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SIDIC Periodical XVIII - 1985/1
The Prophet Jonah (Pages 09 - 16)

Other articles from this issue | Version in English | Version in French

Jesus and Jonah
Benoit Standaert


Jesus and Jonah

Jesus speaks about Jonah a number of times. If he knew the story, it was because he had heard it in the synagogue, possibly on a fast day such as Yom Kippur, the day of the Great Pardon. It seems clear that he recognized himself in this Galilean prophet of the Northern Kingdom.1

There is something obviously eccentric about the Book of Jonah. It makes one look away from a given central point towards another which one would prefer to avoid or to have neither seen nor heard! Jesus seems certainly to have lived and thought in an off-centered way himself. The example of Jonah is one among others which illustrates the divine off-centeredness at work in biblical history and Jesus makes use of it to clarify and explain his conduct.

Some of the parables of Jesus refer directly to the denouement of the Book of Jonah. There Is a striking similarity between the life of the prophet and what Jesus says in parable form. It can be concluded that there is a true spiritual relationship between Jesus and the author of this short narrative. That is why this tiny book from the Old Testament is often considered to be one of the closest to the New.

Finally, Jesus is another Jonah and Jonah may be considered a type of Jesus. The evangelists had already shown this relationship between the two and the Fathers of the Church pursued the same line of thought. The Book of Jonah was read as a story about Jesus while certain episodes in the life of Jesus were seen as a rejoinder to the narrative of Jonah.

The Sign of Jonah

"Then some of the scribes and pharisees said to him,
`Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you?
But he answered them,
"An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign;
but no sign shall be given it except the sign of
the prophet Jonah'"

(Matt. 12:3839; cf. Luk 11:29).

The demand for a sign — elsewhere "a sign from heaven" — amounted to demanding a resounding act of cosmic proportions which would demonstrate clearly that Jesus was the Messiah, the one sent by God, he who was to come. This demand is found in all four gospels. The contemporaries of Jesus wished to see "signs and wonders" (cf. Jn. 4:48; 6:2630; 2:18; Luk. 23:8; Mk. 8:11). It is quite possible that in the eyes of people today Jesus is rendered impressive by the very number of cures and exorcisms which are reported in the gospels. But in the eyes of his co-religionists, given their messianic expectations, it was all far too low-key. Far from being impressed by him, the contemporaries of Jesus were more likely to feel let down! He himself cried out:
"Woe to you Corazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works (signs) done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (cf. Jon. 3)" (Matt. 11:21; Luk. 10:13).

Even John the Baptist seems to have expected something more, or at least different, from Jesus:
"Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?"

Jesus answered by referring to the cures wrought for the blind, the lame and the lepers, in words which immediately recalled the prophet (cf. Is. 61. particularly):

"The poor have the good news preached to them."

Jesus read into these humble signs the way in which the kingdom of God was brought close in his person. He added these liberating words for the comfort of his precursor:

"And blessed is he who takes no offense at me!" (Matt. 11:6).

Jesus was not personally interested in doing extraordinary things. For him, faith and only faith was able to do the impossible. But those who demand signs at the same time refused to enter into communion with him by the simple path of abandonment in faith. Jesus referred to the "sign of Jonah" when he answered the scribes and pharisees.

These words of Jesus look very like a riddle. Is he anwering by suggesting a charade? A closer look shows that Jonah does not give any sort of sign to Nineveh! Moses arrived in Egypt with an arsenal of wonders and marvels at his disposal by which he was able to impress Pharoah and his court. In Exodus there is a whole range of "signs" down to the most bloody ones. Finally the Egyptian gives way before them and allows the Israelites to go.

But at Nineveh Jonah has nothing. Nothing, that is to say, except the Word. He preached, that is all. Thus Jesus tells his contemporaries who are demanding signs: Be converted. Follow the example of the Ninevites; they were converted simply by the word of the prophet Jonah! Don't look for anything Iles! Theone thing that matters is faith! (cf. Mk. 1:15: Repent, and believe in the gospel.")2

Mark has his own way of telling the episode of the demand for a sign. Perhaps the story of Jonah was not sufficiently well known in his community for the reference to the prophet to be included. In any case, he has left it out.

