Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Abraham van Linge: "Jonah and the Whale"

Jonah and the 'Whale'

A query surfaced on the Milton List concerning the comparison of Satan prone on the fiery flood to the sea-beast "haply slumbering on the Norway foam" (PL 1. 203). The question was whether the reference to Norway alluded to the Midgard Serpent (or World Serpent) of Norse mythology. I don't know about that, but Roy Flannagan provided us with a link to an image from Milton's time of the 'whale' that reportedly swallowed Jonah as another possible source. It's not the Midgard Serpent, of course, but it is rather reptilian.

I have 'borrowed' the image at that link, one of a series of photographs taken in Lincoln College Chapel, Oxford, by a certain "Lawrence OP" . . . or 'uncertain' since I'm not sure of that last name (so I'll refer to him as "Lawrence").

Concerning this image and the others with it, Lawrence tells us:
The windows are the masterpiece of Abraham van Linge, 1629-31. He was the finest glass painter of his generation.

They are not stained glass, but enamelled: the enamel was painted on then fired; the heat and length of firing determined the final colour. It is a tricky, sophisticated technique of which van Linge was the supreme master.
Not stained glass but enameled glass. I learn something new every day. Now, I've just realized that I don't specifically know what the "stained" in stained glass means. Why 'stained'?

But that's not my inquiry for today. Rather, I was wondering why this 'whale' has scales (the 'reptilian' quality alluded to above). I realize that the Medieval depiction of whales in those books known as bestiaries shows them scaled, but Abraham van Linge was painting in the 17th century, well into the scientific revolution. Did people not know any better by then?

Lawrence, by the way, has chosen the New International Version of the Bible for a caption to the photo above:
"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:40)
This NIV text says "huge fish." Let's check the Greek:
ὥσπερ γὰρ ἦν Ἰωνᾶς ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ τοῦ κήτους τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας οὕτως ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας
The relevant word is "kētous" (κήτους), which the Blue Letter Bible helps us to understand by directing us to its Lexicon: "a sea monster, whale, huge fish." The definition is borrowed from Thayer's Lexicon, which informs us further that the original Jonah story had "kētei megalō" (κήτει μεγάλῳ) in the Septuagint (Greek) version, which would thus suggest "great sea monster, great whale, great huge fish." The Hebrew behind this is "dag gadōl" (דָּג גָּדֹול) in Jonah 2:1, which literally means "big fish."

This raises a host of questions (e.g., where the "whale" translation comes from) that I cannot deal with at present, for my day is soon to start.

But knowledgeable readers are welcome to comment.

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At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm uncertain as to all the sorts of stains where glass production is involved - but I was told once in Branson Missouri - to "yield a yellow stain" [in glass] have a "four year old male child who likes writing, aim for the jar." I was also told to feed the kid foods rich in Vitamin B.

Whether that works or not, I haven't a clue. I know my pee is especially yellow with Vitamin B supplementation. Regardless (and thankfully - I didn't have a handy four year old). Whether I'd direct a pee stream into a container of molten glass is not something I'd consider a four year - old to to aim for.

Myself? I'd advise law or doctorhood. Perhaps JO will weigh in on this one as well.

I'm uncertain whether a "tornado story" from Cran will provide the necessary exception.

I expect he'll be able to provide all the required and pertinent "staining information" that shall henceforth be required.


I realize watermelons are green. Dimes are (or were) silver.

Either will provide the necessary.

(Blog answer only. I'd prefer no Postal Inspectors at my door.)


At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Jeff?

I think you've invited your own answer.

"This raises a host of questions (e.g., where the "whale" translation comes from) that I cannot deal with at present, for my day is soon to start."

Cran (I have this funny feeling) has a fish story or two).

After all, he did sleep on a lake.


At 5:28 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, JK, we'll just have to wait and see what Uncle Cran has to offer.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The KJV translators likely tried to think of a known creature when translating. The whale was a reasonable one to them.

At 8:01 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, it would be interesting to check other translations, including the Latin, but I'm guessing that "whale" had a broader meaning in the past than it does now.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonah's "whale of a tale" is too big a fish story for many people to swallow. It would require a miracle for him to survive three days and nights in the fish's belly, then being delivered on dry land and sent on to Nineveh. My KJV (Scofield Edition)says that:

"Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." (Jonah 1:17).

But notice Jonah's prayer:

And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.........
The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.
(Jonah 2:2,3,5,6)).
Sounds like Jonah actually died and God revived him.
Either of the two options would require a miracle.
The word translated hell is the Hebrew sheol, translated hades in the Septuagint. It signifies the place of departed spirits.
I vote for death and revival in Jonah's case.

At 3:57 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, it does sound like death in Sheol, doesn't it?

I guess that somebody'll need to update that old song from Porgy and Bess.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or even the old country song: That's All She Wrote, by Hank Williams.......(from his wife)...
"Now Jonah got along in the belly of the whale, and Daniel in the lions' den.
I know a guy who didn't try to get along, and he won't get a chance again, and that's all she wrote...Dear John, I've sent your saddle home."


At 5:08 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'll have to check that out on You Tube.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:39 AM, Blogger ~Chris said...

Yes, it's about a miracle in the belly of a whale and the belly of the earth.... and so much more than that.
What meanest thou, O sleeper ?

At 6:17 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Chris, could you explain what you mean by Jonah in the belly of the whale and Jonah in the earth?

Jeffery Hodges

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