Jonah : biography

8th Century B.C. –

At some point cetus became synonymous with "whale" (the study of whales is now called cetology). In his 1534 translation, William Tyndale translated the phrase in Jonah 2:1 as "greate fyshe" and he translated the word ketos (Greek) or cetus (Latin) in Matthew 12:40 as "whale". Which states "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Tyndale’s translation was later incorporated into the Authorized Version of 1611. Since then, the "great fish" in Jonah 2 has been most often interpreted as a whale.

In Turkish, "Jonah fish" (in Turkish yunus baligi) is the word used for dolphin, often shortened to just yunus.

Suggested literal interpretations

Some believers claim that God, being omnipotent, simply altered things as needed and sustained Jonah – the same as in other miraculous accounts in the Hebrew scriptures. Some believers claim that Jonah did die in the belly of the great fish, and was then resurrected by God since Jesus himself associated this event in Jonah’s life with his own death and resurrection. See Matthew 12:40. Others have attempted more elaborate explanations.

As for a fish or whale that could repeat the feat of swallowing a human being whole, several candidates have been suggested. The largest whales – baleen whales, a group which includes the blue whale – eat plankton and "it is commonly said that this species would be choked if it attempted to swallow a herring."Lydekker’s New Natural History, Vol, III, p. 6 As for the whale shark, Dr. E. W. Gudger, an Honorary Associate in Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History, noted that "while the mouth is cavernous, the throat itself is only four inches wide and has a sharp elbow or bend behind the opening. This gullet would not permit the passage of a man’s arm". In another publication he also noted that "the whale shark is not the fish that swallowed Jonah."The Scientific Monthly, March, 1940, p. 227, "Essays of an Atheist," Woolsey Teller. Copyright 1945, The Truth Seeker Company, Inc. Sperm whales, on the other hand, which grow to be larger in size than a school bus, have demonstrated the ability to swallow specimens much larger than human beings. An intact 40 foot-long giant squid weighing 440 pounds was recovered from a Sperm whale. Most of the items recovered from Sperm whale stomachs are not even chewed, but swallowed whole. Sperm whales with severely mangled jaws have been seen in perfect health, apparently catching food just fine without the complete use of their teeth.