... immediately he got into the boat with his disciples, and went to the district of Dalmanutha. The pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.' And he left them, and getting into the boat again he departed to the other side" (Mk. 8:11-13).

What in Matthew and Luke is called the "sign of Jonah" appears in Mark as "no sign" (cf. again Matt. 16:3; 12:28,29). The answer given by the others in the form of a charade becomes here a simple and forceful negative. But this is indeed what Jesus wished to signify. Those who demanded "signs" showed that they did not come as believers. Luke tells us that Herod was glad to be able to meet Jesus when he was finally arrested, because

"he was hoping to see some sign done by him° (Luk. 23:8).

Jesus asks for conversion and faith; "signs" or miracles are something quite different (cf. Jn. 4:48).

Let us look again at the framework given to this brief episode by Mark. At the beginning Jesus embarks (Mk. 8:10) and immediately afterwards gets into the boat again (v. 13). Jonah the prophet, who puts out to sea and then returns from it, still seems to be lingering around the Madan pericope, even if his name has been carefully left out of the story (see later the commentary on Mk. 4:35-41).

Jonah, Elijah, Elisha

"The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon and behold, something greater than Solomon is here" (Matt. 12:41,42; cf. Luk. 11: 31,32).

Here Jesus expresses his disappointment at the lack of response from his contemporaries. He of ten speaks of it, as in the words which have become proverbial: "No prophet is acceptable in his own country" (Luk. 4:24; Mk. 6:5; Matt. 13:57; Jn. 4:44). He hoped for conversion and recalled examples of Jonah at Nineveh and the queen of Sheba come to listen to the wisdom of Solomon. In telling his Jewish listeners that on the last day the pagans would precede them and even judge them, Jesus was offering very great provocation. What he had been unable to obtain by joyful proclamation of the coming kingdom, he tried to gain through threats bearing on the last judgment.

Offering the example of non-Jews in order to bring the true sons of Israel to conversion is a ploy used by Jesus elsewhere in the gospel. We have seen already how the towns of Tyre and Sidon, symbolizing the pagan world, are quoted in relation to the villages of Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matt. 11:20-22). Capernaum was compared to nothing less than Sodom (cf. Is. 1:10)!

"And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you" (Matt. 11:23,24).

"I tell you, many will come from the east and west and sit down at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth° (cf. Matt. 8:11,12; Luk. 13:28,29).

Jesus was dismayed by the incredulity of those around him (cf. Mk. 6:16) whilst he admired the faith of foreigners like the Roman centurion (Mk 8:5-13; cf. Luk. 7:1-10; Jn. 4:46-53) or the Syro-Phoenician woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon (Mk. 7:24-30; Matt. 15:21-28). Reflecting on what he saw, Jesus allowed himself to be guided by the examples given him in biblical tradition. Those Ninevites who were converted by the word of Jonah, here was an impressive example of the "last" who became the "first" (cf. Mk. 10;31ff). There was also the queen of Sheba, come from the ends of the earth. Elsewhere Jesus evokes the memory of Elijah who was sent by God to a widow of Sarephta (still in the same region of Tyre and Sidon) when there were God knows how many poor widows in Israel! Or again Elisha who cured Naaman the Syrian of leprosy, when one never heard tell of a similar miracle worked for a leper in Israel (cf. Luk. 4:24-27).

What Jesus says concerning Jonah and the people of Nineveh can thus be put into a wider context of words spoken and remarks made during his ministry. The experience of not being really accepted by his contemporaries, especially the most religious among them, gives rise spontaneously to examples taken from the life of the prophets of old. He seems to recognize himself in whatever of the off-centered or marginalized existed in one or other of them. Coming from Galilee, object of scorn to Judea, Jesus identified more directly with some of the prophets of the Northern Kingdom: Jonah, Elijah, Elisha.

"Is your eye evil because I am good?"

Two of the parables of Jesus, recounted by Luke and Matthew, end in the same way as the Book of Jonah: that of the prodigal son (Luk. 15) and the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 20). A closer look shows that not only is the denouement exactly the same, but the triangular relationship which holds together the plot of each narrative has the same bearing in all three cases.

In the Book of Jonah
(i) the Lord God
(ii) is concerned about the inhabitants of Nineveh because of their sinful behavior
(iii) and he sends his prophet Jonah, son of Ammitai to them.
In the parable of the forgiving father and his two sons,
(i) there is the figure of the father
(ii) who is worried about his lost son,
(iii) and finally tries to persuade his eldest son to share in the feast.

