Jacques Ellul: The Judgment of Jonah

Jacques Ellul, The Judgment of Jonah (Wipf & Stock 2011) “What is really intimated is the adventure of Jesus. What happens to Jonah happens to Jesus. For Jesus took on him the fulness of man.”

Jacques Ellul, The Judgment of Jonah (Eerdmanns 1971) (Wipf & Stock 2011)

Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) was a French sociologist, theologian, and professor of law at the University of Bordeaux.

In his short book (a long essay) on the Old Testament book of Jonah, Ellul finds the meaning of the story of Jonah in its prophetic relation to Jesus Christ.

The key to understanding Jonah’s descent into the abyss and his subsequent salvation is Jesus’ own interpretation of “the sign of Jonah” as anticipating his death and resurrection (eg. Matt. 12:38-42).

While the book of Jonah is valuable for reflecting on our own personal experiences with God, its ultimate meaning is unveiled by the gospel about the relation of all human beings to God through Christ.

“What is really intimated is the adventure of Jesus. What happens to Jonah happens to Jesus. For Jesus took on him the fulness of man. We are thus confronted here by the insoluble mystery of the unity of all men in Christ. If all are dead in Adam, all are made alive in Christ. This is why the Book of Jonah, so rich in instruction for each of us (our life, our personal problems), for Israel, and for the Church, is also the prophetic book of Jesus Christ. Jesus truly lives the life of each of us. All that Jonah is in his abandonment, revolt, and misery, and later in his discussions with God, all this Christ has assumed, transformed into prophecy who the Savior and Messiah is and what he will do. Conversely, it is also a revelation that what happens to Christ will all happen to man. If Christ in Jesus takes on our adventures and condition, he gives us in exchange his own sanctity and righteousness. The Book of Jonah is essentially prophetic in this twofold relation.” (p. 59)

“The Book of Jonah has no conclusion, and the final question of the book has no answer, except from the one who realizes the fulness of the mercy of God and who factually and not just mythically accomplishes the salvation of the world.” (p. 103)

See also: Jacques Ellul (1912-1994)

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