Is Jonah and the Whale a true story?

Is Jonah and the Whale a true story?

Jonah’s story has been debated for millennia. Being swallowed by and praying in the belly of a fish sure seems like fiction. However, evidence for the veracity of the story is powerful. Consider the following:

    1. Jonah is described in the Bible as a true historical figure identified as a prophet. (2 Kings 14:25) Yet, The book portrays Jonah in a bad light. Why would an author write a derogatory fictionalized account of a person who otherwise is presented as a real person serving God in a positive manner?
    2. The book of Jonah is included in a collection of writings of God’s prophets who are genuine, historical figures. Why would the compilers of these books include a fictitious account of one of these prophets?
    3. The supernatural occurrences in the book–from the storm being stilled when Jonah was thrown from the boat to the plant that spontaneously arose to provide shade and just as quickly withered–are all within the realm of possibility. Don’t they look like many other miracles we read about in the Bible?
    4. Jesus, the son of God, affirmed the historical accuracy of Jonah and referenced Jonah being in the fish. (Matthew 12:39-41 and Luke 11:29-32). Jesus also noted that the men of Nineveh repented which wouldn’t make sense if Jonah hadn’t preached to them. Are we to assume that Jesus was wrong when he said that Jonah was a real prophet and his story as recorded in the book bearing his name was true?
    5. Scholars point out that Nineveh, the Assyrian city that stood near the modern city of Mosul in Iraq, was not so large that it would take three days to walk across it (Jonah 3:3). They point to this seeming discrepancy to suggest that the Jonah account is fiction. Could Jonah be referring to the entire region around the capital city, including “suburban” towns nearby? Or, might he have been describing the size of the city from the perspective of a person who was stopping on every corner to preach and prophecy about the calamity that was to befall the city?

Getting past the question of whether or not Jonah is a true account of God’s call and Jonah’s response to go to Nineveh, one should look at what the story says about God and his relation to mankind. Here it is most interesting that God is showing a positive attitude to Gentiles, even ones who will eventually conquer Israel.

God’s grace is on display in this story as He is described as being “merciful and compassionate” (Jonah 4:2) towards Nineveh.

Also on display is the sovereignty of God over the natural world. He sends a storm, stops it, allows an individual to be swallowed by a great fish and survive for three days, and he raises a plant overnight to provide shade for His prophet.

Most importantly, Jonah’s story shows the futility of running from God, and the difficulties that befall those who try. If you would like to know the God that Jonah served and learn the proper way to respond to His call on your life, we encourage you to read our post, How does one become a Christian?

How do we know that Jesus was a real historical figure?

How do we know that Jesus was a real historical figure?

The historical writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and Peter are among the best preserved and attested to of all ancient writings. However, for those who seek additional corroboration of the historical Jesus, one of the best sources is Josephus. This Jewish historian, who was born in Jerusalem in AD 37 and died in Rome in AD 97, mentioned Jesus by name and made many allusions to him in the book, The Antiquities.

Concerning Jesus, Josephus wrote: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again on the third day; as the divine Prophets had foretold these and 10,000 other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” (Book 18, Chapter3)

Also paralleling the New Testament is a body of literature called the Apocrypha. While never included in either the Hebrew or Christian Bible, they echo similar evidences about Jesus and his times and his miracles at his teachings. Further there are the writings of Tacitus (ca. AD 56 – ca. 117) that also mention Christ, crucifixion by Pontius Pilate and other reports of the activities of Christians, followers of Jesus Christ. There is no doubt from the historical records that Jesus was a real person.

However, if you ask believers how they know that Jesus was a real person, your answer is likely the chorus from a favorite Christian hymn, “You ask me how I know he lives. He lives within my heart.” The hundreds of millions of followers of Jesus over the centuries is more than enough evidence in itself that Jesus is for real. Is Jesus a real figure for you? Do you know him personally as your Lord and Savior? God wants you to know him. (John 3:16) If you would like to learn more, please check out the answer to the question: How does one become a Christian?

How can anyone be sure that the God of the Bible really exists?

How can anyone be sure that the God of the Bible really exists?

If the universe with its trillions of galaxies and an unknowable number of stars and the irrefutable laws of physics and mathematics which control and govern it are not enough evidence to convince you that God exists, then look in the mirror and consider the complexity and supernatural intelligent design of your physical being.

Your eyes alone are two miracles that defy understanding in human terms. So too is your DNA, your brain, and your ability to reason. Where did that come from? And where do you think you get your sense of right and wrong, good and evil, and your longing to make sense of it all? A creator God, the God who reveals himself in the Bible, is the designer, the author of all that is. Everything we see around us are the evidence of the Creator, God. That’s how you can be sure God exists. The evidence is overwhelming. God has revealed himself in the creation, nature, the Scriptures, in Jesus Christ, and, most specifically, in human life. When we understand that we, each one of us, is made in the image of God, we can begin to know this God of the Bible.

Beyond observation, the best way is to get to know the God of the Bible is to ask God to reveal himself in your life in some tangible way. Then wait and see how he reveals himself to you. Talking to God and listening to him is what is known as prayer. This may seem too simple, but millions down through the ages have discovered that prayer is the best way to encounter God.

In the New Testament letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul, an apostle of Jesus wrote this about God:

”for his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, and the things that have been made. So, they (people asking your question) are without excuse.”

Romans 1:20

Clearly, God is ever-present, and we can experience and know him if we take time to seek him. The choice to believe that God exists is up to you. More importantly, believing that Jesus, God’s son, paid the penalty for your sin is an important first step in obtaining the promises that this God of the Bible has made to all of us–peace in this life and eternity with Him. The decision is one of the mind and the heart, as it is not for lack of evidence. Choose wisely as your eternal destiny depends on the choice you make. If you would like to learn more about how to enter into a life-changing relationship with God, please read our post, How does one become a Christian?

How can God know our thoughts?  Are bad thoughts sin?

How can God know our thoughts? Are bad thoughts sin?

God is Omniscient which means he knows everything including your thoughts. The Psalmist David clearly tells us that God knows our thoughts and He can purify our thoughts if we allow Him.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.

Psalm 139:1-4

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23,24

Bad thoughts are difficult to control and can truly lead to sin if we ponder on them and allow them room to grow in our mind and actions. God has given every person a conscience from birth. It is the mind’s and soul’s warning system which enables a person to know what is right and wrong and discern between good and evil. So when a “bad” though enters your mind, dismiss it at once and it is not then a sin.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

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