Sunday, August 05, 2018

Sea monsters in the news?

CANDIDA MOSS: Did Researchers Just Solve the Jonah and the Whale Puzzle? Even if you grant the existence of miracles, where did the whale (people almost always think the fish is a whale) in the Mediterranean come from? (The Daily Beast). There have been attempts to drag the Bible's Jonah and the whale story into the announcement of the recent discovery that there used to be whales in the Mediterranean, but the Romans hunted them to extinction.

Up to now I have found these attempts far fetched and have not mentioned them. But Professor Moss succeeds in connecting Jonah's whale – and Leviathan! – to the new story in a credible and interesting way.

Incidentally, the Jonah story does not explicitly mention a "whale." I don't think ancient Hebrew had a specific word for whale. It says Jonah was swallowed by "a big fish." But a fish big enough to swallow a man whole and not even notice for a few days is a very big fish. It's hard to think of anything but a whale that would fit the description.

(Yes, I know that whales are mammals, not fish. I don't think the distinction would have mattered to an ancient Israelite.)

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