Jonah, The Whale and Pre-Scientific Ignorance
In the one biblical account, itʼs called a whale.The Biblical authors didnʼt know a whale, isnʼt a fish.
In another biblical account, itʼs called a fish.
They were unaware whales were mammals.
I think itʼs safe to say that the ancients had no idea as to what whales were (i.e., mammals). Hence, in using the modern word “whale,” which implies a mammal, the translation cannot be entirely correct as it implies more knowledge than the ancients had. Therefore, pointing out that a whale is not a fish is to rely on a translational imperfection. Ditto for the ancient Hebrew for “fish.”
For all we know, that could include most swimming creatures, big and small, whales included. Can we safely impart the scientific meaning to their word? The burden of proof would fall on those claiming an error.
On the other hand, this defense never allows God, who supposedly wrote the Bible in the view of inerrancy advocates, to rise above primitive ignorance. What an opportunity was missed! God could have shown his stuff by distinguishing between the two. Moreover, we have a clear error in the way most modern Bibles are translated. How many more errors, possibly of great significance, remain hidden? If the Bible we have in our hands isnʼt right with respect to whales, why should it be right in other matters?
Dave E. Matson
Oak Hill Free Press