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Author Topic:   Jonah and the whale - It happened!
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Message 1 of 145 (82190)
02-02-2004 3:25 PM

Jonah and whale
Some people have dismissed the Book of Jonah as mere allegory. Many people have done this, however, because they were not aware of various information that is available in the disciplines of science and history that lends credence to the Jonah account. For example, this webpage offers expert testimony and other evidence that supports a sperm whales gullet is big enough to fit a man. Also, I do offer historical/archeological support for the Book of Jonah that readers will find interesting.
In summary, this webpage is devoted to clearing up some of the issues that some Christians and skeptics have regarding the Book of Jonah.
Here are some examples:
1. "But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken" - Jonah 1:4
2. "And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil [is] upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah." - Jonah 1:7
3. "Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life...So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging." Jonah 1: 14,15
4. "Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah." - Jonah 1:17
5. "And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry [land]." - Jonah 2:10
6. The revival of Ninevah Jonah 3: 5-9
7. "And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made [it] to come up over Jonah." - Jonah 4:6
8. "But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered." - Jonah 4:7
9. "But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered." - Jonah 4:8
I also want to point this out because we can not rule out supernatural interventions as far as Jonah being able to survive and Jonah clearly does pray for the intervention of God as can be seen here:
Jonah 2:1-3
Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,
And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, [and] thou heardest my voice.
And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, [and] thou heardest my voice.
For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me."
see the King James Version at: Bible Search and Study Tools - Blue Letter Bible
We do not know if the sea creature that swallowed Jonah was a whale and this will be clearly demonstrated later.
There seems to be differences of opinion regarding a man being able to survive in a sperm whale in terms of oxygen requirements and the acidity level in various portions of the digestive system. There also seems to be differences of opinions regarding the respiratory tract and this will be discussed later.
With these two issues in mind, I will address the possibilty of supernatural intervention by God in terms of Noah surviving.
What was Jonah being afflicted with (see above verse in Jonah 2:1-3, specifically: "And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD")? The general dire circumstance of being swallowed by a whale? Lack of air? Gastric Juices? We simply do not know. In the context of a God creating the unvierse out of nothing and doing many miracles and many people experiencing miracles today including myself I am led to believe that God could have overcome issues that would have made the whales or other sea creatures internal area inhospitable if necessary. It could have been as easy as having the whale open its mouth more often to provide more air. On the other hand, God could have supernaturally created more iar if it was needed. God saved the men from a fiery furnace for example. Some commentators even postulate that God resurrected Jonah in the whale since the Jonah account is associated with the resurrection of Christ (Jesus compared the duration of his death and resurrection to the time Jonah spent in the whale). I do not favor the resurrection account but again I certainly cannot rule it out since God clearly did intervene more than once in the Jonah/whale account.
Christian/Jewish scholars rightly point out that the creature in the book of Jonah is not necesarily a whale but should be translated "great fish". For commentary on the Hebrew and Greek please see the following websites:
Page not found - Apologetics Press
The Book of Jonah says that God prompted the great fish to vomit Jonah on dry land. Therefore, the sea creature that swallowed Jonah must have a large mouth (and esophagus in cases where the esophagus would be used) in order to accomplish this feat. I believe the best suspects for sea creatures are the sperm whale and the great white shark based on my investiagation (I discuss why the other suspects scholars cite are not as good: grouper fish, other whales and sharks, unknown or extinct species).
According to a very well done Jewish website that uses excellent sources the following is true in regards to the sperm whale:
"Robinson, a senior marine science instructor [at Seaworld], and Parham, a science writer,
methodically studied the few clues that the Bible offers for solving the
Robinson said that large sperm whales have esophaguses that measure as large
as 50 centimeters, or roughly a foot and a half wide. They can be found in
the Mediterranean.....
However, men often measure more than a foot and a half across their
shoulders, so in order for his swallower to have been a sperm whale, Jonah
would have to have been of fairly slight build. "
taken from:
Another website concurs and says the following:
Pinney (1964) quoted the Director of a Museum of Natural history:
"Many people asked me if the Bible story of Jonah is true. Could a man be swallowed by a whale? So I pushed my body partly down the throat of a dead sixty foot sperm whale. I could just squeeze through. A fat man couldn’t have made it."
A website offers the following:
The largest of the toothed whales is the Sperm Whale. This grows to 25 metres. The diet of Sperm Whales includes large objects such as giant squids. Bullen (1923) wrote:
"and a shark fifteen feet in length has been found in the stomach of a cachelot ." (p. 125)
Bullen wrote:
