Date of Award
Dr. Joseph R. Dodson
Dr. Doug Nykolaishen
Dr. Tully Borland
This thesis will first examine the plot and rhetoric of Jonah with a special focus on how the prophet is disgraced by pagan characters. Attention with then be turned to the Gospel of Matthew. After determining the meaning and function of Matthew's "sign of Jonah" in context, we will discuss the sign as a link between the two works and an invitation to look for parallels. Finally, several points of contact will be suggested with emphasis on the ethnic reversals common to both works--how the faithful Gentiles in Matthew recall those in Jonah, and how Israel in Matthew resembles the disobedient prophet.
Before our expedition into the text, however, we must recognized the limits and merits of this kind of comparative study. In drawing connections and searching for parallels, we do not want to overestimate the influence of the Jonah on the plot of Matthew. Unlike Jonah, which by comparison is a simpler and more straightforward text, the first Gospel as a matter of genre is staggeringly complex. It contains a massive web of biblical echoes and typologies, some of which have a significant influence on the narrative (e.g. Jesus as the new Moses or the Son of David). Moreover, it weaves together many diverse Jesus traditions to address various theological, ecclesiastical, and ethical issues. To ignore these complexities in a quixotic search for Jonah parallels is to violate the text.
This does not, however, mean that a comparison of the works is unwarranted. Typology has been recognized by scholars as an important feature of Matthew. What is more, Jonah typology is inarguably present in the Gospel. The "sign of Jonah" appears twice in Matthew and the Ninevites once. No other New Testament books invokes the Jonah story as clearly and frequently. Jonah and Matthew also share a penchant for irony and explore similar questions: What are the boundaries of God's compassion? What happens when God's "chosen" resist his purposes and his "enemies" embrace them? Thus, because of the request of Matthew to examine the Jesus tradition vis-a-vis Jonah, and because of the similarities of the two narratives upon carful investigation, the intersection of Matthew and Jonah promises to be exegetically fruitful. As long as we restrict our search to those parallels intended by the author or likely to be heard by a biblically-literate audience, our project is not only permitted buy invited.
Several directions are open to our study, but we will restrict it to how Matthew's Gentiles act as types of sailors and Ninevites and thereby shame disobedient Israel. Attention from scholars has been given to the main instance of Jonah typology in Matthew: Jesus' function as a "new Jonah." But the Gentiles' similarity to the sailors and the Ninevites, and the subsequent antitype of Israel as the "old Jonah," have not been sufficiently explored. It is our hope that a Jonah-shaped reading will yield a richer understanding of the Gospel.
Redmon, Christopher L., "Faithless Israel, Faithful Gentiles: Ethnic Irony in Jonah and Matthew" (2014). Honors Theses. 213.