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Jonah

Methodius

THE history of Jonah contains a great mystery. For it seems that the whale signifies Time, which never stands still, but is always going on, and consumes the things which are made by long and shorter intervals. But Jonah, who fled from the presence of God, is himself the first man who, having transgressed the law, fled from being seen naked of immortality, having lost through sin his confidence in the Deity. And the ship in which he embarked, and which was tempest-tossed, is this brief and hard life in the present time; just as though we had turned and removed from that blessed and secure life, to that which was most tempestuous and unstable, as from solid land to a ship. For what a ship is to the land, that our present life is to that which is immortal. And the storm and the tempests which beat against us are the temptations of this life, which in the world, as in a tempestuous sea, do not permit us to have a fair voyage free from pain, in a calm sea, and one which is free from evils. And the casting of Jonah from the ship into the sea, signifies the fall of the first man from life to death, who received that sentence because, through having sinned, he fell from righteousness: “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” And his being swallowed by the whale signifies our inevitable removal by time. For the belly in which Jonah, when he was swallowed, was concealed, is the all-receiving earth, which receives all things which are consumed by time.
II. As, then, Jonah spent three days and as many nights in the whale’s belly, and was delivered up sound again, so shall we all, who have passed through the three stages of our present life on earth–I mean the beginning, the middle, and the end, of which all this present time con-sists–rise again. For there are altogether three intervals of time, the past, the future, and the present. And for this reason the Lord spent so many days in the earth symbolically, thereby teaching clearly that when the fore-mentioned intervals of time have been fulfilled, then shall come oar resurrection, which is the beginning of the future age, and the end of this. For in that age there is neither past nor future, but only the present. Moreover, Jonah having spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, was not destroyed by his flesh being dissolved, as is the case with that natural decomposition which takes place in the belly, in the case of those meats which enter into it, on account of the greater heat in the liquids, that it might be shown that these bodies of ours may remain undestroyed. – From the Discourse on the Resurrection

Gregory Thaumaturgus

For since the second Adam has brought up the first Adam out of the deeps of Hades, as Jonah was delivered out of the whale, and has set forth him who was deceived as a citizen of heaven to the shame of the deceiver, the gates of Hades have been shut, and the gates of heaven have been opened, so as to offer an unimpeded entrance to those who rise thither in faith. – On All The Saints

Origen

If you had said even of the Sibyl, whose authority some of you acknowledge, that she was a child of God, you would have said something more reasonable. But you have had the presumption to include in her writings many impious things, and set up as a god one who ended a most infamous life by a most miserable death. How much more suitable than he would have been Jonah in the whale’s belly, or Daniel delivered from the wild beasts, or any of a still more portentous kind!”- Contra Celsus, Book VII

Tertullian

Do the ears of God wait for sound? How, then, could Jonah’s prayer find way out unto heaven from the depth of the whale’s belly, through the entrails of so huge a beast; from the very abysses, through so huge a mass of sea? What superior advantage will they who pray too loudly gain, except that they annoy their neighbours? Nay, by making their petitions audible, what less error do they commit than if they were to pray in public? – On Prayer

Was that, then, the reason why Jonah thought not repentance necessary to the heathen Ninevites, when he tergiversated in the duty of preaching? or did he rather, foreseeing the mercy of God poured forth even upon strangers, fear that that mercy would, as it were, destroy (the credit of) his proclamation? and accordingly, for the sake of a profane city, not yet possessed of a knowledge of God, still sinning in ignorance, did the prophet well-nigh perish? except that he suffered a typical example of the Lord’s passion, which was to redeem heathens as well (as others) on their repentance. – On Modesty

” You will ask, Will then the fishes and other animals and carnivorous birds be raised again, in order that they may vomit up what they have consumed, on the ground of your reading in the law of Moses, that blood is required of even all the beasts? Certainly not. But the beasts and the fishes are mentioned in relation to the restoration of flesh and blood, in order the more emphatically to express the resurrection of such bodies as have even been devoured, when redress is said to be demanded of their very devourers. Now I apprehend that in the case of Jonah we have a fair proof of this divine power, when he comes forth from the fish’s belly uninjured in both his natures–his flesh and his soul. No doubt the bowels of the whale would have had abundant time during three days for consuming and digesting Jonah’s flesh, quite as effectually as a coffin, or a tomb, or the gradual decay of some quiet and concealed grave; only that he wanted to prefigure even those beasts (which symbolize) especially the men who are wildly opposed to the Christian name, or the angels of iniquity, of whom blood will be required by the full exaction of an avenging judgment. – On the Resurrection

To none other than Him is it suitable, who is also “the Father of mercies,” and (in the prophets) has been described as “full of compassion, and gracious, and plenteous in mercy.” In Jonah you find the signal act of His mercy, which He showed to the praying Ninevites. How inflexible was He at the tears of Hezekiah! How ready to forgive Ahab, the husband of Jezebel, the blood of Naborb, when he deprecated His anger. How prompt in pardoning David on his confession of his sin–preferring, indeed, the sinner’s repentance to his death, of course because of His gracious attribute of mercy. – Against Marcion, Book V

