This material was prepared by Professor Thomas J. Sienkewicz for his Classical Mythology class at Monmouth
College. If you have any questions, you may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jonah as a Hero
A. Structure of the Book
Chapter 1: Jonah's Rebelliousness
"tall fish tale"
Chapter 2: Jonah's Prayer
conventional psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance from trouble
Is this an intrusion by a second hand?
Chapter 3: Conversion of Nineveh
This is pure fiction: the idolatrous people of Nineveh never converted to Judaism
Chapter 4: Lord's answer to Jonah
The parable of gourd
B. Study Questions
1. How does Jonah express his reluctance to heed his heroic call? Is such reluctance typical of
2. How is Jonah's encounter with the whale similar to an heroic encounter with a wild beast?
How is it different?
3. What is Jonah's heroic journey?
4. What is his impossible task?
5. What characteristics does the Book of Jonah share with traditional myths you have read?
6. How can this book be read as a charter myth?
Book of Jonah
written c. 350 B.C. or later Setting: 8th century B.C. Assyria
short story--tale Can be interpreted as allegory, parable & satire
parable of tolerance (Frank) & God's mercy
narrative re universality of God (Dartmouth Bible)
the religious problem: How should Jews relate to non-Jews?
Jonah as prophet--spokesman for God
image of fish
symbolic 1) the Exile -- in Babylon 586-536 B.C.
2) personal despair
3.) Christian--Christ's resurrection
allegory of the gourd
Story can be seen as ironic satire
1) stupid & vindictive prophet
(He tries to escape God)
2) addresses good people (Gentiles yet!) who actually repent their sins
vs normal prophetic story where people don't repent.
Who is the real prophet of this book?
Perhaps the author, not Jonah, is the real prophet, the true spokesman of God's will.
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