"For your younger brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found" (Luk. 15: 11-32)!

In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard,

(i) there is the landowner
(ii) who goes out at every hour of the day to bring laborers into his vineyard
(iii) and is upbraided by those who have worked from the first hour (Matt. 20:1-16).

The two parables of Jesus speak of God's way of acting, although it is reflected in Jesus' own behavior. It is not too difficult to reconstruct the concrete situation for which these two parables were intended (cf. works of J. Dupont and J. Lambtecht). Jesus is subjected to criticism from the religious milieu in which he lived, that of the Pharisees. He is accused of "eating" without distinction with "publicans and sinners" (Luk. 15:2; 5:30; 7:34-39; 19:7). By way of answering these criticisms, Jesus invents a new framework; he tells stories, he dishes up parables. In this way he hopes to bring back the pious Jews, who can be scandalized by him, to a better understanding of what is at stake and to a true conversion. Behind the differences of opinion, the teal question is that of our relationship with God.

The Denouement

Considered from a rather more formal point of view, our two parables both end with a conversation. Thprotest is made and then followed by the divine response. On each occasion the latter is made in two stages: the relationship between the two protagonists is redefined before the relationship with the third person — the sinner: "prodigal son° or "laborer at the eleventh hour" — is made perfectly clear. The last word, in the form of a question, is always a pressing invitation to share, in spite of everything, in the point of view expressed by the father or the landowner, that is to say, in that of Jesus inasmuch as he transmits God's point of view.

The Book of Jonah also closes with a similar conversation (ch. 4). The prophet moans and protests and God answers him, and this reply is also in two stages. In the first stage, it is question of the relationship between Jonah and the castor oil plant. In the second stage, it is the relationship of God with this immense pagan city which is revealed, also in the form of a question:

"Should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?" (Jon. 4:11).

Here also the last word comes as an invitation to understand God's action in a different way.3

For each of the three stories the denouement ends abruptly in the middle: we never know if Jonah allows himself to be convinced. We never learn if the elder son has made the step forward into the house to join his father at the feast. We do not hear the reaction of the laborers to the last question:

"Is your eye evil because I am good?"

The art of the story-teller has in each of the three cases succeeded in challenging his real questioner who is other than the actors in the drama. The framework of the narrative splits open for a moment and the telling of a story from the past becomes a discourse, a direct and relevant word. Whether or not to take the step forward into the paternal home is no longer something freely decided by the story-teller, but only by his questioner. Jesus holds out his hand to the pharisee who will decide the issue of his own free-will. It is the same with Jonah, whose final conversion marks a process through which many Jewish communities had to pass after the return from exile. This last work of God is addressed to them.

Spiritual kinship and literary Independence

All this shows the close kinship which exists between the Book of Jonah and certain of Jesus' parables. The same narrative structure can be seen in both of them, also the same consummate art in leading an opponent to agree with you in spite of himself.

Nevertheless there is nothing to show that Jesus intended to make a new version of the Jonah story in the two parables that have been quoted. The author of the story about the prophet sent to Nineveh was holding free and open discussion with certain observant communities of his day. He was offering them a wider view of history, a different picture of God and his designs than the one they cherished in their pious circles. The author of the Ruth scroll does the same, starting from certain ancient traditions about the ancestors of King David. Both the one and the other were operating as scholars filled with a new vision. They drew out of their treasures the most ancient and venerable stories and enriched them with a culture both prophetic and sapiential.

Jesus was steeped in the tradition which had produced stories such as those of Ruth and Jonah. Moreover he had experienced in his own life dilemmas and conflicts similar to those underlying a writing such as the Book of Jonah. Inevitably he had assimilated certain oratorical styles, subtle forms of dialogue or attractive characterizations. This means that the similarities which can be detected cannot be interpreted as direct borrowing or intentional imitation. They are the products of a quasi-analogous situation and a common culture. But just because they were not sought after for their own sake, they are all the more instructive. Jonah and Jesus shed light on each other. If the author of Jonah is first of all a scholar who "brings forth new and old from his treasure", Jesus, at least in these two parables, is above all a poet who freely creates new images from old forms, remembered or partly forgotten.