Look here then, say you: I discover a self-incriminating case in the matter of the Ninevites, when the book of Jonah declares, “And God repented of the evil that He had said that He would do unto them; and He did it not.” In accordance with which Jonah himself says unto the Lord, “Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish; for I knew that Thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil.” It is well, therefore, that he premised the attribute of the most good God as most patient over the wicked, and most abundant in mercy and kindness over such as acknowledged and bewailed their sins, as the Ninevites were then doing. For if He who has this attribute is the Most Good, you will have first to relinquish that position of yours, that the very contact with evil is incompatible with such a Being, that is, with the most good God. – Against Marcion, Book II

Constitutions of the Holy Apostles

So also, when God had caused Jonah to be swallowed up by the sea and the whale, upon his refusal to preach to the Ninerites, when yet he prayed to Him out of the belly of the whale, He retrieved his life from corruption. – BOOK II. OF BISHOPS, PRESBYTERS, AND DEACONS.

Clement of Alexandria

Thus also the prophetic utterances have the same force as the apostolic word. For Isaiah says, “If ye say, We trust in the LORD our God: now make an alliance with my Lord the king of the Assyrians.” And he adds: “And now, was it without the LORD that we came up to this land to make war against it?” And Jonah, himself a prophet, intimates the same thing in what he says: “And the shipmaster came to him, and said to him, Why dost thou snore? Rise, call on thy God, that He may save us, and that we may not perish.”‘ For the expression “thy God” he makes as if to one who knew Him by way of knowledge; and the expression, “that God may save us,” revealed the consciousness in the minds of heathens who had applied their mind to the Ruler of all, but had not yet believed. – The Stromata, Book V

Ireaneus

If, however, any one imagine it impossible that men should survive for such a length of time, and that Elias was not caught up in the flesh, but that his flesh was consumed in the fiery chariot, let him consider that Jonah, when he had been cast into the deep, and swallowed down into the whale’s belly, was by the command of God again thrown out safe upon the land. And then, again, when Ananias, Azarias, and Misael were cast into the furnace of fire sevenfold heated, they sustained no harm whatever, neither was the smell of fire perceived upon them. As, therefore, the hand of God was present with them, working out marvellous things in their case-[things] impossible [to be accomplished] by man’s nature-what wonder was it, if also in the case of those who were translated it performed something wonderful, working in obedience to the will of God, even the Father? – Against Heresies, Book V

Moreover, they distribute the prophets in the following manner: Moses, and Joshua the son of Nun, and Amos, and Habakkuk, belonged to Ialdabaoth; Samuel, and Nathan, and Jonah, and Micah, to Iao; Elijah, Joel, and Zechariah to Sabaoth; Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel, to Adohai; Tobias and Haggai to Eloi; Michaiah and Nahum to Oreus; Esdras and Zephaniah to Astanphaeus. Each one of these, then, glorifies his own father and God, and they maintain that Sophia, herself has also spoken many things through them regarding the first Anthropos (man), and concerning that Christ who is above, thus admonishing and reminding men of the incorruptible light, the first Anthropos, and of the descent of Christ.- Against Heresies, Book I

Justin Martyr

“And that He would rise again on the third day after the crucifixion, it is written in the memoirs that some of your nation, questioning Him, said, ‘Show us a sign;’ and He replied to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and no sign shall be given them, save the sign of Jonah.’ And since He spoke this obscurely, it was to be understood by the audience that after His crucifixion He should rise again on the third day. And He showed that your generation was more wicked and more adulterous than the city of Nineveh; for the latter, when Jonah preached to them, after he had been cast up on the third day from the belly of the great fish, that after three (in other versions, forty) days they should all perish, proclaimed a fast of all creatures, men and beasts, with sackcloth, and with earnest lamentation, with true repentance from the heart, and turning away from unrighteousness, in the belief that God is merciful and kind to all who turn from wickedness; so that the king of that city himself, with his nobles also, put on sackcloth and remained fasting and praying, and obtained their request that the city should not be overthrown. But when Jonah was grieved that on the (fortieth) third day, as he proclaimed, the city was not overthrown, by the dispensation of a gourd springing up from the earth for him, under which he sat and was shaded from the heat (now the gourd had sprung up suddenly, and Jonah had neither planted nor watered it, but it had come up all at once to afford him shade), and by the other dispensation of its withering away, for which Jonah grieved, [God] convicted him of being unjustly displeased because the city of Nineveh had not been overthrown, and said, ‘Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night. And shall I not spare Nineveh, the great city, wherein dwell more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?’ – Dialogue with Trypho

Ignatius

At the dawning of the Lord’s day He arose from the dead, according to what was spoken by Himself, “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man also be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The day of the preparation, then, comprises the passion; the Sabbath embraces the burial; the Lord’s Day contains the resurrection. – The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians

Clement of Rome

Noah preached repentance, and as many as listened to him were saved. Jonah proclaimed destruction to the Ninevites; but they, repenting of their sins, propitiated God by prayer, and obtained salvation, although they were aliens [to the covenant] of God. – First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians

 

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