JONAH AND THE WHALE
In spite of the testimony of Jesus Christ, the Bible account of Jonah and the Whale remains probably the most derided of all the incidents narrated in the Scriptures. Nevertheless, there is authentic record that this admittedly remarkable event has been repeated on at least two occasions, during whaling operations, in modern times. In one instance the victim was extricated during the cutting up process, many hours after the monster which swallowed him was harpooned. In the other case the man was actually disgorged by the creature itself. Both men completely recovered from their Jonah-like experience.
POINTS OF SPECIAL INTEREST
1. The Bible account states:
(1) Jonah, in an effort to escape a highly unpleasant task, embarked at Joppa in a ship westward-bound for Tarshish. Apparently this voyage was commonplace, as indicated by the prescribed fare, which the prophet duly paid.
(2) During a great storm, Jonah - having been cast overboard by a frenzied crew - was swallowed by a "great fish"
(3) After three days and three nights in the monster's stomach, during some of which period he was conscious, Jonah was disgorged - alive- on to the sea shore.
2. The usual objections:
A whale's throat is too small to admit a man's body.
"The sperm-whale is one of the most widely distributed of animals, being met with, usually in herds or 'schools', in almost all tropical and subtropical seas, and occasionally visiting the northern seas, a number having been killed around the Shetlands a few years ago. The food of sperm-whales consists mainly of squid and cuttlefish, but also comprises fish of considerable size." (The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 13th Edition).
If swallowed, the victim would quickly succumb from lack of air, or from the attack by the gastric juices of the whale upon his flesh.
The case of James Bartley - who was many hours inside a whale - completely refutes this.
Whales are not found in the Mediterranean waters.
The carcases of whales and other phenomenally large sea monsters have been washed up on the shores of this sea.
The disgorging incident is particularly incredible.
In the case of Marshall Jenkins this happened precisely.
It is an unlikely anyway.
This is a barren criticism; fact is frequently stranger than fiction. The same Creator Who produced such a remarkable monster is surely capable of directing its paths to serve His purposes.
3. Our Lord set the seal of His authority on the record of this incident by likening it to the experience which He was shortly to undergo. It is not conceivable that He would have compared His sojourn in Hades and subsequent Resurrection with a sort of Red-Ridinghood fairy tale.
4. The book of Jonah calls the monster a "great fish", whilst the New Testament refers to it as a whale (ketos - great sea monster: Matthew xii, 40). Whether fish or mammal is not of great moment. Bible apologists have gone to extreme lengths to explain away this incident. One modern translator has even gone so far as to state, as his opinion, that "Great Fish" was the name of a ship which picked up Jonah after he had been thrown overboard.
Extracts from:- SIXTY - THREE YEARS OF ENGINEERING, SCIENTIFIC AND SOCIAL WORK by SIR FRANCIS FOX (John Murray, London,
1924), pp. 298-301
Two separate accounts have been given of, the event - one evidently by the captain of the whaler; the other probably by one of the officers. The incident was carefully investigated by two scientists - one of whom was the late M.de Parville, the scientific editor of the Journal des Debats of Paris, well known as a man of sound judgment and a careful writer.....
The account briefly is as follows:
In February 1891 the whaling ship Star of the East was in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands, and the look-out sighted a large sperm whale three miles away. Two boats were launched and in a short time one of the harpooners was enabled to spear the fish. The second boat attacked the whale, but was upset by a lash of its tail and the men thrown into the sea, one man being drowned, and another, James Bartley, having disappeared could not be found. The whale was killed and in a few hours the great body was lying by the ship's side, and the crew were busy with axes and spades removing the blubber. They worked all day and part of the night. Next morning they attached some tackle to the stomach, which was hoisted on deck. The sailors were startled by something in it which gave spasmodic signs of life, and inside was found the missing sailor doubled up and unconscious. He was laid on the deck and treated by a bath of sea-water which soon revived him, but his mind was not clear, and he was placed in the captain's quarters, where he remained two weeks a raving lunatic. He was kindly and carefully treated by the captain, and by the officers of the ship, and gradually regained possession of his senses. At the end of the third week he had entirely recovered from the shock and resumed his duties.
During his sojourn in the whale's stomach, Bartley's skin where it was exposed to the action of the gastric juice underwent a striking change; his face, neck, and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness, and took on the appearance of parchment.