In our two parables the relationship between God and Jesus is a direct one. Jesus himself plays the part of the forgiving father or the landowner. By this identification he lets his questioners know that his behavior does not deviate in the slightest from that of the Lord God.

The "sinners", called elsewhere "tax-collectors and harlots" (cf. Matt. 21:31,32), are recognizable in the "lost son" and again in the "laborers at the eleventh hour". They see themselves accepted, hired, freely forgiven for the sole reason that God is God and his kingdom is near. There is rejoicing that one man, however lost, responds to the invitation to conversion. Two other parables should be read again: that of thetwo sons in Matt. 21:28-32 and that of the children playing in the market place (Matt. 11:16-19; Luk. 7:28-34).

The plot at the heart of the parables begins to unfold with the introduction of the third role, that of the "elder son" or the laborers at the "first hour". These challenge what is happening. In their criticism and protest Jesus gives voice to the criticism levelled at him by the pharisees. Indirectly their reproaches show that they misunderstand God. Their way of relating to him is frankly deficient. The elder son is far from seeing himself the way the father sees him:

"Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command" (Luk. 15:29).

He served his father like a slave and saw himself as under his father's orders. The father's language is quite different:

"Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours" (verse 31).

You share in everything I have. You are my sole heir. You are truly my son (cf. Matt. 11:27; Mk. 12:7; In. 16:15; 17:10). Indirectly we learn here how Jesus himself relates to God: always at home with him, he lives the sharing of everything in perfect openness and total reciprocity (cf. Matt. 11:27). How different from those who consider they have a duty to criticize him. Jesus tells them in confidence that they are far more loved by God and accepted by him than they could ever believe themselves to be. It is precisely for that reason that they must welcome the "other son° as their brother and share in the feast given in his honor. A new relationship with God brings with it the discovery of a new fraternal relationship.

Jesus as another Jonah

Formed by listening to the scriptures, the first Christians were led to see in the story of Jesus all sorts of echoes of Moses and the prophets. In this way many prophetic utterances found a new fulfilment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Inversely, the Christ-event shed new light on many passages from Moses, Elijah and the psalms." In this way the Book of Jonah was also subject to Christian re-interpretation and the life of Jesus was told in recalling and evoking the details of the story of Jonah.

Three passages from the gospels show this in a special way. After the parabolic discourse Mark tells us that Jesus enters the boat in order to cross the lake (Mk. 4:35-41). Immediately a storm breaks out. The disciples panic and are completely helpless. But, the narrator tells us, Jesus "was in the stern, asleep on a cushion" (Mk. 4:38). Every reader who is familiar with the bible knows that other man of God who slept through a storm — even if it was for different reasons! On that occasion also the sailors and the captain were completely helpless and each one invoked his god to come and save him! It is worth noting that the disciples turned to Jesus rather than calling upon the Lord God.

When the two passages are compared more closely it can be seen that Matthew has reproduced an expression from the Greek version of the Book of Jonah just as it stands. He ends his account by saying:

"And the men (anthrOpoi) marvelled, saying, 'What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?'" (Matt. 8:27).

In Jonah 1:16 (LXX) the word used in the rest of the chapter to designate the sailors is replaced by "the men" (anthropoi). This substitution, as much in Matthew as in Jonah, tends to express recognition that something truly divine has happened: man recognizes that God is at work is this situation (cf. Ps. 65:6). After the crossing Jesus and his disciples disembark in the region of Gadara or Gerasene (cf. Mk. 5:1; Matt. 8:28; IAA. 8:26). Just as Jonah became prophet to the pagans after his adventure at sea, so also does Jesus: a mission to the whole of pagan Decapolis now unfolds (cf. Matt. 13:52).

Another example is found in Matthew's reflection on the words of Jesus about the "sign of Jonah° (Matt. 12:38-40) 5

"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead "on the third day" or "after three days" (I Cor. 15:4; Mk. 8:31; cf. Matt. 16:21) finds a parallel in the sojourn of Jonah in the belly of the whale which has not been missed by exegesis on Matthew. This similarity is based to a certain extent on a Jewish reading of the Book of Jonah where his time in the whale has always been interpreted in terms of a descent into hell. The most ancient Jewish commentaries as well as the most recent ones linger especially over those days passed in the belly of a fish. One can read in the Midrash on Jonah as well as in the Zohar:

"The fish which swallowed Jonah means the tomb; (...) the entrails of the fish are hell (sheol)." 6

The parallel text in Luke has a more mysterious note to it than the version from Matthew that has just been read:

"For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation" (Luk. 11:30).

