Wayward Ninevites

“Come listen to my tale, of Jonah and the whale, way down in the bottom of the ocean;” a children’s song with a catchy tune that has a way of becoming a lifetime companion. Among the earliest Bible stories many children learn is the remarkable story of Jonah and the whale. And since the Bible is God’s word, it must be historical, right? Many modern readers have a difficult time fathoming that Jonah is not a book of history. As if living three days underwater isn’t enough of a stretch, stalwart bibliolaters ignore the tons of archival material from Nineveh itself and claim that the entire city spent a day, or a week, worshiping Yahweh. It stretches the imagination.

Too close for comfort

While working at Gorgias Press I discovered, in an entirely unexpected way, just how seriously some otherwise rational adults take this tale. I had to postpone an important meeting with an influential client because it had fallen on “the Rogation of the Ninevites.” As a lifelong biblical scholar and student of ancient religions, this was a festival I’d never before encountered. A web search refused to yield too much information for as long as my curiosity lasted, but I did find out that the date is difficult to nail down (apparently sometime a week or two ago), and that it predominates among Orthodox Christians of Iraq and Syria. These believers claim the heritage of the fictionally converted Ninevites. Even if the book of Jonah were intended as history, the conversion would have been to Judaism, not Christianity.

As I tried to find a new date with our lucrative associate, I realized once again just how far faith is willing and able to stretch. The story of Jonah is a cautionary tale, almost a fable, reminding post-exilic Jews of the occasional righteousness of the other. While other interpretations have been ceaselessly floated by serious scholars, I have never discovered anyone outside the putative descendents of the fabricated Ninevites who take this non-historical event to be important enough to jeopardize an essential business deal. Anyone who attempts to introduce logic into such an equation may well find him-or-herself, Geppetto-like, slowly digesting in the enormous gastric cavity of a whale that has a taste for prophets.

2 thoughts on “Wayward Ninevites

  1. Ariel

    my friend, read the account of jonah, and tell me if you think that the writer intended it to sound like a simple “story” the account, my friend, is no fairytale, and the very fact that RATIONAL people take it seriously, should make you consider your own doubt, you see, the account of jonah and nineveh is but a small peace of the whole puzzle, a page in the whole book of life, this account is just a small example of the fact that, we humans, indeed have a creator, but not one that just sits idley by, but one that takes KEEN interest in us and our activities, wow! thats preposterous you say! well mankind has never had a good relationship with truth, they prefer, lies, and things they can see and touch, and things that tickle their ears, and make them feel secure, regardless of whetether or not it is the truth, but this has been to thier detriment, the world is falling away at mankinds feet, global warming, nuclear threat, wars, unrest, deseases, suffering, environmental destrucion, and poverty, oh and lets not forget the fical cliff, and scientists look around and wonder why? and look for a complicated answer, they ignore the truth because the truth is too simple for them it doesnt fit thier mold, so they pine away for answers, which will never come why? because the truth is a “fairytale” a “story” and those who belive te truth are “irrational” well i know the truth, and so do others, i know that the account of jonah and the ninevites was truth in its purest form, but as truth often fares badly with the prideful, and those who only believe what they can see, this account inevitably gets ignored, and the lessons therein go unlearned, and so mankind, in general, saturate themselves in their ignorance, but the ninevites, in jonahs account, acted differently, the account tells us they believed jonahs, prophecy, and where spared! the truth is this: mankind was created, not to govern themselves, but to be gently lead by or creator, who is much wiser than us, much as a child gets help crossing the street from thier parent, the truth is: just like the ninevites all of us are held accountable for or actions by the creator, why? because we know right and wrong, he has given us a conscience to guide us, the truth is: the creator reveals himself and invites us to get to know him, not in spectaclular miracles today, but in the pages of the bible, the truth is: the creator reveals himself to us also through creation, how? well many scientist will tell you that the order, complexity, and precison in the systems in our bodies and our universe could NEVER have come about by any means except an intellegent designer. The bible describe the designer as “the true god Jehovah” the creator of the heavens and the earth and the grand on stretiching them out.
    my friend/s i have told you the truth…….will you believe?


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