16 Aug 2010

Jonah #8: The Reading Report … Studying Jonah

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Books, Exegesis, Hebrew Bible, Hermeneutics, Jonah

Greetings from the land of Saguaros and Scorpions. Jonah is such a richly textured work and only grows more profound with meditation. I have had several off line requests for good resources for reflecting on the book therefore I have decided to offer a short list of helpful works … which in turn will lead to other resources. I do not offer these in alphabetical order.

James Limburg has authored two commentaries on Jonah: one in the Interpretation series and one in the Old Testament Library series. However, for its insight, accessibility, and appreciation for the narrative art of the book the volume Jonah (OTL) would be the first commentary I bought on Jonah. Much smaller than Jack Sasson’s (I’ll mention more on him in a moment) which is actually a plus. Limburg offers exegesis of a passage based on the Hebrew text but knowledge of Hebrew is unnecessary to read his work (all Hebrew is tranliterated and does not “clutter” the text). He looks at a passage first in its narrative context and also in a wider canonical context and closes each section with theological reflections. Several appendices trace the story of Jonah in the first several Christian centuries; in Rabbinic literature and finally in Islamic literature. I would not preach or teach Jonah without this work.

Limburg also has a fascinating essay in Bible Review 6 (August 1990): 18-25 entitled “Jonah and the Whale Through the Eyes of Artists”

Hans Walter Wolff delivered a series of lectures called Jonah: Church in Revolt that are rich. Wolff was the first to peel the blinders off my eyes to the wonderous depth of Jonah. Wolf believes that the Psalm in chapter 2 is a secondary addition to the book so omits it in his exposition. Most contemporary scholarship accept the unity of the book … but with that caveat Wolff is nothing short of profound.

Friedemann W. Golka’s contribution to Revelation of God: The Song of Songs & Jonah (International Theological Commentary) is right there with Limburg and Wolf. The work is especially sensitive to the theological argument being put forth.

Philip Cary’s Jonah in the Brazos Theological Commentary is another nuanced work worthy of the depth of Jonah.

Finally (of the commentaries) Jack Sasson’s Jonah in the Anchor Bible series is a detailed discussion of everything in Jonah. Sasson is ancient historian and has valuable insight. His work is not in tune with the narrative art of the work but still a good book if you are going to go the extra mile.

Other Works:

T. A. Perry’s The Honeymoon Is Over: Jonah’s Argument with God bristles with insight. Perry is a fine Jewish scholar with specialties in literature. This is not a commentary but a series of studies of the narrative and rhetorical art of Jonah and how that affects the theology of work.

Sheldon Blank, “Doest Thou Well to Be Angry? A Study in Self-Pity” Hebrew Union College Reveiw 26 (1955): 29-41

A. Hauser’s, Jonah: In Pursuit of the Dove,” Journal of Biblical Literature 104 (1985): 21-37.

B. Halpern & R. E. Friedman, “Composition and Paronomasia in the Book of Jonah” Hebrew Annual Review 4 (1980): 79-92

These last three are fairly technical works but worth delving into for serious engagement with the inspired text.

Bobby Valentine

Leave a Reply