“Prefiguration of The Resurrection”
The prophet Jonah (Yunus يُونُس in Arabic) is a prominent figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He is best known for the biblical story of “Jonah and the Whale” or “Jonah and the Great Fish.” According to the Bible, Jonah was a prophet sent by God to deliver a warning to the people of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire and the biggest and most beautiful city of the ancient world; Nineveh is now Mosul in Iraq. The warning was that destruction of their city will happen because of the wicked and sinful behaviour of the Nineveh inhabitants. However, instead of obeying God’s command, Jonah attempted to flee in the opposite direction by boarding a ship heading to faraway. During the voyage, a great storm arose, and the crew believed that someone on board had angered the gods. Jonah eventually confessed that he was fleeing from God’s call, and he asked the crew to throw him overboard to calm the sea, which the crew then did. As the story goes, God calmed the sea, but also sent a large fish (commonly referred to as a whale) to swallow Jonah, saving him from drowning.
Jonah spent three days and three nights inside the fish’s belly, during which time he prayed and repented; he felt so very sorry that he had not followed God’s wish and order to go to Nineveh. He repents for his actions and promises to fulfill his mission if given another chance. In response to Jonah’s repentance and prayer, God commands the fish to release him. The fish spits Jonah out onto dry land, giving him a second chance. With a renewed sense of obedience, Jonah finally traveled to Nineveh to deliver God’s message of warning to the city. He warned the people of their wickedness and the impending destruction that would come if they did not repent. Surprisingly, the Ninevites listened to Jonah’s message, repented, and turned away from their evil ways. In response to their repentance, God showed mercy and spared the city from destruction. The story of Jonah is often interpreted as a lesson on the importance of obedience to God and the concept of divine mercy and forgiveness. It serves as a reminder that God’s compassion extends even to those who have strayed from the right path. It’s a message to everyone that even after having done bad things and being a not so good person, there is hope if you repent, change your life and say farewell to your sins.
The link between Jonah and Christ is a significant theological parallel found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The primary scriptural reference to this connection is found in the Gospel of Matthew, specifically in Matthew 12:38-41: “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so Jesus will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” On this basis Christians saw Jonah as a type of Christ and his story as a promise of resurrection, first for Christ but then also for everyone and all of us, there will be resurrection after death. But of course under the condition of being a good person and having said goodbye to your bad habits and sins.
The story of Jonah underscores the idea that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are part of a divine plan, prefigured in the Old Testament narratives. The story of Jonah in the Whale in the Old Testament is seen as a prefiguration of Jesus’ resurrection. And subsequently as everyone’s resurrection from death at the day of the last judgement. With other words: the story of Jonah gives hope that there will be life after death, but only if one repents and is obedient and does not lead a sinful life.
Big Fish or Whale?
Although the creature that swallowed Jonah is often depicted in art and culture as a whale, the original Hebrew text uses the phrase “big fish”. In the art of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the species of the fish that swallowed Jonah became closer to a whale. Most likely that’s also because in those centuries people got familiar with the concept of whales as truly big fish though prints of stranded whales. Before that hardly anyone will have seen a whale, let alone a huge whale that’s capable of swallowing a human person.
Nineveh was an ancient city located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in present-day Mosul, Iraq. It was one of the most important and influential cities in the ancient world and served as the capital of the Assyrian Empire for several centuries. The city’s history spans over 3,000 years, and it was a center of culture, commerce, and military power. Nineveh as capital of the powerful Assyrian Empire is considered to have been the biggest and most beautiful city in ancient times. Nineveh was surrounded by a series of massive defensive walls that were over 12 kilometers long. These walls were among the most impressive feats of engineering in the ancient world and provided excellent protection for the city. Despite its military might, Nineveh faced its eventual downfall. In 612 BC, a coalition of Babylonians, Medes, and Scythians attacked and razed the city. This marked the end of the Assyrian Empire, and Nineveh was abandoned and largely forgotten for centuries. The ruins of Nineveh were rediscovered in the mid-19th century during excavations by archaeologists such as Austen Henry Layard. These excavations unearthed numerous artifacts and cuneiform tablets, providing valuable insights into the history, culture, and language of the ancient Assyrians.
Today, the ancient site of Nineveh, along with other nearby Assyrian cities like Nimrud and Khorsabad, are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites. However, the region has faced challenges due to political instability and armed conflicts, leading to damage and looting of its precious historical remains, mostly by ISIS around 2014.
Al-Nabi Yunus (The Prophet Jonah) Mosque
The Al-Nabi Yunus Mosque (Arabic: جامع النبي يونس) also known as the the Prophet Jonah’s Mosque, is an important religious site located in Nineveh, now Mosul, Iraq. It holds significance for both Muslims and Christians due to its association with the prophet Jonah (known as Yunus in Islamic tradition) from his stories in the Hebrew Bible and the Quran. The mosque is situated on top of a hill on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in Mosul. Its location is believed to be the site where the prophet Jonah was buried.
The Al-Nabi Yunus Mosque is considered a place of veneration for Muslims, who come to pay their respects to the prophet Yunus. However, it also holds importance for Christians, as Jonah is recognized as a prophet in Christianity as well. This interfaith significance has made the site an important symbol of religious coexistence. The mosque’s origins can be traced back to the 14th century. The site itself however, has religious significance dating back to much earlier times.
In 2014, during the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS), the mosque suffered destruction along with other historical sites in Mosul. ISIS militants considered the veneration of shrines and tombs to be against their strict interpretation of Islam and targeted such sites. The mosque was used as a prison and later blown up by the militants. After the liberation of Mosul from ISIS in 2017, efforts were made to restore and rebuild the Al-Nabi Yunus Mosque. The reconstruction work has been carried out as part of broader efforts to preserve and revive the cultural and historical heritage of the city. During the reconstruction an even older Assyrian palace was found under the remains of the mosque.