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18. Bible and Qur'an Series
BOOKLET 2 - What Indeed Was the Sign of Jonah?
(A reply to Ahmad Deedat's Booklet: What was the Sign of Jonah?)

A - THE SIGN OF JONAH


According to both the Bible and the Qur'an, Jesus Christ performed many mighty miracles during his brief three-year ministry in the land of Israel. Many of the Jews were led to believe in him when they saw such signs and wonders being performed. The Jewish leaders, however, refused to believe in him and although his miracles were widely known they often pressed him hard to perform signs or, indeed, even give them a sign from heaven (Matthew 16:1). On one occasion Jesus answered them by saying that he would give them only one sign:

An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:39-40)

Jonah was one of the great prophets of Israel and he had been called out by God to preach to an Assyrian city named Nineveh and to proclaim its pending doom. Jonah fled on a ship to Tarshish, however, and when a great storm began to rock the boat he was thrown overboard and swallowed by a large fish. After three days in the fish, however, he was brought up alive and duly went into the city.

Jesus spoke of this three-day internment in the stomach of the fish as “the sign of Jonah” and said that it was the only sign he was prepared to give to the unbelieving Jews. During 1976 Ahmed Deedat of the Islamic Propagation Centre in Durban published a booklet entitled What was the Sign of Jonah?, a title which leads the reader to expect a studied exposition of the subject. Instead one finds that Deedat does not answer his own question at all but ventures into an attack on the statement made by Jesus and endeavors to refute it. His arguments are based entirely on two suppositions, namely that if Jonah had been alive throughout his sojourn in the fish, then Jesus must have been alive in the tomb after being taken down from the cross; and if Jesus was crucified on a Friday and rose on the following Sunday morning, then he could not have been three days and three nights in the tomb. We shall consider these two objections in order and will thereafter proceed to analyze the whole subject to see what the Sign of Jonah really was.

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