The two texts have many things in common: "For as Jonah was..." "so will the Son of man be..."

Nevertheless Matthew has brought out the parallelism between the two phrases more successfully by speaking explicitly of the sojourn of the prophet in the belly of the sea monster. The sojourn of Jonah in hell and his resurrection are therefore sign and prefiguration of he who is to come, Jesus, who must die and after three days be raised again. Matthew the teacher is anxious, here as elsewhere, that his community should really understand the meaning of Jesus' words.

The Lucan text is less clear (11:30) and is generally considered to be older than that of Matthew. The repetition of the word "sign", associated with "this generation" makes the verse more easily joined to the preceding one.

"This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given it except the sign of Jonah"
(verse 29).

How therefore can verse 30 be interpreted?

At Nineveh Jonah did not perform any sign or miracle in support of his call to conversion, neither would this generation receive what it was claiming. This is the first possible meaning of the "sign of Jonah" (v. 29) in this context. But was not Jonah himself a marvel, a sign, a miracle? Thrown overboard in the middle of a storm, he yet preached to the great city of Nineveh. Was not the preaching in itself an absolutely amazing event?

There ere no more signs

It is difficult to tell whether the most profound understanding of the "sign of Jonah" goes back to Jesus himself or only to the first Christians; the thought, however, is incontestably original. It allows one to glimpse the powerful idea that at a certain moment in time there are no more "signs" to be looked for apart from the person who is acting and testifying. Life itself becomes a "sign" from one end of it to the other. Jonah did not make use of a single sign. He was a sign. A moment came in the preaching of Jesus after which he no longer worked signs and miracles. He is a sign by reason of the gift of his life even unto death. He is an absolute sign which puts an end to all further search for signs and prodigies.

The words of Jesus, like those of the rabbis elsewhere, often have a double meaning or let themselves be heard on two levels: there is the meaning intended for the "crowd" and also a significance that can be grasped by the inner circle of disciples. The mysterious expression: "no sign . . . except the sign of Jonah" should be looked at from this double point of view. Mark has perhaps kept the real meaning for the crowd: no sign for this generation (Mk. 8:13). This is in fact the real meaning of the word, even in connection with Jonah. Luke has perhaps kept the word with the explanation, as Jesus might have given it to the inner circle of disciples. Matthew has taken care to rewrite and clarify the word for the Christian community of his day. The explanation of verse 30 adds nothing to what Jesus wanted to say to the listeners who did not believe in him: in no way would this "wicked" generation be given spectacular signs to gaze at! But indirectly we grasp something of the way in which Jesus saw himself: he is a prophet to such a degree that his whole life is called upon to become "sign" even to death itself. It is with thisself-understanding that Jesus embarks on the last stage of his mission and by which he signified his death, in the final act of bread broken and cup shared with his friends. It is therefore difficult to see how the idea underlying verse 30 would not have dated back to Jesus himself. In so far as Jesus had to take into account the fact that 'this generation" did not support him, but on the contrary were ready to threaten his life, he would have come to consider his death as inevitable and to think about the meaning it might have within his prophetic mission. This would have convinced him that by dying he would be able to say and bring about those things which his words, or even his actions, had been unable to communicate.

For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation?

By his death and resurrection Jesus became wholly "sign" of God's will that all should be saved. The rejection of all signs contains within it a reference to a unique sign which would coincide with death. Such immediacy is not alien to Jesus. Martyrs speak the same language. To every °adulterous and sinful genes ation no other sign will be given..."


This mysterious verse in Luk. 11:30 has over the centuries become the key par excellence for every Christian reading of the Book of Jonah. Jesus is another Jonah, and Jonah is figure and prefiguration of Jesus. St. Jerome's commentary on the Book of Jonah which follows the lines laid down by Origen, illustrates the exemplarity of the prophet in each verse and connects his life with the gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and even the life of the apostle Paul.