"when dying, the cachelot always ejected the contents of his stomach" (p.69)
On one occasion Bullen saw ejected material which included:
"a massive fragment of cuttle fish - tentacle or arm - as thick as a stout man’s body" (p. 69)
Bullen continued:
"contrary to the usual notion of a whale’s being unable to swallow a herring, here was a kind of whale that could swallowwell , a block four or five feet square apparently; who lived upon creatures as large as himself, if one might judge of their bulk by the sample to hand; but being unable, from only possessing teeth in one jaw, to masticate his food, was compelled to tear it in sizeable pieces, bolt it whole, and leave his digestive apparatus to do the rest." (p. 70)
Bullen described how he himself came close to being swallowed when a whale smashed the whaleboat throwing the whalers into the sea. (pp. 101-102)
Extract from page 69 of The Cruise of the Cachelot (1923/1944 Frank T Bullen John Murray London):
He [the mate] told me that, when dying, the cachelot always ejected the contents of his stomach, which were invariably composed of such masses as we saw before us; that he believed the stuff to be portions of big cuttle-fish, bitten off by the whale for the purpose of swallowing, but he wasn’t sure. Anyhow, I could haul this piece alongside now, if I liked, and see. Wondering at the indifference shown by this officer of forty years’ whaling experience to such a wonderful fact, I thanked him, and, sticking the boat-hook into the lump, drew it alongside. It was at once evident that it was a massive fragment of cuttle-fishtentacle or armas thick as a stout man’s body"
From p. 105 of The Cruise of the Cachelot:
Indeed, not many tears ago a popular M.P., writing to one of the religious papers, allowed himself to say that "science will not hear of a whale with a gullet capable of admitting anything larger than a man’s fist."a piece of crass ignorance, which is also perpetrated in the appendix to a very widely-distributed edition of the Authorized Version of the Bible. This opinion, strangely enough, is almost universally held
taken from:
The Jewish site mentioned earlier has Mr. Robinson, a senior marine science instructor at Seaworld offering the following:
"He said sperm whales don't have to chew their food, they can move it into their stomachs by peristaltic or muscle action -- so Jonah could have been swallowed whole."
taken from:
Another websites seems to concur:
Sperm whales, with their two stomachs, large throat, and biting jaw equipped with large teeth, have well documented appetites. Sharks ten to twelve feet long appear to be swallowed as easily as Jonah was! Three undigested, ten-foot sharks were found at one time in a large bull Sperm whale’s stomach at Naden Harbour. Squid measuring over thirty feet long, and several hundred pounds in weight, were also found, nearly intact, in a forty-five foot Sperm.....
A major discussion on Jonah occurred in the Princeton Theological Review October 1927 and October 1928. Ambrose John Wilson of Oxford, England, cited a whaling station manager that the skeleton of a shark sixteen feet long had been found in a whale."
taken from:
I will discuss the specific historical information that I believe makes the Jonah account credible in depth later. For now, I will discuss the accounts of men surviving inside a whale that occur outside of a Biblical context briefly.
1. Marshall Jenkins in 1771:
A website says the following:
Another individual, Marshall Jenkins, was swallowed by a Sperm Whale in the South Seas. The Boston Post Boy, October 14, 1771, reported that an Edgartown (U.S.A.) whaling vessel struck a whale, and that after the whale had bitten one of the boats in two, it took Jenkins in its mouth and went under the water with him. After returning to the surface, the whale vomited him on to the wreckage of the broken boat, "much bruised but not seriously injured...."
[my commentary: The Marshall Jenkins account occurred over 200 years ago. I do not see any witnesses cited. I do not see a lot of details given. I think further investigation is warranted if this account is going to be offered as good evidence but it is somewhat plausible given that Marshall Jenkins was not cited as being in the whale for an extended period (I am getting conflicting information regarding the possibilty of a man being in a whale for an extended time without the benefit of supernatural intervention and this will be discussed later].
The Marshall Jenkins information was taken from the following website and the website gives the following footnote: Ambrose John Wilson, "The Sign of the Prophet Jonah and Its Modern Confirmations," The Princeton Theological Review 25 (1927): 636-37.
2) Another account of a man being swallowed by a whale and survivng
Australasian Post, December 3, 1988:
Modern Jonah?
The biblica1 story of Jonah and the whale was repeated in Australian waters in 1820 when a crewman from the American whaler Essex was lost overboard from a harpoon boat.
Two hours later, as the whale was being stripped of its blubber, the crew noticed movement and slit open the mammal’s stomach.
The man said he remembered passing down a narrow passage and then he fainted inside a "large, noisome space."
[my commentary: So far I found no internet sites confirmed the Essex account cited by the author at the Investigator Magazine site says he/she read in the Australasian Post, December 3, 1988. Several internet sites, including the BBC, cited the Essex being attacked by a sperm whale but gave no reference to a man being swallowed by a whale and being recovered 48 hours later. I see no witnesses cited and a lack of details. I do not believe this can be offered as good evidence].
taken from:
3) James Bartley - The James Bartley account of a man being swallowed by a sperm whale and living in all likelihood is a hoax.
See the following websites:
Page not found - BBC Bitesize
