Composition of the Book of Jonah


Approximate date: 850-750 B.C.E. (Right, some conservative-moderate); 400s-200s B.C.E. (some conservative-moderate, Left)

Time period: God’s impending judgment upon Nineveh

Author(s): Jonah (Right, some conservative-moderate); Jonah and/or members of the prophetic school (some conservative moderate); anonymous (some conservative moderate, Left)

Location of author: somewhere in the Land of Israel (Right, conservative-moderate, Left)

Target audience and their location: Northern Kingdom Israelites, people of Nineveh

Theological Summary: The Book of Jonah is named for its principal character. Jonah (Heb. Yonah) was the son of Ammitai (1:1) from Gath-Hepher in Zebulun (2 Kings 14:25). There are some similarities between the accounts of Elijah and Elisha, compared to Jonah, leading many to conclude that they were all part of the same prophetic school. Undeniably, Jonah is one of the most controversial texts in the Tanach. We see that Jonah is called out by God to proclaim a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh (1:1), but instead Jonah boards a ship bound for Tarshish (1:3) at the opposite end of the Mediterranean. The story is all too familiar. A storm ravishes the ship (1:4), and Jonah is swallowed by a great fish (1:17). He remains in the innards of the creature for three days and prayed in repentance to God (2:1-9). God must intervene to see that the Prophet accomplishes his assigned mission.

The authorship of Jonah in the text itself is strictly anonymous, but tradition ascribes it to the Prophet Jonah. Conservatives widely accept that Jonah was indeed an Israelite prophet who was called to minister outside of his own people and call the people of Nineveh to repentance. It is widely acknowledged that the Jonah of this book is the same Jonah referenced in 2 Kings 14:25. Conservatives often agree that Jonah was composed sometime in the Eighth Century B.C.E., most likely before the fall of the Northern Kingdom. Jonah in total could have been written by Jonah himself, or he could have simply been the originator of the bulk of its material. This material could then have been compiled and expanded by his school of prophets, or a later author/compiler. The text is somewhat autobiographical, and has been interpreted from many different vantage points.

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reproduced from A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic

One of the major reasons that today’s Messianic movement has grown in the past decade is a significant interest by Believers in the Torah and the Tanach. In too many cases, the Tanach Scriptures were not probed in that great a detail in a Jewish Believer’s traditional Synagogue upbringing—and perhaps more serious, a non-Jewish Believer’s Christian experience often witnessed the Old Testament taking a back seat to the New Testament in the Church. With many of the ethical and moral controversies the greater Judeo-Christian religious community is experiencing in our age, a need for God’s people to return to a foundational grounding in the Tanach Scriptures is absolutely imperative. The Old Testament cannot simply be disregarded any more.

Many have stayed away from consulting the Tanach not because of a lack of interest, but because few want to have to deal with the controversies it addresses. Unlike the Apostolic Scriptures, constrained to the First Century C.E., the period of the Tanach stretches back all the way to the beginning of the universe itself. Questions like: Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Did God actually condone the genocide of the Canaanites? and Am I the only one who thinks the Prophets are mentally disturbed? are debates that many people do not want to enter into. Even more significant is the effect of critical scholarship which has attempted to divide the Torah into non-Mosaic sources, question the inspiration and historical reliability of the text, and even regard much of the Tanach as Ancient Israel’s mythology. For a Messianic movement that claims to place a high value on the Tanach, it is time that we join in to these conversations.

A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic takes you through the Old Testament from a distinct Messianic point of view. It presents a theologically conservative perspective of the books of the Tanach, but one that does not avoid some of the controversies that have existed in Biblical scholarship for over one hundred and fifty years. The student, in company with his or her study Bible, is asked to read through each text of the Tanach, jotting down characters, place names, key ideas, and reflective questions. Each book of the Old Testament is then summarized for its compositional data and asks you questions to get a good Messianic feel for the text. This workbook can be used for both personal and group study, and will be a valuable aid for any Messianic Believer wanting to study the whole Bible on a consistent basis.

290 pages