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The Jonah Traditions in the Teachings of Jesus.
A Redactional Critical Analysis and Typological Exegesis of Luke 11,16.29-32 and its parallels

Mod.: Prof. R.P. Dean BÉCHARD

This dissertation seeks to get beyond the impasse in the modern interpretation of the “Sign-Jonah” Traditions by building upon the achieved results of previous studies (both diachronic and synchronic), examining some Jewish Writings from Second Temple Judaism (the historical ambience of the Synoptic Tradition), engaging recently refined concepts and methods of literary-narrative analyses such as the use of synkrisis, and utilizing the revised understanding of typology in examining the specific role of Jonah in Luke’s Christology. Applying the redactional-critical approach, typological exegesis and literary (narrative) analysis, it examines three specific questions: 1) what is the appropriate “image” of Jonah in Second Temple Judaism (historical)?; 2) what is the specific form of the “Sign-Jonah” Saying in the Gospel narratives (literary)?; and 3) how does Jonah’s figure contribute to Lucan Christology (theological)?

Analysis of Second Temple Judaism revealed that: a) this period was replete with frequent references to Jonah’s figure; b) Jonah’s figure is frequently invoked in crisis situations requiring God’s intervention; c) Jonah’s fish ordeal is, sometimes, interpreted as a death experience; d) a documentary evidence (De Jona) connecting Jonah’s fish ordeal to his prophetic ministry in Nineveh and providing an explicit reference to Jonah as “Sign” after his death experience (fish ordeal); the first time outside Scripture. These elements offer a clear understanding and interpretation of the “Sign-Jonah” Traditions in the episode where a σημεῖον ἐξ οὐρανοῦ (a sign from heaven) is requested from Jesus which is profoundly linked to the Beelzebul controversy and the enigmatic logion τò σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ (see Luke 11,29; Matt 12,39; 16,4). Against this backdrop, the literary technique of synkrisis and typological exegesis are used to establish the fact that the syncretic-typological correlation between Jonah and Jesus underscores: a) the prophetic character of Jesus’ person and ministry; b) Jesus’ ministry as consistent with OT tradition (continuity) and, c) Jesus’ person and ministry inaugurating a moment of redefinition (discontinuity) since he is greater than the OT prophets (Jonah). It also proves that the expression τò σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ (unique to Luke and Matthew), which is seemingly explained differently in Luke 11,30 and Matt 12,40, refers to one and the same thing (Jonah’s person and his fish ordeal which impacted his preaching ministry).

Furthermore, the specific form of the “Sign-Jonah” Traditions reveals the composite nature of the episode (the “Sign”, Jonah, and Solomon-Queen of the South Traditions) and the two principal Traditions, i.e., the Marcan (8,11-12) which stands behind Matt 16,1-4 and the Q (which stands behind Luke 11,16.29-32 and Matt 12,38-42), are located differently in narration due to the theological, narrative, and ecclesial exigencies of the respective Synoptic Evangelists. The language, structure, formulation and proximate context of Luke 11,30 and Matt 12,40 (and Luke 11,31-32; Matt 12,41-42) points to their plausible dependence on a common source (possibly Q). The expression ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου does not only refer to the historical Jesus, in his ongoing prophetic ministry, but also set the scene of the episode in the Eschaton. The syncretic correlation between Jesus’ κήρυγμα (activity) and Solomon’s σοφία (activity), involving a comparison of their persons, signals the sapiential underpinnings of Jesus’ prophetic ministry (κήρυγμα); hence, the urgent need for repentance since Jesus is greater that Solomon and Jonah (see Luke 11,31c.32c; Matt 12,41c.42c).

This study concludes with answers to the three historical, literary and theological questions which underpin the study: 1) Jonah’s figure was frequently invoked in Second Temple Judaism (fish ordeal, preaching in Nineveh, death experience, considered as sign, crisis situation); 2) “Sign-Jonah” and “Solomon-Queen” traditions (pieced together with the Beelzebul controversy) are interwoven in narration to create a syncretic-typological correlation between Jesus and Jonah (prophetic character in person and activity) and bring a clear definition to the logion τò σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ; 3) Jonah’s figure, in the context of Luke’s Christology, serves as an element of both continuity (consistency with OT tradition) and discontinuity (redefinition – Jesus is the fulfillment and plenitude of OT tradition).