Did you know that there are mountains on the sea floor?
Mountains and mid-oceanic ridges under the ocean began to be mapped in the 1950s. Modern nautical charts show them clearly. But their existence was alluded to in the Bible thousands of years earlier, in the Old Testament book of Jonah.
Jonah tells his riveting, almost incredible experience in only 48 verses divided into four chapters. He reports spending three days and three nights inside a great fish! Jonah had been running from Yahweh’s orders to go to Nineveh in Assyria and warn of judgment.
By God’s sovereign appointment, this rebellious prophet was disciplined by a raging storm and then saved by a ravenous fish in order to bring revival to the sin-soaked city of Nineveh. Jonah’s preaching spurred Nineveh to believe in “the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9; 3:5-9).
Many scoff at the book of Jonah. They ask how Jonah could breathe, eat, drink, and sleep inside a sea monster? How could he avoid being digested until regurgitated alive? Are we supposed to think this really happened?
An intriguing detail in Jonah’s prayer from inside the great fish adds credibility to Jonah’s account. In his prayer he recounted his experience of being cast into the sea:
“For You had cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the current engulfed me.
All Your breakers and billows passed over me. …
Water encompassed me to the point of death.
The great deep engulfed me,
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
I descended to the roots of the mountains.“ (Jonah 2:3,5,6)
Jonah almost drowned in the depths of the sea before the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17). In his prayer Jonah mentions descending to the roots of the mountains in the sea.
How did Jonah know about mountains in the sea? Normally no one would know in Jonah’s day that coastal mountain ranges extend below water to the sea floor. There were no submarines in Jonah’s day to discover that the Mediterranean Sea is full of underwater mountains. According to Jonah’s prayer, he learned about the mountains on the sea floor through personal experience. The God-breathed Scriptures report mountains in the depths of the sea long before today’s scientists discovered them.
What Did Jesus Think about Jonah?
This record of Jonah being swallowed by a great fish is one of the most doubted of the Old Testament’s historical accounts. Apart from Genesis, the Old Testament account most scoffed at is the book of Jonah. Many skeptics consider the entire book mythical, heaping it with ridicule and scorn.
But Jesus believed it! Eight hundred years later, Jesus used Jonah’s experience to illustrate His death and resurrection (Matthew 12:38-41).
To Jesus the book of Jonah was literally true. He grounded vital instruction about His death and resurrection on Jonah:
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:40-41)
Jesus used the verbal equals sign “just as…so shall” to equate Jonah’s “three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster” with His own “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
If Jonah is fictional, then according to Christ’s own words, so would be His burial and resurrection. If the burial and resurrection are factual, then Jonah also is factual. Jesus obviously believed Jonah was genuine history.
Jesus said that the Ninevites (undoubtedly historical) would condemn His generation (obviously historical) at the future judgment (a real event). Ninevites would condemn because they actually repented in history due to Jonah’s preaching. Therefore Jonah and his preaching really happened. Likewise the events that produced the preaching (God’s command, violent storm, gulping fish) really happened.
Many argue that Jonah was only figurative. But Jesus said of Himself, “One greater than Jonah is here.” It would mean little for Jesus to claim to be greater than a Jonah who never existed. (Matthew 12:41)
Jesus used Jonah to teach the crux of His mission: His own death and resurrection. How significant that Jesus used some of the “hardest to believe” accounts in Scripture — Creation, Noah’s Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Bronze Serpent, Jonah — to undergird explanations of salvation, marriage, eternal judgment, and future events. The “most difficult” Scriptures carry Jesus’ full endorsement.
Scripture documents the miracles of Jonah. They present no difficulty for the omnificent Ruler of the universe. To challenge Jonah is to impugn the power of God. To challenge Jonah is to assault the veracity of Scripture. Jesus confirmed Jonah and the Resurrection as equally factual. His followers must embrace His view as their own.
When men demanded miraculous proof of His claims, Jesus said only one sign would be given, “the sign of the prophet Jonah,” that is, the Resurrection (Matthew 12:38-39). Jesus showcased the book of Jonah as real history portraying His own death, burial, and resurrection. The best-documented event of history, the Resurrection, still proves Jesus’ identity as God (Romans 1:4).
Did Jesus Know about Undersea Mountains?
Even as a man He certainly did. Jesus knew the book of Jonah, and He believed it. Therefore, since Jonah reported seeing undersea mountains, Jesus would have known about them.
Questions to Ponder
- Why do skeptics want so badly to discredit the book of Jonah?
- Are you prepared to defend the historical reality of Jonah and his record?
Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.
Soli Deo Gloria.
This is the third in the Science in the Bible series of blog posts. While there is much science connected with Creation and Noah’s Flood, this series will focus on lesser known scientific truths that were alluded to in the Bible long before they were known to scientists.
Read the prequels:
1. Science in the Bible – Blood
2. Science in the Bible – Ocean Currents
Read the sequel:
4. Science in the Bible – Ocean Reservoirs
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday February 1, 2017 A.D.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:38-41)