19 Dec 2017

Jonah & Peter: Luke’s Use of the “Old Testament” to the Story of Cornelius

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Acts, Exegesis, Hebrew Bible, Jonah, Mission

I wrote this about a year ago and forgot to post it to my blog. This is just a brief study.

Every time I study Jonah I learn something new. Sometimes these things are staring me in the face, but I am slow. So here in the Rocky Mountains we are going thru Jonah in Bible class and this week I have been tracing the “sign of Jonah.”

Luke “plays” with the “sign of Jonah.” Peter and Cornelius come together much like Jonah and the Ninevehites. Here are some interesting things to note that are both parallel and sequential in the story in Acts 10.1-11.18 that indicate that Luke is “fishing” with the Jonah story to shape how he tells the Cornelius narrative. I am also grateful when my suspicions are confirmed by other students.

1) It is a delicious irony that the man commissioned to go to a goyim is the “son of Jonah”

2) Joppa is in both stories (Jonah 1.13/Acts 9.43)

3) there is hesitancy on the part of both messengers to go

4) Jonah and the “son of Jonah’s” reluctance to be God’s messenger is overcome only by divine intervention (fish/vision). Jonah is in the fish three days (1.17) and the “son of Jonah” is given the vision three times (Acts 10.16; 11.10)

5) The commission to both is verbally parallel, “arise and go” (“anastethi kai poreutheti“, Jonah 3.2, LXX; “anastas … kai poreuou, Acts 10.20)

6) the goyim “believed” (empisteuo/pisteuo, Jonah 3.5; Acts 10.43) in the word and were forgiven

7) the response of the goyim elicits a hostile response (Jonah 4.1; Acts 10.14; 11.2)

8) God responds to the hostility (Jonah 4.2-11; Acts 11.17-18)

Luke intends us to hear the story of Peter and Cornelius through the story of Jonah and Nineveh.  Luke’s point here is that the God that sent Jonah and the God that sent Peter are the same God of Israel. He extends grace and mercy to “everyone who believes” just as “all the prophets testify” (Acts 10.43). Israel was always intended to be a “light to the nations.”

Luke is saying that Cornelius is no surprise. Rather the witness to and reception of Gentiles into the House of David is the fulfillment of the destiny of Israel from the beginning (notice how James says the acceptance of Jesus by the Gentiles signals that Israel, David’s tent, has been restored, Acts 15.12-21)

The God of Israel has sought to bless all nations through his people, Jesus is the ultimate representative of Israel to the nations. The Jewish Messiah is everyone’s Messiah!

Blessings … Oh and the “Old Testament’ matters

2 Responses to “Jonah & Peter: Luke’s Use of the “Old Testament” to the Story of Cornelius”

  1. Larry Cheek Says:

    Good article. I was wondering should we today also be experiencing these types of directives? Where would you see that being explained?

  2. Dwight Says:

    I have run across these similarities as well.
    I’m not sure about the hesitancy factor as Peter was often impulsively stepping forward, but in regards to the Gentiles this is true. Jonah didn’t want to preach to the Gentiles and neither did Peter, but Peter had a better reason as Jesus often told them not to and they were considered unclean. Both had to be strongly convinced that they were worthy, although I think only Peter was really convinced.

Leave a Reply