It is obviously unfortunate that people play are deceptive and do hoaxes. It is a fact of life in many fields, however, that hoaxes occur. This does not mean, however, and this is important, that we should throw out all knowledge in a particular area of study because of hoaxes. To do so, we would throw out the whole field of archaeology for example. In short, we have to be judicious. I do think however that currently there is no real solid evidence for the men in whale accounts that are outside the Bible. Perhaps, further investigation will turn up more details and/or witnesses. I am going to do some more research but not extensive research into this matter.
4. I am getting conflicting science opinions on whether or not a man could survive in a sperm whale in terms of oxygen availibility and the acidity of the digestive system. I will adress these issues later.
I do not believe, however and this is an important point that this would pose a problem for Jonah because the Book of Jonah has supernatural intervention in many cases in regards to the Jonah/fish account and in regards to the rest of the accounts in the Bookof Jonah. [see my previous commentary]
A website article declares the following:
"Another creature large enough to swallow a man is the voracious White Shark Carcharius vulgaris which grows to ten metres. This shark often swallows its meal without chewing and it occurs in the Mediterranean Seawhere Jonah allegedly was swallowed. The Sperm Whale occurs there too and anciently there was a Phoenician whaling industry based at the port of Joppa where Jonah embarked on the ship.
Nineteenth century scholar E B Pusey (1886) cited examples of people found, dead in the stomachs of White Sharks. In one instance a stomach contained a reindeer without horns. In another was a horse.
In 1939 a White Shark was caught which contained two smaller sharks - two metres long each - in its stomach. (Whitley 1940; Backus & Lineaweaver 1970)"
taken from:
Another website says that according to the science writer Parham that following is true:
"Parham added that "in the cold water, with the metabolism of a shark, a
man's body could last three days without deterioration..."
taken from:
Lastly, another website declares the folllowing:
"From: E B Pusey (1886) The Minor Prophets
A natural historian of repute relates, "In 1758 in stormy weather a sailor fell overboard from a frigate in the Mediterranean. A shark was close by, which, as he was swimming and crying for help took him in his wide throat, so that he forthwith disappeared. Other sailors had leapt into the sloop, to help their comrade, while yet swimming; the captain had a gun which stood on the deck discharged at the fish, which struck it so, that it cast out the sailor which it had in its throat, who was taken up, alive and little injured, by the sloop which had now come up. The fish was harpooned, taken up on the frigate, and dried. The captain made a present of the fish to the sailor who, by God’s Providence, had been so wonderfully preserved. The sailor went round Europe exhibiting it. He came to Franconia, and it was publicly exhibited here in Erlangen, as also at Nurnberg and other places. The dried fish was delineated. It was 20 feet long and, with expanded fins, nine feet wide and weighed 3924 pounds. From all this, it is probable that this was the fish of Jonah." "
taken from:
A tiger shark was found near India with a man's skeleton and clothes in it:
Here is the website:
Also, consider this information taken from a website:
"Robinson told of seeing a photograph "of a great white shark opening its
mouth, and it had within its gullet a whole blue shark. You could see the
head of a six-foot blue shark, so it could easily swallow a man."
taken from:
I do not see how a person could maintain that God chose the great white shark to swallow Jonah and not recognize the fact that it would require God to provide oxygen to Jonah or to resurrect Jonah after he died.
Some people suspect the Rhinodon shark could be a suspect as far as a fish that swallowed Jonah but the websites that had the most knowledgable people did not cite this shark and it may not inhabit the Mediterranean Sea. Plus the Bible says it was a "great fish" and the great white shark seems to fit this "great" criteria better.
Many animals including sea creatures have gone extinct and may have been able to swallow Jonah.
Here is an excellent site that discusses this possibilty:
Also consider this information from a website:
"The KJV Bible Commentary states:
The Smithsonian Institution has on record an incident in which one fish swallowed another fish that weighed fifteen hundred pounds. The precise identity of the fish is not important. Apparently, God has a number of fish in His repertoire capable of the feat. The important fact is that God is in control of His creature, and His creature unwittingly obeys and serves His purposes."
Whales are divided into two main groupsbaleen whale and toothed whales. Baleen whales have numerous horny plates suspended from the upper jaw which are used for straining out tiny sea creatures. The biggest baleen whale is the Blue Whale which weighs as much as 25 elephants. Blue Whales, however, have a small gullet and rarely swallow anything larger than a penguin.
A website declares the following in regards to the grouper fish:
"Sure, giant groupers have sucked down divers' legs, but there is no evidence
they've ever ingested a whole person."
taken from:
A website declares the following:
An interesting sidepoint is that Jonah says:
"Weeds were wrapped about my head
at the roots of the mountains." (2:5)
Geologist Harold L. Levin wrote:
"Eighteenth-century scientists had little knowledge of the topography of the ocean floors. They lived at a time when depth measurements were made by letting down a lead weight on the end of a rope. Not only was this method time consuming, but in the open ocean it was virtually impossible to prevent error from lateral drifting of the weight, or the ship, or both. As a result of these problems, only a limited number of soundings were made except in bays and offshore areas where such information was vital for safe navigation. Oceanographers interpreted the few measurements available as indicating that the ocean floors were monotonous flat plains. With the advent of continuous topographic profiles from echo-sounding devices, it was shown that the ocean floors are as irregular as the surface of the continents. Beneath the waves lay canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, and mountain systems more magnificent than the Rockies." (Levin 1981 p. 320
