Jonah in the Shadows of Eden

Jonah in the Shadows of Eden

Jonah in the Shadows of Eden

Jonah in the Shadows of Eden

Synopsis

Yitzhak Berger advances a distinctive and markedly original interpretation of the biblical book of Jonah that resolves many of the ambiguities in the text. Berger contends that the Jonah text pulls from many inner-biblical connections, especially ones relating to the Garden of Eden. These connections provide a foundation for Berger's reading of the story, which attributes multiple layers of meaning to this carefully crafted biblical book. Focusing on Jonah's futile quest and his profoundly troubled response to God's view of the sins of humanity, Berger shows how the book paints Jonah as a pacifist no less than as a moralist.

Excerpt

This study advances one core thesis. in the book that bears his name, the prophet Jonah, profoundly troubled by God’s response to the sins of humanity, persists in an escapist quest for an idyllic, Eden-like existence. Repeatedly, however, just when Jonah thinks he has attained such an existence, he finds himself banished from it. Eventually, therefore, he must confront the stark realities that provoke his moral indignation.

Crucially, the story gives rise to two opposite understandings of the prophet’s defiant stance. in one reading, a moralistic Jonah resists providing an opportunity for salvation to the sinful population of Nineveh and instead seeks out an Edenic realm that tolerates no imperfection. By contrast, according to a second intended meaning, a pacifist Jonah shrinks from pronouncing doom on the Assyrian city and undertakes an escape toward a blissful world that contains no suffering. Taken together, these two readings yield a single, encompassing message: the Lord, by denying the prophet’s quest for Eden, shuns the escapism born of either extreme reaction to sin and its consequences. Rather, the flawed conduct of human beings is inevitable, and both forgiveness and the threat of punishment play necessary roles in the divine response to human iniquity.

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