'A Journey with Jonah: The Spirituality of Bewilderment' by Paul Murray OP. Columbia Press 2002 (1-85607-363-7) pp. 72 Softcover. UK pounds 4.99.
Jonah is the only Old Testament prophet with whom Jesus Christ identifies, and the only one to whom he refers explicitly by name. Yet the book is only two pages long - 48 verses in all.
Naturally there are the usual questions over its date of composition, authorship, literary genre, theme and purpose. Phyllis Trible has pronounced it 'a tempest in a text'.
In 'A Journey with Jonah The Spirituality of Bewilderment Murray argues that some of the best commentaries on Jonah come not from exegetes but from poems, paintings and sculpture stained glass - the kind of 'readings' where one work of art responds to another. Probably the best literary response to Jonah is Herman Melville's 'Moby Dick' with Father Mapples' speech
Murray succinctly uncovers the 'pregnant lessons' of Jonah under three headings - the Wild Storm, the Great Whale and the Wondrous Plant. Each scenario receives a contemporary interpretation.
The Jonah syndrome including the deep sleep below deck, the storm and the great fish, becomes Martin Buber's 'religion of pure psychic immanence', a shift form transcendence to immanence. Jonah's sleep is 'an exclusively immanent spirituality…a regress to a safe controlled environment, a return to the womb even' (p 23).
Murray posits that Jonah is the 'most profoundly Christian' in the OT, making it 'possible for us to perceive God's loving laughter over narrow minded piety'. Why Murray must seek 'Christian' in the Hebrew Bible is not explained.
From the pen of an Irish Dominican priest, this little book is suitable for all Christian traditions, though some readers may find it limited in scope.