A social-scientific analysis of the book of JONAH

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Provenance

The provenance of the book of Jonah has received relatively little attention in research. The author has provided us with no explicit indication of the place where he authored the book. However, Trible optimistically wrote that “certain clues are given which make it possible to comment upon the origin of the story, if not upon the locale of the story-teller.”281 Three possibilities for the book of Jonah’s provenance have been proposed, namely Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Palestine. In the 19th century Ferdinand Hitzig proposed the provenance for the book of Jonah to have been Egypt.282 His three reasons for doing so are as follows: (a) The story is fabulous and has about it a mentality typical of that of Egypt, as it was deemed “the land of wonder;” (b) The word * (“scorching”) in Jonah 4:8 aptly describes the atmospheric and meteorological conditions of Egyptian; and (c) The hapax legomenon 0 0 in Jonah 4:6 is an Egyptian loanword.283 However, these reasons are inconclusive and unconvincing. Trible’s rebuttal of Hitzig’s proposals were that (a) Wonder literature is not confined to Egypt alone; (b) The translation of the word * is contested and this phenomenon, the desert sirocco, is not unique to Egypt; and (c) The etymology of 0 0 is unsure.
There is also evidence of a possible Akkadian root that it could be related to.284 The arguments for an Egyptian provenance for the book of Jonah are thus unconvincing.
Johann D. Goldhorn proposed that the book of Jonah was composed in Assyria by a Hebrew exile. “This claim is based on an interpretation of the book as an attempt to persuade Assyria to deal gently with conquered Israel.” Georg F. Jäger, in turn, proposed that the provenance of the book of Jonah is Babylonia, based “on the assumption that Nineveh is a covering-name for Babylonia.” He interprets the book as explaining why Babylonia was not destroyed when the Persians captured Babylon.285 Again, these proposals leave much to be desired.
In favour of a Palestinian provenance, the references to the seaport at Joppa (1:3) from which Jonah leaves to flee to Tarshish, and the reference to > (“my land / country”) in Jonah 4:2, are read historically to refer to Northern Israel, from where the Jonah-figure mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25 is considered to have originated.286 Naturally, based on the problems accompanying a historical reading of the book of Jonah, this argument is untenable.
Due to the reference to Joppa in Jonah 1:2, M.M. Isidor Kalisch proposed that the book of Jonah’s provenance was Southern Palestine, as Joppa was likely the closest harbour to Jerusalem, which was the capital of Judah. He proposed that the author probably wrote the story in Jerusalem.
However, Joppa was not part of the Kingdom of Judah, and was first controlled by the Jews at the time of Simon Maccabeus (cf. 1 Maccabeus 14:5). This port was also used by the seafaring Phoenicians from early and may predominantly have been under their control in ancient times (cf. 2 Chronicles 2:16; Ezra 3:7).288
Trible personally preferred a Northern Palestinian provenance for the book of Jonah. Her arguments were as follows: (a) There are “linguistic peculiarities” of the book that are typical of North Israelite-Phoenician; (b) The historical prophet Jonah was from Gath-heper in the Northern Kingdom in the first half of the 8th century BCE; (c) Another possible indication of Israelite traditions featured in the book is the prominence of the city of Nineveh in it. Israel must have felt the brunt of Assyria’s brutality more intensely than the south and it is by the hands of the Assyrians that Israel was eventually destroyed in 722 BCE. Thus, Nineveh would have been conceptualised as the foreign city par excellence; and (d) Another reason that the book of Jonah might have originated in the north is that the Hebrews had little contact with and knowledge of the sea. The sea narrative in Jonah 1 must then have been influenced by non-Hebrew or other traditions. Trible even speculated that “Since the language of Jonah definitely leads us to north Israelite-Phoenician territory, it is also entirely possible that the tale of the sea may have come into Israel from Phoenician contacts.”289 However, can it be so easily presumed that maritime terminology is naturally exclusively Phoenician?290 Suffice to say, there is no clarity as to where the book of Jonah was composed.

Audience

Not only is it difficult to determine the book’s theme and meaning, but determining the “specific audience, against whose opinions or vacillations it was directed,” is virtually impossible.291 It is likely that the real (initial) readers (or listeners) lived in a time when Nineveh had long since been destroyed, as Nineveh remained in their memory as the epitome of what evil and oppression is.292 The most likely audience, it has been proposed, is the Jewish community in Yehud during the Persian Period. It has been argued that this community lived within strict social confines. They could not simply do as they pleased. However, the Persian authorities did allow them to build a new temple, but they were still not permitted to anoint their own king in Jerusalem.293 They would relate intimately with the nationalist and exclusivist perspective associated with the prophet in the book of Jonah – so it has been argued.

