Was Jonah swallowed by a whale? We always thought he had been. When I was ten, my father saw a small paper item about a beached whale shipped on a flat car up to St. Louis where we lived. He took twelve-year-old Peggy and me down to see it. No one was around, so Peg and I crawled into the whale's mouth, where we found the throat opening pretty small for Jonah.
When I as a little older I heard a song about Jonah. And because it was funny, I started trying to sing it. It went, “Old Jonah, he lived in a whale. Old Jonah, he lived in a whale. He made his home in dat fish’s abdomen. Old Jonah, he lived in a whale.”
But, then, I think it was Sister Celeste, showed he how that song made fun of the Bible. You might remember it. “It ain't necessarily so. It ain't necessarily so. Duh t'ings dat yo' li'ble, to read in de Bible, “It ain't necessarily so.. “
At one time all that we Catholics knew about the Bible was that we were supposed to believe it all. But in the last forty years we have gotten into serious Bible study. So, let me tell you what we have leaned about Jonah.
In 450 b.c. the Jews wrote a new constitution, making the old Law of Moses their civil law; and it radically isolated the Jews from Gentles. It had an amendment against marrying foreigners. That was fine, but by ten years later, they had gone too far in despising foreigners. They had particularly come to hate the Assyrians whose capitol was Nineveh.
So, God inspired a Jewish humorous story-teller to make up this yarn that was something like what we have in our Comic Books. Its purpose was to make people laugh at those whose hatred of foreigners blinded them to the fact that all humans are God’s children.