Is Jonah and the Whale a fictitious story?

I have a Catholic children’s bible. At the end of each story, there is a commentary. My son was reading the story of Jonah and the Whale. The commentary stated that according to St. Gregory Nazianzen, the story of Jonah and the whale was a parable to encourage the Israelites to become missionaries. Has anyone heard of this before? Is it just a parable?

I’ve often found that truth is stranger than fiction. Although one would find it hard to believe, I’m not willing to throw it in the fiction bin. I’ll look at what other commentaries say about it

I have to say “Jonah” is one of my most favorite books in the OT.To bad it has become a ‘kids’ story-it’s not. It’s so deep and layered.My class went ga-ga over it.If it’s historical or not is really not important to me.The ‘moral’ of the story is what is the point and importance. Never expect God to do what you think He should do, love who He loves, or appoints as His messengers . God will do as He wants and to box Him into thinking like a human just won’t do.Actually reminds me a lot of Job when God speaks out of the whirlwind…another of my favorite books!

I have heard both opinions on this topic. Jonah is one of the Prophets. The Book of Jonah is unique in the prophetic literature because it is a narrative story rather than a collection of oracles or sermons. In the Hebrew canon, narrative books like Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings were included in the prophetic corpus because they told stories of important Hebrew Prophets.

Some say it is a parable, some say it is historical. Two things the story is meant to teach, is that God’s compassion extends to all nations, and Ancient Israel was the vehicle by which that compassion was made.

While Catholic and other biblical scholars may hold differing opinions on this, the Church herself has no official postion one way or the other. That gives us an immense amount of freedom.

If it is a parable, that does not make it any less inspired Scripture and God’s word to us, and if it is historical, ditto, and none of the unusual events it relates are beyond God’s power to make happen.

Jonah and the whale was a true story. Usually stories that parables are stated as parables in the Bible

What’s also significant is that Jesus uses Jonah as a sign to point to Him at least twice.

Another thing I’ve never been able to fully reconcile is that:
a) Jesus calls Jonah a sign that point to Him early in Matthew 16.
b) Jesus then calls Peter “Simon Bar-Jonah (son of Jonah)”.
c) Peter was son of John, which is a different rendering than Jonah. In other words, John and Jonah are not the Greek and Aramaic (or Hebrew) renderings of the same name.

So, was Jesus declaring Peter as a Son of Himself?

The story of Jonah is true. It is also most likely a fictional story serving as a vehicle for revelation. You are not required to believe any specific literary form for this story.

You are correct: usually that is the case in the New Testament, but Jonah, from the Old Testament, is an older (arguably a *much *older) story. The literary conventions of the Old Testament as Hebrew literature differ in many ways from the 1st century Jewish/Hellenic miileu.

Even so, one may approach it as a parable if one wishes (I personally don’t have a problem with it being a non-parable. God could make it all happen if he wants to.).

Actually, it is impossible to say definitively that “It is [also] most likely a fictional story.” The most one could definitively say is that it is arguably a fictional story.

I can’t recall if in the OT that parable stories were mentioned as parables such as in Isaias with a parable of the vineyard

Consider this.

“He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher.” - 2 Kings 14:25

Sounds like he was historical to me.

I believe it is historical, Jesus even mentioned and used it as an example of a prefigurement of His resurrection. So if Jesus rose from the dead on the 3rd day then how would Jonah being in the belly of a whale be any less amazing? I really doubt Jesus would use fiction as a prefigurement of His resurrection!

Here is a catena that I have put together that has tons of the Early Church Fathers quotes and commentaries on Jonah, they all supported it as being historic. litteralchristianlibrary.wetpaint.com/page/Jonah+Commentary

This is not an original thought with me, but what might apply here is this: “All stories are true, and some of them really happened.”

It’s a humorous novella :slight_smile:

Jesus was a real person - does that mean the Da Vinci Code is historically accurate :slight_smile: ?

They are - see Psalm 78, which uses the word mashal (ETs often: parable)

It still uses the word Parable in the Douay-Rheims.

Thanks so much for the commentary link. It is very interesting.
To everyone else who posted, thanks for your contributions. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to know what parts of the bible are to be interpreted literally and what parts are stories for teaching lessons.:o

Jonah is a Prophet of the Old Testament. Tradition has always treated all of the OT prophets as real historical persons. And Jesus himself referred to the story of Jonah and the whale as a real event, comparing it to the real event of his Passion and Crucifiction.

[Matthew]
{12:39} And answering, he said to them: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign. But a sign will not be given to it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
{12:40} For just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
{12:41} The men of Nineveh shall arise in judgment with this generation, and they shall condemn it. For, at the preaching of Jonah, they repented. And behold, there is a greater than Jonah here.

So it was an historical event.

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