Date of Award

Spring 1995

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Schmitt, John J.

Second Advisor

Dempsey, Deirdre

Third Advisor

Jeansonne, Sharon P.


The origin of this study lies in discussions with Professors Philip R. Davies and Thomas L. Thompson during my first semester of doctoral studies in the fall of 1991. I decided to write a dissertation which explored how Jonah, similar to the books of Job and Qoheleth, used standard biblical traditions in such a manner as to question their validity. As I read the secondary literature on Jonah, it became evident that the question of the book's genre was a key issue. I determined that my analysis of Jonah as a subversive literature, comparable to Job and Qoheleth, might be an answer to this question. Such were my plans. The final form of this dissertation is of a very different nature than that which I had first anticipated. Research undertaken between 1991-93 demanded are-examination of my original thesis. I realized that many scholars had already deemed Jonah to be a parody, satire or ironic recasting of the Bible or Israelite religion. However, these other studies utilized certain interpretive judgments that I regarded as untenable: 1) The assumption that the work under question was some sort of radical departure from its biblical counterparts; 2) The zealous search for and invariable discovery of subtle allusions and complex literary patterns within the text; 3) The separation of text's meaning from its author's intent in writing it. In addition to these misgivings, another arose from my work in Israelite history and its relation to the Bible. I had come to view the standard method at work in biblical studies, which uses Israelite history and the Bible to mutually support and explain each other, as inherently flawed. A complete re-evaluation of Jonah was needed, independent of any historical speculation derived from hypothetical reconstructions of Israelite history. From these two conclusions came a desire to write a study of Jonah that combined the use of the standard historical tools, lacking in many of the newer literary approaches, with the freedom from the failed attempts of traditional biblical scholarship to assign a date or detect a historical background forJonah. When I placed this kind of task before my director, Professor John J. Schmitt, he assured me of its viability. The work below is broadly arranged along the lines of a commentary. After an overview of the history of scholarship in Jonah, the analysis follows the outline of the book. Each of the four chapters of Jonah receives a separate treatment. Clarifying the meaning of the Hebrew text is of prime importance. Much space is devoted to textual and grammatical analysis, attention being given in particular to ancient translations. In addition, biblical and extra-biblical traditions, motifs and conventions which also appear inJonah are examined to provide an interpretive context for the book. Through this latter analysis, an opportunity is gained for renewed study of the distinct theological themes of the Hebrew Bible. The implications of this finding are discussed in a concluding chapter. Translations of Jonah are my own, except where otherwise specified. Block quotations of biblical texts are taken from the RSV. The format and abbreviations follow the guidelines of the "Instructions for Contributors," in the Society of Biblical Literature, Membership Directory and Handbook (Decatur, GA: SBL, 1994) 223--40.



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