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Saints Jerome, Cyril, and Theophilus explain in detail the type-meaning of the facts of the Book of Jonah. Cyril even forestalls the objections of the Rationalists of today: Jonah flees his ministry, bewails God's mercy to the Ninivites, and in other ways shows a spirit that ill becomes a Prophet and an historical type of Christ.Cyril admits that in all this Jonah failed and is not a type of Christ, but does not admit that these failures of Jonah prove the story of his doings to have been a mere fiction.Finally, Christ makes no distinction between the story of the Queen of Sheba and that of Jonah (see Matthew ).He sets the very same historical value upon the Book of Jonah as upon the Third Book of Kings.It would be little less strange were he to berate the Jews for their real lack of penance by rating this lack in contrast with the penance of Ninive which never existed at all.The whole force of these striking contrasts is lost, if we admit that the story of Jonah is not fact-narrative.After this episode he again receives the command to preach in Ninive, and the account of his second journey is scarcely less marvellous than that of the first.
He withdraws from Ninive and, under a booth which he has erected, he awaits the destiny of the city.In the works of some recent Catholic writers there is a leaning to regard the book as fiction.Only Simon and Jahn, among prominent Catholic scholars, have clearly denied the historicity of Jonah; and the orthodoxy of these two critics may no longer be defended: "Providentissimus Deus" implicitly condemned the ideas of both in the matter of inspiration, and the Congregation of the Index expressly condemned the "Introduction" of the latter.To the Rationalist and to the advanced Protestant Biblical scholar these arguments are of no worth whatsoever.They find error not only in Jewish and Christian tradition but in Christ Himself.
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Reasons for the traditional acceptance of the historicity of Jonah: I.