Thursday, April 7, 2016

Moby Dick Ch. 83: Jonah Historically Regarded

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read.

In this chapter, Ishmael explains how some people in his day had begun to doubt the historicity of the story of Jonah and the whale.  He gives some humorous attempts by theologians to explain the story from a more “enlightened” scientific point of view.  To the question: “How could a man literally survive for three days in the stomach of a whale?” some scholars have posited…

That Jonah was not actually lodged in the whale’s belly, but in some part of his mouth, which is more survivable.

That Jonah actually took refuge in the floating body of a dead whale, like a sort of life raft.

That Jonah was not swallowed by a whale at all, but was rescued by a ship called “The Whale”.

I think that this chapter is poking fun at biblical literalists who do all kinds of crazy mental gymnastics to rationally explain stories that are clearly meant as myth and metaphor.

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