One of the most vivid examples of this exegesis is to be found in the Sistine chapel and comes from the hand of Michelangelo. Jonah appears just above the altar, dominating the immense painting of the last judgment, which Michelangelo only painted twenty-five years later, and where the Son of man is seen risen in power and glory to judge all generations.

The ceiling of the Sistine chapel is dedicated to the other extreme of history: the beginnings are depicted there, from creation to the fall of the first couple, while prophets and sibyls wait for and announce a saviour. He himself is not depicted anywhere there. Only in the four corners of the chapel can be seen the four signs of his glorious coming: David cuts off the head of Goliath; Judith with her handmaid carries away the head of Holofernes; Moses raises the saving serpent on his staff, while Haman hangs on the gibbet already prepared for Mardochai. Around the edge of the ceiling, between the big windows, Michelangelo has depicted seven prophets and five sibyls. Each of these figures foretells the future and proclaims their messianic prophecies from books or scrolls. Only Jonah is resurrection. As no other, he prefigures in his own person he whom he announces; he is wholly and entirely the sign of him who is to come. In seeing Jonah, we see the saviour himself saved, the expected messiah: "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures... he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3,4).

* Dom Benott Standaert, OSB. belongs to the Abbaye de Saint-Andre, Brugge. He has studied at Antwerp, Rome and Jerusalem and defended his doctoral thesis on the subject of the composition and literary genre of the Gospel according to Mark.

1. "Jonah" (lit. "dove" in Hebrew, cf. the dove in the Flood, Gen. 9), son of Amittai, which the Fathers of the Church translate as "son of my truth", is already mentioned in II Kgs 14:25,26. He is presented as a prophet of the Northern Kingdom who prophesied at the time of Jeroboam II (787-747). He came from Gath-ha-Hefer, a town in Galilee (Jos. 19:13 puts it in Zabulon). Later traditions, known to the Fathers of the Church, identified him with the son of the widow of Sarephta, raised to life by Elijah. This last detail makes Jonah a resurrected person from his infancy. Cf. Duval, Le Livre de Jonas dans la littOrature chrętienne grecoe et latine, Sources et influence du commentaire sur Jonas de Saint Jerome. Coll. Etudes Augustiniennes, 2 t., Paris 1973, P. 89, n. 92 et 328, n. 13.
2. Jonah appears paralleled with Moses in an ancient translation with commentary of Dent. 30:11-14, the Targum of the Neofiti Codex: "The law is not in heaven so (that you have) to say: eAh! If only we had someone like Moses the prophet who would go up to heaven and fetch it for us, enabling us to hear the precepts so that we could put them into practice!' Neither is the law in the depths of the sea so (that you have) to say: eAh! If only we had someone like Jonah the prophet, who would descend into the depths of the sea and bring it up for us, enabling us to hear the precepts so that we could put them into practice!' See R. Le Deaut and J. Robert, Tatgum et Pentateuque, T. IV, Denteronome, Paris 1980, p. 248, c. XXX, 12-13. In John's Gospel, the demand for a "sign from heaven" is directly linked with Moses and the miracle of the manna —"bread from heaven" (Jn. 6:26, 30-33).
3. Cf. Matt. 20:15 "Is your eye evil because I am good?" with Jon. 4:4, 9: "Do you do well to be angry?"
4. Notice how this double movement back and forth between Jesus and the scriptures is worked out in the writings of Luke. In the episode of the disciples at Emmaus it is the life of Jesus which is enlightened by the scriptures; on the contrary, in the meeting between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, it is a passage from Isaiah which is given meaning by the life, death and glorification of Jesus (Luk. 24:27; cf. 44-47; Acts 8:32-35).
5. Here we can observe the Christian rabbis at work concretely (d. Matt. 13:52) following the pattern of the midrashim (biblical commentaries); the word midrash comes from the root dararb which, in its verbal form, means to search.
6. See Y.M. Duval op. cit., p. 108. Also see the Targum on Deut. 30:11-14 already quoted. Jonah descended into hell as Moses went up to heaven. In Eph. 4:8-9 Jesus is presented as the one who has both gone up (like Moses) and descended (like Jonah), thus accomplishing in his person the destiny of the two prophets. Cf. Rom. 10: 6-10; Duval, pp. 75-76.


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