. Do you think that likening the story to a comic book drains these symbols of some of that world creating meaning that the author is giving them (in service of his theological agenda) and propping them up as little more than comic relief?

    • Pete E. says:

      I understand your concerns, Scott.

      On the first point, the presence of myth in the OT is for me (and others) self-evident, but I don;t think this is a slippery slope–“once you lose history by conceding ‘parable’ what’s to keep you from simply taking the next step to myth…” But even if myth is out of bounds, the fear of getting where is not an argument for the need to shy away from parable.

      On the second point, perhaps don’t take “comic book” as an attempt on our part to provide an accurate genre designation but more of an a analogy.

      • Scott Espling says:

        Thanks for taking the time to respond. Im not quite sure that I can buy into your explanation- identifying generic designation and identifying analogous generic designation seems pretty flimsy, especially in light of the context in which these observations were spoken: “Its a really fun book to read…its almost like a comic book reading.” Even as an analogy this communicates something that detracts from Jonah, maybe if only because it invites an anachronistic retro-jection. A comparable example might be found in the Gospels. To say they are biographical might be an accurate assessment of their generic components, but for citizens of the 21st century I need to qualify what “biography” means in the ancient world or risk my audience thinking that the gospels are written under the same rules and guidelines that govern their production today. And I still fear that drawing analogy between the anthropomorphisms of the rich characters and what we find in comic books is an unfortunate disservice to the theological agenda that bursts from the pages of Jonah.

        • Jared Byas says:

          You’re probably right. But the point of the podcast isn’t to get into these kind of nuances. There are plenty of scholars doing great work around genre identification and literary criticism. And I’d be happy to point folks to them. Just not what I was going for in the podcast. Thanks for the input!

  • Edvard Meling says:

    This was a great podcast. Thanks for brining to life the Bible in a different way that many of us have been used to. Would love to hear a similar podcast on topics such as Job, for example Romans 8:28-30.

Leave a Reply