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7 AND 9 WEST EIGHTEENTH ST.
THERE is a sense in which the interpretation of the Book of Jonah cannot be regarded as a matter of prime importance. It is made so, however, by the claim of certain religious teachers, who insist upon identifying the vital truths of historic Christianity with the particular interpretation of the Book of Jonah to which they are attached; who insist that to deny the historical character of the Book of Jonah is tantamount to denying the authority of Jesus Christ as a teacher, and of his resurrection from the dead; and who thus make the whole of Christian faith to rest upon a single verse in the New Testament, which may be Christ's words and may not be, and upon the question whether a particular Book of the Old Testament is to be regarded as the sober narrative of a fact, or as a fictitious story written for the purpose of satirizing Pharisaic narrowness, and teaching the universal authority and the universal love of God. Such a confounding of religious truth with purely historical criticism, this basing Christianity, not upon the spiritual character of Jesus Christ, nor even upon the historical evidence of his resurrection, but upon the question whether a big fish swallowed an ancient prophet, and afterwards threw him up upon the shore again, is destructive of the very foundations of Christian faith, and makes it necessary for the scholar who believes that faith in Christ is something different from faith in a particular scholar's interpretation of a particular book, to separate these two sharply, and to protest vigorously and effectively against confusing them.
This little volume seems to me to do this work well. It points out the difficulties in the traditional interpretation of the Book of Jonah, analyzes the book
itself in an intelligent and catholic spirit, and indicates the true nature of the book, and at least the direction in which we are to look for its correct interpretation and its moral lesson. Whatever helps to relieve Christian faith from burdens of superstition and credulity which tradition has laid upon it, is to be heartily welcomed in the interest of a purer, a better, and a more intelligent faith, and I believe this little book will serve this purpose.