I don’t imagine that Jonah saw the "roots of the mountains" in the Mediterranean Sea by peeking out of the mouth of the fish. Perhaps he guessed; perhaps he was "inspired". At any rate he got it right. "
taken from:
Jews at the time of Jesus viewed Jonah as history. For example Jesus once said:
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 men of Nineveh will arise in the judgement with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah. (Matthew 12:40-41
That the Jonah account was intended as history rather than allegory is the more obvious conclusion. Jonah is classed among the "Prophets" and all the other prophets of the Bible are presented in the Bible as literal persons. Furthermore, Jonah is named, his father is named, the town where they lived is named (2 Kings 14:25) and the period in which they lived is given. In other words the times places and characters are not vague and unspecified as they are in, say, the parables spoken by Jesus. The degree of detail associated with Jonah would anywhere in the Bible indicate that the writer is presenting alleged history and not parable or allegory.
The main intent behind the book might still be to give a moral lessonbut it’s a moral lesson based on events which are offered as real. Let’s consider then whether most of the report can, sensibly, be taken as literal history.....
Critics sometimes argue that the alleged repentance of the people of Nineveh capital of the Assyrian Empire would have been a bigger miracle than Jonah surviving being swallowed by a "fish".
Assyria was one of the most barbaric of ancient empires. People of captured cities were routinely burned alive, skinned alive, or had ears, noses, hands or feet chopped off.
Jonah was already a prophet during the reign of King Jeroboam of Israel. (2 Kings 14:23) Jeroboam reigned 787 to 747 BC. This places Jonah after Shalmanezer III of Assyria who during his blood-stained reign, 859 - 824 BC, led 32 war campaigns. It also puts Jonah before the equally bloody Tiglath Pileser III who ruled 745-727 BC. Jonah therefore lived when a number of comparatively weak kings ruled Assyria.
Furthermore, for about 50 years during the first half of the 8th century BC, Nineveh was repeatedly torn by civil unrest, palace intrigues, religious strife and even civil war. The book of Jonah confirms that Jonah arrived at Nineveh during a period of internal strife and violence. (See chapter 3:6-9)
Among the gods of Nineveh were Ninua the goddess of waters, Oannes a god with the head and body of a fish attached to the top of a human head, Dagon god of the sea, and Anu the highest or chief god.
We therefore have a setting in which the population of Nineveh might have listened to Jonah and turned to at least superficially the God Jonah proclaimed.
Consider: News of Jonah’s survival in the "fish" precedes his arrival. Different religious factions attribute Jonah’s survival to Anu, Ninua, Oannes or Dagon. Jonah arrivespossibly with a ghastly bleached, appearance...The King hears of great crowds listening to Jonah preaching and sees this as a means of ending civil strife and religious division and reunifying the city and the empire. The King and high officials therefore set the example, respond to Jonah, and publicly express remorse for the violence in the city. (See Jonah 3:6-9)"
taken from:
"Nineveh might have been ready to hear Jonah. Gerhard F. Hasel, in Jonah: Messenger of the Eleventh Hour (1976), writes, "It has been suggested that during the reign of the Assyrian king Ashur-dan III (772-755 B.C.) the population of Nineveh would have been psychologically prepared to expect a total catastrophe, since a serious plague had befallen the city in 765 B.C. and a total eclipse of the sun had taken place on June 15, 763 B.C. with another plague in 759 B.C. If any or all of these events had already taken place, a monotheistic message by a foreign prophet may have had a congenial atmosphere." They were, in other words, wicked but broken."
taken from: is available at Call 888-694-6735
Here is a academic work that I felt was well done. It speaks on a number of matters including the environment that Jonah would have been preaching in. Please see page 4 and paragraph 4 for details (it is copyrighted). I offer both PDF and non PDF formats. Please see the links below:
Non-PDF format:
PDF Format:
A website declares:
"There is no adequate reason to regard Jonah as non-historical.
1. The form of the book is clearly historical.
2. Jonah was an actual person.
3. Nineveh was an actual city.
4. Jews regarded Jonah as historical (Josephus Antiquities IX, 10, 2).
5. Christian tradition viewed Jonah as historical.
6. Historical record, 2 Kg 14:26
7. Real kings, nations and places
8. Christ view the book as historical, Mt 12:39-41; Lu 11:29-32. If we reject the book of Jonah as literal, we reject the authenticity of Christ’s statement.
9. Archeology dovetails with facts of Jonah.
References to Jonah in 2 Kings 14:25; Mt 12:39-41; Lu 11:39-32
One of four Old Testament prophets referred to by Jesus. The others were Isaiah (Mt 15:7), Elijah (Mt 17:11-12) and Elisha (Lu 4:27).
4 chapters, 48 verses and 1328 words
It is not the prophecy at issue, but the prophet.
There is no prophecy in the book except the prophecy that God will destroy Nineveh."
taken from:
A website declares:
"From 1845-1854 young British adventurer Austen Henry Layard explored the ruins of Nineveh.
For years skeptics questioned the existence of the city since it could not be found."
taken from:
Another website declares:
"A second interesting bit of information is the name of the mound in the upper Tigris valley under which the remains of ancient Nineveh were discovered. The site of Nineveh had long been lost. But the mound had been called "Neby Yunas" ("The Prophet Jonah") for centuries."
