Biblical Archaeology Review 32:6, November/December 2006



“‘O Lord my God,’ cried Jonah from the belly of the great fish ... ‘I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will fulfill. Deliverance belongs to the Lord!’ Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:6, 9–10). This third-century A.D. marble sculpture depicts Jonah being cast up out of the belly of the beast. Having spent three days inside the fish for his transgressions, Jonah is forgiven by the Lord and released. In Judaism, the story of Jonah is retold on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, as it is the perfect example of sin, repentance and forgiveness. The early Christian society that created the statue equated Jonah’s deliverance with the resurrection of Jesus after three days in the tomb.

Although the story has come down to modern society as Jonah being swallowed by a whale, this artist chose to depict the beast as Ketos, the sea monster that the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, sent to plague the city of Troy. The 16-inch-tall statue is part of a group of sculptures known as the “Jonah Marbles” that probably came from a tomb. Although the actual location of their discovery is unknown, tests have shown that the marble came from a Roman Imperial quarry at Docimium in Central Turkey. The statue is in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

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