Bartley affirms that he would probably have lived inside his house of flesh until he starved, for he lost his senses through fright and not from lack of air. He says that he remembered the sensation of being thrown out of the boat into the sea, and of dropping into the water. Then there was a fearful rushing sound which he believed to be the beating of the water by the whale's tail he was then encompassed by a great darkness, and he felt he was slipping along a smooth passage of some sort that seemed to move and carry him forward. This sensation lasted but a short time and then he realised he had more room. He felt about him and his hands came into contact with a yielding slimy substance, that seemed to shrink from his touch. It finally dawned upon him that he had been swallowed by the whale, and he was overcome by horror at the situation. He could easily breathe, but the heat was terrible. It was not of a scorching, stifling nature, but it seemed to open the pores of
his skin and to draw out his vitality. He became very weak and became sick at the stomach. He knew there was no hope of escape from his strange prison. Death stared him in the face. He tried to look at it bravely, but the terrible quiet, darkness and heat, combined with the horrible knowledge of his environment, overcame him. The next he remembered was being in the captain's cabin.
According to the record, the skin on his face and hands never recovered its natural appearance, but the health of the man did not seem affected by his terrible experience. He was in splendid spirits and apparently fully enjoyed the blessings of life that came his way. The whaling captains say that it frequently happens that men are swallowed by whales who become infuriated by the pain of the harpoon and attack the boats, but they have never previously known a man to go through the ordeal that James Bartley experienced and come out alive.
It is stated that on the return of the vessel to England, Bartley went to a London hospital to be treated for the injury to his skin - but what occurred is not in the record. He was known to be one of the most hardy of whalemen.
M.de Parville, one of the most careful and painstaking scientists in Europe, concluded his investigations by stating his belief "that the account given by the captain and crew of the English whaler is worthy of belief. There are many cases reported where whales, in the fury of their dying agony, have swallowed human beings, but this is the first modern case where the victim has come forth safe and sound. After this modern illustration I end by believing that Jonah really did come out from the whale alive as the Bible records".
The Curator of a large museum, in a reply to a question I put to him as to the temperature of the blood of a whale, said it was about 2.5 Centigrade above the
temperature of the human body - which, in the Fahrenheit scale, would be 104.6°, or high fever heat.
(Reproduced by kind permission of the publishers.) Extract from the Daily Telegraph, 11h February, 1928
JONAH'S WHALE - SCIENTIFIC SUPPORT FOR BIBLE NARRATIVE
By H. G. Boulenger, F.Z.S. (Director, Zoological Society's Aquarium)
The sperm whale subsists for the most part on octopus, the bodies of which, often larger than that of a man, have been frequently found whole in its stomach... ..
Whether a man could live inside a whale for more than a very short time is the next point to be considered. According to Dr.Wilson the answer is in the affirmative.
He reasons: "There will be air to breathe, of a sort-the air necessary to enable the fish to float. The heat would be too oppressive, but not more than 104 deg. to 106 deg. F., in the opinion of an expert. This temperature, though fever heat to a human being, would not necessarily be fatal to human life. Again, the gastric juice would be extremely unpleasant, but not deadly. It cannot digest living matter, otherwise it would digest the walls of its own stomach."
...... the Jonah-like experience of James Bartley, which took place as recently as the year 1891... was investigated and confirmed not only by Sir Francis Fox, but by a committee of French scientists, one of whom was the late M.de Parville, the scientific editor of the Journal des Debats, of Paris.
According to Sir Francis Fox, in the February of 1891 the whaling ship Star of the East, operating near the Falkland Islands, launched two boats to deal with a big bull cachalot. One of these was upset by a blow from the whale's tail, and a member of the crew, one Bartley, dis-appeared. The whale was subsequently killed and the work of dismembering commenced. The crew were busy with axes and spades, removing the blubber, and worked all day and part of the following night.
Next morning they attached some tackle to various parts, including the stomach, which was hoisted on deck. The stomach attracted special attention by its strange internal contortions. On opening it there was revealed James Bartley, A.B., alive, but with his skin bleached to a deadly whiteness that remained throughout his life. For fourteen days afterwards this man was a gibbering maniac, after which period he became normal again.
INSIDE A CACHALOT
Sir John Bland-Sutton has given an account of a man being taken into the mouth of a whale very many years ago. In this instance, a U.S.A. vessel sent out a small boat to chase a cachalot. The boat was bitten in two, as frequently occurred in the days before the gun harpoon was invented, and one of the crew, Marshall Jenkins, went down with the whale as the beast sank in its death agonies. It came up for a last breather and, as often happens in such cases, vomited. Together with the remains of its last peaceful meal, cuttlefish and worse, it brought up Mr. Jenkins, depositing the whole amongst the wreckage of the broken boat... .
Extract from the Sunday Express, 23rd March, 1947
Was a man, other than Jonah, swallowed by a whale?
W. ROBERTSON. Gravel-Iane, Banks, Southport.
"Sunday Express" Editor's Footnote: James Bartley, an Englishman, vanished when a boat from the Star of the East, chasing a harpooned sperm whale near Falkland Islands in 1891,was smashed by the whale's tail. The stomach was brought on deck and the sailor found unconscious inside. He later recovered.
Published by The National Message,
Courtesy of BIWF.
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