taken from:
"Archeology attests that the Ninevites were a cruel and bloody people and the earth was well rid of them, that's for sure."
taken from:
I will be updating this section regarding the King of Nineveh reference with additional information from my written sources. For now, here is some commentary I will offer you at this time:
Page not found | Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary
There seems to be a diversity of opinions regarding the size of the city of Nineveh and regarding if Jonah was referring the the central city or was also referring to some of the surrounding area (Please see the websites for the Biblical exegesis). There also seems to be a diversity of opinion regarding commentators regarding the archeology. I plan on updating this material with additional information from my written sources plus give the matter further study before I am willing to render my full opinion. Based on my Biblical exegesis of the relevant passages, however, I do believe that it is not easy to say the exact area that Jonah was referrring to. Here is some webiste commentary:
Portland Seminary at George Fox University in Oregon
Bible Query from Jonah (see notes on Jonah 3:3)
Jonah | Bible Teaching Notes
A website provides the following commentary:
"Here it should be noted that the Hebrew idiom, ‘three days and three nights,’ only requires a Portion of the first and third days."
(Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts 1993 p. 257)
whale’s stomach.
(Whalers No More 1987 W A Hagelund p.177)
According to an oriental method of reckoning, parts of days are included in a total of days as if they were full days. Thus in idiomatic Hebrew, as in Jonah 1:17, and in the Jewish manner of speech, as in Matthew 12:40, ‘three days and three nights’ means merely one full day and parts of two others. On this matter read 1 Samuel 30:11-13; compare Esther 4:16 with 5:1; and see Tobit 3:12-13 in the Lutheran text."
(Jonah and the Whale c. l965 P Schulze p. 4)
...Others argue that the Jews counted part of a day or night as one day. If Jonah, for example, was swallowed an hour before sunrise then the previous night and the previous day-time would be included in the calculation. Jonah’s total time in the "fish" would then be as little as approximately 30 hours. "
taken from:
More commentary regarding the 3 days and 3 nights not necessarily being a literal 72 hour period:
I am getting conflicting testimony in regards to the digestive system acidity levels. I do think this is a vital issue due to their clearly being evidence of divine intervention while Jonah was in the belly of the sea creature (discussed earlier).
Here is the testimony I am receiving:
A website declares:
"Wilson [ according to the website Page not found - Reasons to Believe Ambrose John Wilson was "a schoolmaster from South Africa who went on to become a Fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge, was also an Anglican rector"] wrote that the temperature inside a whale is 104-106 Fahrenheit (about 410 Centigrade) and that the gastric juice would be unpleasant but not deadly...."
"In addition there is the problem of digestive juiceswould they have killed Jonah and digested him? A scientific answer seems unavailable. Would digestive juices with their digestive enzymes, for example, cease to flow if the whale were near death [the reader may remember that whales vomiting up material is a symptom of a dying whale and the sea creature that swallowed Jonah vomited him up]? Possibly the acidity of the stomach juices would also be unpleasant unless their secretion were also inhibited.
Acidity is measured on the pH scale which varies from 0 to 14. For example:
Concentrated nitric acid 0 Orange 3.5
Gastric secretion 1 Tomato 4
Lemon juice 2 Saliva 6
Stomach juice 2 Pure Water 7
Coca cola 3 Intestinal secretion 7.5
Vinegar 3 Sea Water 8
It shouldn’t be too hard to do an experiment of placing a hand or finger in lemon juice, cola, or vinegar for varying intervals and seeing if any damage occurs."
taken from: ADSL, ADSL2+, Broadband plans, Internet, Telephone, VOIP, SIM | Internet Service | Adam Australia | Internet Service | Adam Australia
A BBC website declares:
"Once inside, the advice seems to be to sit tight and try not to touch anything if at all possible. Gastric processes are invasive and skin does not recover well from encounters with organic acids. The process by which gastric acid handles food is slow and wearing clothing, especially of the synthetic variety, is likely to buy you some time."
Another website using Robinson, a senior marine science instructor at Seaworld, as a source indicates the following:
"Think of "all the digestive juices, hydrochloric acids, the heat,
just suffocating heat, the lack of air..."
A whale's stomach would be no place for a human to spend three days,
Robinson said. Not to live to tell about it."
taken from:
Pro enough air suppy arguments :
I may be getting conflicting information regarding the information in the essay written for the Investigator Magazine and other websites.
R.K Harrison writes:
" . . . It was shown as long ago as 1915 that even a true whale could save a man from drowning if he managed to negotiate the air-supply tract of the mammal and reach the great laryngeal pouch. From time to time there have appeared in various publications accounts of incidents that purport to be similar to that in which Jonah was apparently involved. Thus Eichhorn recorded that a "seehund" began to swallow a sailor, but immediately released him almost unharmed from its jaw. On another occasion a whale hunter was reportedly swallowed in 1891, but was recovered the following day in unconscious condition from the inside of the mammal. "
taken from:
taken from:
Here is what I quoted from Investigator Magazine:
"Would there be breathable air in the stomach?
