Was Jonah three days in the belly of a fish?

People often ask (or ridicule) Christians about the story of Jonah Jonah and whale 2and the fish. What is the answer? Is it real history or a fable? It is important to answer the question, because Jesus referred to the incident, ‘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.’  1  So Scripture gives a parallel between Jonah and Jesus.

Jesus also said, ‘The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.’ 2  So if there was no Jonah who preached to the people of Nineveh, why believe in Jesus? After all, Jesus clearly said that He is greater than Jonah. Therefore if Jesus was a historical figure on earth, Jonah must have been one also. That includes his three days in the belly of a big fish.

To answer the ‘mechanism’ of Jonah’s three day journey in the fish’s belly, we must remember Genesis 1, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’  Just as we cannot explain the creation of a fish, or its DNA, or all the miracles of creation (and science definitely cannot), just as little can we explain the miracle of Jonah and the fish. All we know for sure is that God is the power behind miracles.

So from the beginning of the Bible, right to the end (the new heavens and earth), the Bible shows that God is supernatural and miracles are just the run of the mill for Him. If we understand that creation was supernatural, we understand that the whole Bible is a ‘mixture’ of the supernatural acts of God and human history. Therefore the virgin birth, raising Lazarus, healing the blind and spending three days in the belly of a fish is just part of God’s miraculous powers.

To summarise: A person without Genesis 1 as a fixed reference point will not be able to give a reason for the miracles in the Bible, the resurrection, or the new heavens and earth. The cause is the same: it is the Lord God Almighty, the wonderful Father and Saviour.  He planned and caused Jonah’s three days in the belly of the fish.

NB! Concerning the illustration: the Bible does not say what kind of fish it was. The whale shark is the largest non mammalian vertebrate. They have large mouths and are filter feeders (Wikipedia).


  1. Matthew 12:40
  2. Matthew 12:41
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