Are we required to believe the story of Jonah literally? I read something from CA that said we are free to believe it or not. (I’ll have my husband help me copy it tomorrow. I’m on my Kindle and don’t know how to do it)

Something I read from EWTN said the opposite.

So are we required to believe it or not?


Why would you have trouble believing it to be literal…after all, we are talking about a God who was born as a human being, did all kinds of miracles, brought people back from the dead, healed 1000s instantly, etc, and multiple people saw him ascend into the sky!

From these things alone, its pretty clear God can do anything, he is not bound by the natural laws like we are, if he wanted Jonah to spend 3 days inside some kind of huge sea creature, Im sure he could see that it happens…he could have even created the sea creature specifically for this purpose if he desired.

This is a larger problem as I see it, many people have a hard time believing something if it sounds a bit too extraordinary, yet they have no problem believing the creator of the universe was born a man and ascended into heaven after death.

If we start going down this road, why not question whether Jesus actually did any of the miracles he is known for, maybe ‘bringing someone back from the dead’ or instant healings were not in the literal sense either?


My response to the question of whether to believe it or not, is to believe it. You, like I, may always have doubts about what things really happened back then, and, then also, why would anyone write such a fantastic story like this? The late Fr. Benedict Groeschel (who was seen on EWTN) would answer by saying “I wasn’t there.”

Surely you are referring to the episode depicted there of Jonah surviving in the belly of the fish.

But, recall, Jesus referred to that very incident – not skeptically – but to the contrary that Jesus would also give them that “sign,” referring to His resurrection from the dead. So, are you with Jesus, or against Jesus?

The book of Jonah is short, and it is read in the synagogues every year, in its entirety, on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Now, why would that be? What is the BIG story of the book of Jonah?

In and of itself, it is a “story” of Jonah (a prophet) being sent to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. And, low and behold, much to Jonah’s disgust, the people DO repent and the city is saved from God’s wrath of destruction. So, to the Jews – God’s chosen people – this is a proof that they too should learn the lesson of repentance, and they remind themselves of, if not every day of their lives, then at least once a year on this holiest of days, that their atonement for sin comes with their sincere repentance.

THAT is something you ought to believe. (The Bible does not end with the scroll of Jonah, of course, we cannot atone for our sins, but Jesus our Savior atoned for our sins on the cross – that was the fulfillment of the Old Testament “day of atonement.”)

Whether that part of the story about the fish is literally true (and some people think it is plausible), the part about the repentance of Nineveh is actually harder to believe, and Jonah camps outside the city, at a distance, just waiting for the spectacle of God’s destruction of the city, which never comes. Jonah is skeptical throughout the book of Jonah.

So, (how many times have I said “so”?) the scroll of Jonah is not primarily about a fish, and not primarily about the repentance of a city of gentiles, it is about Jonah. And, what do we learn about Jonah? Well, maybe, that we ourselves should not be skeptical, reluctant prophets of God’s words, but we should be faithful, even eager prophets of God’s word.


Thank you for that post!


I think he would’ve suffocated.


All things are possible with God. Ever heard of a real miracle?


Although it is not required to believe that the story of Jonah son of Amitai is true, there is strong evidence that it is. Jesus made several references to the sign of Jonah in his preaching so if Jesus quoted Jonah…:shrug:


Could’ve been a parable.


The Jewish Study Bible 1st Ed (Oxford U Press) considers that the book is not historical. The history of Nineveh appears to be that it was destroyed and never rebuilt, for example.


In the late 1920’s a seaman was swallowed by a large sperm whale in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands. After three days he was recovered unconscious but alive, though he had some damage to his skin.


Well when you have the book of 1st Kings mentioning that Jeroboam conquered many terriotories because he listened to Jonah son of Amitai from the village of Gath-heper. So there is no doubt Jonah existed. And if Jesus said that the men of Nineveh would condemn the people who did not believe in him, the men from Nineveh certainly did exist.


I believe Jonah existed, just unsure he lived in the belly of a whale for three days.


It doesn’t say that he “lived” there. In fact I think the text supports that he died.

“I cried out of the belly of hell…” (2:3)
"I went down to the lowest parts of the mountains; the bars of the earth have shut me up for ever: and thou will bring up my life from corruption, O Lord my God (2:7).

But I think stronger evidence for it being true as someone else already said is that Jesus refers says the people of Nineveh along with the Queen of the South will rise up in judgment (Matt 12:41-42), because of their conversions. The Queen was real (1 Kings 10), why wouldn’t Jonah be when they are used together as an example.


So if it sounds a little too extraordinary, we should doubt?

Jesus brought people back from the dead, healed many people, all in front of large crowds of people…if you lived back then, would you be one of those folks claiming it was surely a hoax or not true?

This is what I resort to when I think about some of the crazy things that take place in the bible, I came to the realization if God wanted something to happen, no matter how crazy it or how many laws of physics it broke, he COULD do it.

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