Macloskie (1942) argued that the whale has to expel superfluous water from its mouth after receiving food. In the process a creature trapped in the mouth might reach the laryngeal pouch below the larynx. The pouch is big enough to hold a human who would, in addition, use the whale’s own air supply and have no worries about digestive juices. The Bible phrase "belly of the fish" should not count against this hypothesis since ancient peoples did not distinguish as many internal organs as we do today. In other words the entire front (=ventral surface) of a fish or whale might be referred to as the "belly". "
taken from:
Another site says that Jonah could have resided in the whales sinus cavity (sinus cavity)
Part of the problem may be the different sources are not talking about sperm whales specifically.
Why there may have not been enough air:
Some sources say whales respiratory systems are completely independent of their digestive systems and therefore there would not be enough air although this information may not be specific to sperm whales as just noted.
Here are the links which say the respiratory and digestive systems are completely separate in whales (they do not say sperm whales though and this could be the problem that is causing an apparent contradiction):
1. We know that whales who are dying have the symptom of spitting up food and the Book of Jonah said that Jonah was spit up. But we also know that God directed the whale to spit up Jonah so this may be moot in terms of the whale possibly being near dying. On the other hand, we know that God prepared the whale that swallowed Jonah.
Therefore, two questions are raised:
- Do whales have just as much gastric juice production if they are dying?
- How frequent are whale digestive problems in terms of not producing enough gastric juices or no gastric juices or poor gastric juices in terms of acidity? Was this a whale who was dying and was the whale dying to a lack of production of digestive juices? Could this have saved Jonah?
2. Could a man survive in a sperm whale by staying JUST BEFORE the gullet in the area between the gullet and the teeth(I am not sure what an ancient Jew would have considered to be the "belly" of a whale. I do not think this would have been the safest area of course without God's intervention.
3. Could Jonah if he was in a sperm whale have stayed before the area that gets very acidic ifwhich I assume is the stomach. According to Keith Robinson, a senior marine science instructor at Seaworld "sperm whales don't have to chew their food, they can move it into
their stomachs by peristaltic or muscle action -- so Jonah could have been
swallowed whole. "(see
). Could Jonah have counteracted the peristaltic/muscle action by crawling toward the gullet to keep himself in the same position in the digestive system and thereby avoided the stomach or is the crawl space too narrow in the esophagus. It seems sooner or later he would have to crawl past the gullet to the area between the gullet and the teeth since he would have been in the whale at least 30 hours. Sperm whales eat a lot of food each day but perhaps God intervened. Plus this could have been a sick or dying whale as discussed earlier so perhaps it was not eating the amount a healthy whale eats which is about a ton of food a day (see: ).
4. Is it possible that Jonah could have stayed in the laryngeal pouch or sinus cavity and thereby avoided the gastric juices (this may not be possible and this is discussed later). I do not think this is a great solution if it was a sperm whale because the Book of Jonah inidicates that God had the sea creature vomit Jonah onto dry land. I suppose you could argue, however, that Jonah spent most of his time in the laryngeal pouch or sinus area. I guess if it was in the laryngeal pouch area perhaps vomiting would dislodge Jonah although it would seem less likely.
5. Was Jonah not swallowed by a whale at all but by some of the other candidates scholars have proposed (see links) or perhaps a extinct animal (many animals have become extinct) or an unknown sea creature. Some commentators say because the Bible says in Jonah 1: 17 the following: "Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (KJV)" that God created a new type of fish. I do not think this is the solution, however, but I cannot rule it out of course.
6. As discussed earlier there are plenty of indications that God performed the miraculous in the Jonah/sea creature encounter. Perhaps many of the naturalistic scenarios are just attempts to make avoid the supernatural solution. I am guessing that Jonah was saved as a result of the miraculous. It should be stated, however, that I found some of the science information very interesting (sperm whale gullets are big enough, the scientific foreshadowing commentary, dying sperm whales vomit up food, sperm whales and great white sharks are found in the Mediterranean Sea, etc).
I believe that some of the scientific objections are clearly unfounded and that Jonah could have passed though the gullet area if it was a sperm whale (we clearly do not know if it was a sperm whale) according to the best information I was able to gather. There also seems to be other science data that give the Jonah account a "ring of truth" (sperm whales being in Mediterranean, the scientific foreknowledge that I believe was shown in the "mountains" reference, dying sperm whales vomiting, sperm whales and great white sharks are found in the Mediterranean Sea,etc). Lastly, I do believe that Jonah's survival (or resurrection of course) was largely a supernatural occurence although I guess perhaps some of the naturalistic explanations are possible though not likely given the 30 plus hours and the probable air and acidity problems. On the other hand, I am getting too much conflicting information to entirely rule out some naturalistic explanations regarding the air/acidity issues. The Bible is clear God did intervene in the "large fish"/Jonah situation in some places as I pointed out earlier. I am leaning towards a more supernatural explanation though.
I believe I have presented quite a bit of information from various disciplines. Accordingly, if any person wishes to call the Book of Jonah a legend, I believe he first has to address the information I presented.
[This message has been edited by kendemyer, 02-26-2004]

