Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dating the Book of Jonah - references

Prophet Jonah
Michelangelo Sistine Chapel, Vatican
Image wikimedia

Set in the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 BC), it was probably written in the post-exilic period, sometime between the late 5th to early 4th century BC.

If Jonah is the same Jonah as in 2 Kings 14:25, the date of the book would be in early 8th century B.C.E. - at this time Assyria would be on the rise seeking to become a world empire.

Some scholars argue that book was written later
Reasons for
  • References to Nineveh are vague
  • Author used title "King of Nineveh" rather than "King of Assyria" which would have been more correct
  • Nineveh not become capital of Assyria until long after time of Jonah mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25
  • If reference to Nineveh is historical, city would be only the small capital of a small city-state and not huge capital of a world empire as is stated (1:1, 3:3)
  • Language and customs of story are more appropriate for 5th and 4th centuries B.C.E.
  • Author of 2 Kings seems not to have been aware of the story - one might argue back, however, that Kings is unaware of or unconcerned with most of the canonical prophets
  • Opposes narrow nationalistic views of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zechariah so must have been composed after their time
  • Those who are convinced by this evidence date the book to the 5th or 4th century B.C.E.
Sirach 49:10 and Tobit 14:4,8 in the Apocrypha mention Jonah so the book must have been written before the 2nd century B.C.E.
Cumberland College WebArchive

F. Although some have dated the book late because of Aramaisms and expressions unfamiliar to Classical Hebrew, they are inconclusive and do not prove a post-exilic date 28

G. Although some date the book after the exile as a response to the ultra-nationalistic spirit of Ezra and Nehemiah, this universalistic emphasis also occurred during the eighth century in Isaiah 2:2ff 29

Scholarly references to "ultra-nationalistic spirit" against which Book of Jonah could have been written in post-exilic period does not necessarily involve the "post-Holocaust" anger that I am suggesting in this blog.

Aramaic influence on the Hebrew language is important when trying to date the text. I need to study this more in detail.

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