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Summary and Evaluation

Pertaining to the book of Jonah’s dating, I have indicated that there are two chronological boundaries for it, namely (a) The 8th century BCE as the terminus quo or the conservative estimate, and (b) The 2nd century BCE as the terminus ad quem or the liberal estimate. This wide range for the dating of the book of Jonah then suggests that this issue will likely not be settled anytime soon. In more recent times the debate on the dating of the Hebrew Bible has been dictated by the maximalists and minimalists.
The aspects or considerations about the book of Jonah that were discussed in order to determine its dating were (a) “Historical” features; (b) Literary and linguistic features, specifically those that are unique to it, and the influence of Aramaic; (c) The dependence on and influence of earlier literature,
theological motifs, and ideologies, on the composition of the book; and (d) The book’s literary form (Gattung). From the discussion of each of the afore-mentioned it would then appear that the book of
Jonah has numerous features that can be interpreted as supporting a “late” or post-exilic dating for the book.
A problem which is not limited to the study of the book of Jonah alone is that it is nearly impossible to identify the initial or actual authors of the Hebrew Bible. Particular books were traditionally attributed to certain figureheads in history and “attribution was thus read as authorship.”294 Even if a book was attributed to a specific individual, it is likely that many hands made contributions to it via additions. The line distinguishing an author from a copyist and redactor is also blurred. As to the author of the book of Jonah – in all honesty – we know nothing specific about him(?). The book of Jonah is remarkably unified in terms of its style and the themes it deals with.
From this we can deduce that there was either one hand responsible for its composition, or continued reworking and redaction of the book to take on this eventual form. It cannot be said with certainty that the author composed his work after the fall of Nineveh in 612 BCE, but all indications point in this direction.
I have referred to the work of Annette Schellenberg who was of the opinion that the authors of the book of Jonah were ‘literary prophets.’ She argued for this thesis in the light thereof that the book of Jonah is classified as prophetic literature in the book of the Twelve due to its inclusion in that corpus. She concluded that “the self-understanding of the authors of the book of Jonah repeatedly leads to an overlap of self-confidence and self-criticism, and a tension between awareness of being in the tradition of earlier prophecy and awareness of being different from them.”296 As to which individuals or groups penned the book of Jonah, we are still very much in the dark, and the above are but speculations.

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION (The Pretext) 
1. INTRODUCTION
2. RESEARCH PROBLEM
3. HYPOTHESIS
4. METHODOLOGY
5. AIMS AND EXPECTATIONS
CHAPTER 2: HISTORICAL-CRITICAL OR DIACHRONIC CONCERNS PERTAINING TO THE BOOK OF JONAH (The Text) 
1. INTRODUCTION
2. DATING
3. GATTUNG AND SITZ IM LEBEN
4. COMPOSITION AND REDACTION
5. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 3: A LITERARY-EXEGETICAL OR SYNCHRONIC ANALYSIS OF THE BOOK OF JONAH (The Whole Text) 
1. INTRODUCTION
2. TEXTUAL CRITICISM
3. MORPHOLOGY AND STYLE
4. TRANSLATION
5. DEMARCATION OF THE PERICOPES
6. A LINGUISTIC-SYNTACTICAL AND STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS
7. COMMENTS ON SOME INTERPRETATIONAL ISSUES
8. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4: A SOCIAL-SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS OF THE BOOK OF JONAH (The Context)
1. INTRODUCTION
2. THE PERSIAN AND HELLENISTIC PERIODS
3. THE PROPOSED PURPOSES AND THEMES OF THE BOOK OF JONAH
4. SOCIAL-SCIENTIFIC CRITICISM
5. THE DOMINANT SOCIAL VALUES OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
6. A SOCIAL-SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS OF THE BOOK OF JONAH
7. A DISCUSSION OF THE GATTUNG OF THE BOOK OF JONAH IN THE LIGHT OF SOCIA348L-SCIENTIFIC CRITICISM
8. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5: SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION 
1. SUMMARY
2. CONCLUSION
BIBLIOGRAPHY

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