Jonah and the Prophetic Character
Harkins, Robert Justin
This study argues that the story of the book of Jonah may be interpreted as a transformation of a familiar topos in which the protagonist undergoes a rite de passage during a quest that takes him towards a foreign land. While in a liminal "no man's land" the hero overcomes several challenges before reintegrating with humanity in an act of communitas, but Jonah fails in this and the prophet is consequently depicted as an antihero. To demonstrate how the story's structure adapts recognizable components from this topos, I have compared the Jonah story with two other fantastic tales from the ancient Near East. This portrayal of Jonah reflects the unsettled social situation in which the narrative took form, and I suggest several ways the story might be interpreted in this context.