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Inactive Member

Message 2 of 145 (82193)
02-02-2004 3:36 PM

Jonah and whale
Dear Readers:
1)I realize that some urban myths have occurred in the past regarding the "impossibility" of the Jonah account. Please read the essay which address these urban myths before replying. I think the author of this piece did an excellent job and that is why I shared it with you. I did do some (although not a lot) of fact checking via the internet on the essay and that is why I offered a abbreviated form of the essay. For details, please see the link which offered the whole Jonah debate which is given above.
2) Please do not turn this debate string into a open invitation to debate other Bible issues. It is not such an invitation. If you feel strongly about another Bible issue please open a discussion string on that topic. I know this is a reasonable request and I would appreciate your courtesy in this regard.
[This message has been edited by kendemyer, 02-02-2004]
[This message has been edited by kendemyer, 02-02-2004]

Inactive Member

Message 3 of 145 (82203)
02-02-2004 4:27 PM

jonah and whale
Dear Readers:
Here is some more commentary regarding the translation issues:
Fish Sticks or Whale Burgers
Jonah vs. Matthew on What was Eating Jonah
Eric Vestrup
Jonah 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Matthew 12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
"A whale is not a fish and no fish is a whale." So says one skeptic on this one, but the objection grounds on the same issues that the old "bat isn't a bird" allegation does: It is taking the categories of modern biology, an innovation of the last few centuries, and is forcing them upon texts written long, long before people thought in those fashions. This is not the way to approach an ancient text. Furthermore, it assumes that the biological classification system of today forced on the text is somehow objectively "right" and any departures from it are objectively "wrong". But this is not true. Our systems of classification are convenient, useful, and they make sense for our modern scientific pursuits. But they are not ontologically "correct". Again, cultural imperialism is manifested in this objection without regard for this basic and not-too-subtle philosophical fact. We can go along with the statement that "a fish is not a whale and a whale is not a fish" if we are speaking with respect to modern classifications. But the Biblical texts in question know nothing of such classifications. This same imperialistic approach to the texts of Scripture is also what lies behind the claims that the listing of the created life-forms in Genesis violates modern science.
The argument is weakened considerably by the above considerations, yet the best has been saved for last: this is also a fallacy of basing an allegation on a translation instead of on the original languages. Not only that, but an English translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek that is from AD 1611. This is excessively poor as a method for presentation. The Greek word (for which the Authorized Version translates as "whale" in Matt 12:40) is ketos , which the standard BAGD lexicon defines as "sea-monster", of which Mounce's lexicon defines as "sea-monster, great fish, or whale", and of which the Louw and Nida UBS lexicon defines as "big fish, huge fish." If one wants to advance the claim that the Authorized Version's translation of ketos , is misleading to us in 1998, I can agree. What one cannot do is have any reasonable case against the Koine, which is what matters.
(taken from:
Here is another website that contains some interesting information:
[This message has been edited by kendemyer, 02-12-2004]

Replies to this message:
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Inactive Member

Message 4 of 145 (82204)
02-02-2004 4:28 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by kendemyer
02-02-2004 3:25 PM

Re: Jonah and whale
Extracted from Message #1:
"[T]he Bible says God prepared the creature to swallow Jonah, so it could have been a creature created for this particular purpose and no other. "
Boy, you gotta love the resourcefulness of these literalist, huh? I mean this is like a cross between Las Vegas, Sea World, and Disneyland ... "God prepared a creature (for the exclusive purpose of) swallowing Jonah ... and no other." No wonder this creature hit a dead end evolutionarily.
Wow! A theme park version of the Jonah story. And a God who would actually create a creature for the sole purpose of swallowing one single man! Amazing. This is better than the unicorn being too flighty and elusive to meet Noah's tight debarkation schedule.
Ken, man, thanks. Keep up the good work!

