Previously I actually PMed a scholarly member of this forum about koine lingua’s arguments. I just checked my PM box and his reply was still there! I asked:
What are your thoughts on the arguments of the user “koine_lingua”?
What do you make of /u/koine_lingua’s arguments? (Part 1)
Here’s what he had to say:
[quote] I’d read that series of posts some months before you sent me this last PM, and koine_lingua did seem to have quite a technical handle on Ancient Greek linguistics, so much so that a lot of what s\he said simply went over my head. Nonetheless there are some things I do know - or at least thoughts that I have, ignorant or otherwise - which provide me with a few different ways to approach your question.
One is that: Reading Jonah’s prayer even in the various available English translations leads me to believe that attempting to dissect word for word what Jonah is saying, whether in Greek (a language in which he almost certainly would not have been writing, much less the 3rd/2nd-century-BC Greek of the Septuagint, seeing as in he’s supposed to have lived a good half-millennium prior to the composition of the LXX) or Hebrew (of which, if I recall correctly, koine_lingua also knows quite a bit), or even English, really is splitting hairs to the extent of ending up missing the point.
For real, all I think that Jonah is saying in that poem is: “Man! I thought I was a goner but then I made it out and behold! I live to tell the tale!” Consider the amount of hyperbole and figurative language we English-speakers employ on a surprisingly regular basis, without much thought to it at all & without expecting that anyone’s gonna mistake our meaning by taking our words literally or by beginning to break them down phrase by phrase, piecemeal, to attempt a reconstruction of how seriously we might’ve meant a certain extreme-sounding thing we said.
Every single time that I can recall in the past few years that I’ve used the terms “forever,” “aeons” & “ages” in ordinary conversation, I have always meant a period of time totalling less than one hour, or maybe a couple of hours, often in reference to how long I had to wait in a queue.
Here’s an example in the context of death: “If I’m late for school one more time this year, my mom is gonna kill me!” The person making such a statement often does not mean that his/her mother is even going to lay a finger on him/her; usually it just means “I’ll get sternly rebuked for my misbehaviour.”
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” ~ Genesis 20.3
Now here God does not mean that Abimelech is literally a corpse or is undead or anything like that. Nor does he even mean the thing that a popular interpretation of certain other Scriptures has come up with: that he is “spiritually” dead. No, he means that Abimelech’s life is in danger. But on account of how the story pans out, Abimelech not only makes it to the end of the chapter without a scratch but also lives long enough to get duped by Abraham’s son Isaac a whole generation later.
One could say that Jonah is doing the same thing. If we take what he is saying literally, he has to be contradicting himself, the same way I would if I said that someone kept me waiting for him at his office forever. Even while I was stuck waiting at the office, there’s no sense in which I could possibly mean that I literally expected to be marooned in that situation for aeons upon aeons of unending time. It’s just a way of over-exaggerating my impatient sentiments. And if that’s what a little impatience can feel like, imagine being trapped in pitch darkness swishing around in the digestive juices of a giant sea-beast with nothing to eat or drink, and no fresh air to breathe, for 72 hours, but also without the expectation that you will make it out alive.
Of course there’re a few logical problems with the story per se. How does Jonah survive that long inside another living creature without being digested or without drowning or suffocating? I’ve always chalked it up to a miracle: after all it was the big “fish” that saved Jonah from drowning in the sea. That’s not impossible, I think, but there are 2 alternate interpretations I’ve recently come across which had never occurred to me most of life: Jonah actually died, and when he says (in Ch. 2, v. 2 of his oracle) that he was in the belly of Hell/She’ol/Hades, he means it literally. And then he was resurrected. Which has some very interesting implications for the fact that Jonah is the only prophet with whom Jesus Christ ever makes a direct comparison of himself.
The other interpretation, which I read from a rabbinical Jew, is that the whole story in the book of Jonah is a parable, which would allow for a much greater suspension of disbelief when it comes to all the aforementioned logic problems, as well as whatever historicity issues it might have.
Anyway, whatever the case may be with all the above, the more crucial matter at hand, to me, would be: In the Book of Jonah, what is Hell/She’ol, or what are the bars which closed behind the “dead” man; and even if he does literally, truly or actually expect to be stuck there for unending time, is that any different for any other person who dies in the Old Testament and what their expectation of the afterlife is?
I’ve recently been reading quite a few different articles about Semitic and Near & Middle Eastern views of the afterlife and the Underworld in ancient times, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures before Christ. Based on those (to which I can send U links if U like) & other things I’ve read elsewhere I think it’s quite fair to conclude that all that Jonah means in Ch. 2 is that he thought he was (or he, in actuality, was) descending into the realm of the dead, into a state of darkness, dissolution and disintegration, to which everyone goes (Ecclesiastes 3.20 & 6.6, although it is Ch. 9, v. 10 that I find the most compelling, according to which everyone is going to Hell, the place where there is “no work or device or knowledge or wisdom”; many English Bible mistranslate “Hell/She’ol” here as “grave”). People did not generally expect to ever be able to return from Hell, i.e. the dead. Once you died that was it. Which, I think, is why the big deal about resurrection in the New Testament. The result of sin (death) was/is being and shall be, in a final way, reversed by Jesus Christ. In Eastern Christianity, there are ancient hymns (e.g. by St Ephrem of Syria) in which She’ol is a cosmic female figure who mourns the fact that Jesus has escaped from her “womb” or belly. She’ol had expected that once she had devoured the dead, they would remain within her into the olam/aeon, “forever.” Perhaps “permanently” is a better translation of Jonah’s use of aionioi in Ch. 2, v 6.
Did you read the paper “Eternity and the Bible: Does Scripture Teach Everlasting Punishment?”, which user “sven” posted in that thread? It’s 40 pages long but it’s actually pretty good reading. I took note of what I thought were the most insightful portions thereof. I can copy U some paragraphs in case U haven’t already read it.
Basically my thought is that the issue here is not that Jonah is worried about what will happen to him after this life. He’s concerned that he’s losing his hold upon this life, so that when “the bars” close behind him, his life has officially ended and, as the mafioso say, he sleeps with the fishes.
Finally, however, if we insist upon taking Jonah literally, since he’s talking about death (or the threat thereof) rather than being stood up in some office building, the fact is that he words his poem in the past tense. He does not say that he thought, at the time, that the bars had closed behind him forever; he says that they actually did close behind him “forever.” And if that’s the case then we have the problem of him having blatantly (and quite inexplicably) contradicted himself, because the very same verse claims that his life was restored “from the pit” (perhaps God snuck him out through the side entrance or something?), not to mention that the last verse of the prev. chapter has already informed us that aionioi actually did not exceed 72 hours in this case.
For koine_lingua’s argument to be consistent (I remember s\he was quite rigid about how to interpret the words of the text) then we would have to allow that Jonah only thought that he was in the deep, in the heart of the seas, with the floods surrounding him, and waves passing over him (Ch. 2, v. 3); or that he merely imagined the weeds wrapped around his head (v. 4); or that it was just a fantasy due to his “state of mind at the time” that he “went down to the roots of the mountains” (a traditional location of She’ol, by the way; cf. Deuteronomy 32.22).
I think it makes for a fair amount of arbitrariness regarding how much of what Jonah says that we can take seriously as any sort of fact of occurrence in the narrative vis-à-vis some hallucination that he’s suffering on account of immediate circumstances, which circumstances per se we perhaps should not trust him to provide any details about. Surely the principle should cut both ways.