Are we to believe that the story of Jonah and the whale is true?

The Catholic Answers

When Christ told the story of the prodigal son, the characters of the story were not really historical persons. But the story was a true description of types and of God’s mercy. Now some authors say that the Book of Jonah narrates a kind of parable somewhat akin to the parables of Christ. Others, and more probably, say that it is actual history, and that a real Jonah was really swallowed by a real fish, though not necessarily by a whale as we understand that word. The Church leaves us free to accept either view. The purpose of the Book is worthy indeed of God, teaching as it does that God much prefers to show mercy to a repentant people rather than vindicate His justice by the infliction of punishment. Nor is the story incredible even as actual fact. A thing is credible or incredible according to the presence or absence of a sufficient cause. I grant that the events in the Book of Jonah can be explained only by a miraculous intervention on the part of Almighty God. But once I say that God was the Agent at work, then the cause alleged could account for it, and the question is not, “Could it happen?” but, “Did it happen?” The main reason why people doubt the fact is because they cannot see how it could happen; a thing which does not necessarily prove more than that they cannot comprehend everything. The life of a human embryo during the period of its gestation is as much a mystery according to God’s natural laws as would be the life of Jonah for three days inside a large fish according to God’s extraordinary intervention. And who will say that God is never free to act outside the ordinary laws He Himself has established? In reality there is no more difficulty in accepting the miracle of Jonah than there is in accepting the undoubted miraculous fact of Christ’s resurrection.

Radio Replies Volume 1 by Rev. Dr. Leslie Rumble MSC and Rev. Charles Mortimer Carty

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