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Inactive Member

Message 5 of 145 (82205)
02-02-2004 4:31 PM

jonah and whale
To the above poster:
It would be more helpful and more substantive if you could reply to the main article and not just provide commentary of the site which primarily discusses the translation issues. It is of course, possible (given the context of the Bible that a God who created the universe out of nothing) that God could create a new creature if He so chose to do so. This of course would be small potatoes. But let's get to the main focus of the posting.
[This message has been edited by kendemyer, 02-20-2004]

Member (Idle past 4935 days)
Posts: 4659
From: Scotland
Joined: 10-22-2002

Message 6 of 145 (82207)
02-02-2004 4:37 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by kendemyer
02-02-2004 4:27 PM

Re: jonah and whale
Not only that, but an English translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek that is from AD 1611.
Could you let me know how your source comes to the conclusion that the book of Jonah was written in Greek?

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Inactive Member

Message 7 of 145 (82212)
02-02-2004 4:44 PM

jonah and whale
To: Brian:
Please read th first post closer. Here is the exact quotation:
"The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek not in English."
In short, it was referring to New Testament citations of Jonah.

Replies to this message:
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Member (Idle past 4935 days)
Posts: 4659
From: Scotland
Joined: 10-22-2002

Message 8 of 145 (82215)
02-02-2004 4:51 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by kendemyer
02-02-2004 4:44 PM

Re: jonah and whale
But the Greek New Testament is irrelevant, in other words, why use a secondary source instead of a primary one?

This message is a reply to:
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Inactive Member

Message 9 of 145 (82235)
02-02-2004 5:36 PM

jonah and whale
Dear Brian and others:
The point the first link's information was making is there is no conflict in regards to the Old Testament and New Testament in regards to describing the creature and the first link's information also sheds light in regards to the Hebrew word which identifies the creature. In the third post to the string I gave a more substantial reference in regards to the translation issues in this regard. Please let us move on the main thrust of the posting which is the science issues in regards to the Jonah account of the creature swallowing Jonah and Jonah residing there. I have no further commentary to make on the translation issues. If others would like to do so I have no qualms in them doing so.
[This message has been edited by kendemyer, 02-02-2004]

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Member (Idle past 4935 days)
Posts: 4659
From: Scotland
Joined: 10-22-2002

Message 10 of 145 (82239)
02-02-2004 5:47 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by kendemyer
02-02-2004 5:36 PM

Re: jonah and whale
So Jonah lived inside a whale/fish/sea monster, what point are you trying to make?

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Replies to this message:
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Inactive Member

Message 11 of 145 (82250)
02-02-2004 6:02 PM

jonah and whale
Re: So Jonah lived inside a whale/fish/sea monster, what point are you trying to make?
Dear Brian:
I think you answered your own question.
Brian said: "...Jonah lived inside a whale/fish/sea monster"

Replies to this message:
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Inactive Member

Message 12 of 145 (82253)
02-02-2004 6:05 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Brian
02-02-2004 5:47 PM

I can't make heads or tails of what this Ken dude's point really is. If you try to respond to one specific item or facet of his overly long and boring postings, he criticises you for "missing the point" or "not addressing the overall point" of his rambling nonsense. Personally, I find it burdensome to read an entire posting of his largely plagaristic offerings, and really fruitless to try to respond to his imagined "points" of discussion.
Peace and good luck.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by Brian, posted 02-02-2004 5:47 PM Brian has replied

Replies to this message:
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Member (Idle past 4935 days)
Posts: 4659
From: Scotland
Joined: 10-22-2002

Message 13 of 145 (82256)
02-02-2004 6:09 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by kendemyer
02-02-2004 6:02 PM

Re: jonah and whale
All I can say is what?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by kendemyer, posted 02-02-2004 6:02 PM kendemyer has not replied

Member (Idle past 4935 days)
Posts: 4659
From: Scotland
Joined: 10-22-2002

Message 14 of 145 (82260)
02-02-2004 6:16 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Abshalom
02-02-2004 6:05 PM

Re: Yawn!
Hiya LOL,
Yeah it is a bit weird, all those words and he really hasn't made a point at all.
What I am surprised at is we appear to have two Bible verses written in three languages, strange that one.
I have also to see any signs of a critical analysis of the sources. No textual criticsm of any sort.
Also, no historian would ever claim that anything they write about happened for certain.
I am also a bit puzzled that the newspaper account has no mention of the sailor's name or any of the crew.
All I can say is that our Ken is no historian.

This message is a reply to:
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Posts: 22295
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.7

Message 15 of 145 (82279)
02-02-2004 6:52 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by kendemyer
02-02-2004 3:25 PM

Re: Jonah and whale
From the Forum Guidelines:
  1. Do not cut-n-paste long excerpts into message boxes. Please instead introduce the point in your own words and provide a link to your source as a reference. If your source is not on-line you may contact the Site Administrator to have it made available on-line.

This message is a reply to:
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