Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | April 17, 2019

Jonah, Jesus, & the Resurrection

(3 Minute Read)

Outside of Genesis, the book of Jonah is the most scorned and ridiculed account of the entire Old Testament. Skeptics consider the entire book of Jonah legendary, heaping it with ridicule and scorn.

Did it really happen? Did Jonah’s adventure of being thrown into a raging sea, swallowed by a great fish, and regurgitated onto land three days and nights later actually occur? Did Ninevites repent of their great wickedness in response to Jonah’s preaching?

The book of Jonah is an amazing, almost unbelievable account of these remarkable events. Is it true?

How Do We Know Jonah Is True?

First of all, there are historical references to Jonah and Nineveh throughout the Old Testament.

The historical book of Second Kings refers to Jonah as a prophet whose prophecy about extending the borders of Israel was fulfilled during the reign of Jereboam II. Jonah is also identified as a native of the Galilean town of Gath-hepher. These facts firmly plant Jonah in real middle-eastern history. (2 Kings 14:23-25)

In addition to Jonah, the historical books of Genesis and 2 Kings and the prophets Isaiah, Nahum, and Zepheniah all mention Nineveh eight different times in historical contexts. (Genesis 10:11-12; 2 Kings 19:36; Isaiah 37:37; Nahum 1:1; 2:8; 3:7; Zephaniah 2:13)

Second, there is an extra-Biblical reference to Jonah and Nineveh. The first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus mentions both Jonah and Nineveh.
(Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews — Book IX, Chapter 10, Paragraph 2.)

These historical references to Jonah and Nineveh are strong evidence that Jonah and Nineveh were real.

Physical evidence of Nineveh still exists today. Archaeologists excavated it in the mid-1800s and found the palaces of Assyrian kings Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal who are named in the Bible. A mound of ruins in ancient Nineveh claimed to be Jonah’s tomb is still called Nebi Yunis, “Prophet Jonah.”

But the strongest evidence for the historicity of Jonah and Nineveh comes from the words of Jesus.

What Did Jesus Think?

To Jesus the book of Jonah was literally true. He grounded vital instruction about His resurrection on Jonah.

Jesus used the verbal equals signjust 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.” He said,
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.
(Matthew 12:40).

If Jonah were fictional, then according to Christ’s own words, so would be His burial and resurrection. If the burial and resurrection are factual — and they are — then so is Jonah. Jesus obviously believed Jonah was historical.

Jesus said that the Ninevites (undoubtedly historical) would condemn His generation (obviously historical) at the future judgment (a real event). Ninevites 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 nothing for Jesus to claim to be greater than a Jonah who never existed. (Matthew 12:38-41)

Jesus affirmed the literal truth of Jonah,
using it to explain a proof of His identity.

Jesus used Jonah to teach the crux of His mission, namely His own death and resurrection. How significant and intriguing that Jesus used some of the “hardest to believe” accounts in Scripture — Creation, Global Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Bronze Serpent, Jonah — to undergird explanations of salvation, marriage, 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. Challenging Jonah impugns the power of God and assaults 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 gave only one sign, “the sign of the prophet Jonah,” that is, the Resurrection (Matthew 12:38-41). Jesus showcased Jonah as a historical portrait of His own death, burial, and resurrection. The best-documented event of history, the Resurrection, still proves Jesus’ identity as God.

Jesus’ followers should adopt His opinion about Jonah as their own.

Questions to Ponder

1. Why is it important to defend the historical reality of Jonah and his record?
2. Why would Jesus base teaching on “hard-to-believe” events from the Old Testament?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the last of three blog posts on Jonah.
Read the prequels:
Ravenous Fish Gulps Jonah
Jonah & Nineveh

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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 April 17, 2019 A.D.

Jonah said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9)

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  1. Wonderfully encouraging message in support of the veracity of the Scriptures. I LOVE the delightful way the scriptures are presented, all the hidden delicious nuggets (poor metaphors) for us to discover. Thanks Bible-Science Guy for this one.
    Gwen Staveley UK


    • Thanks for your encouraging words. I’m glad the article blessed you.


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