The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact.

~ C. S. Lewis

Photo by David Clumpner, courtesy of iStockphoto

A recent discovery of an ossuary (a burial box) in Jerusalem has made waves among skeptics and believers alike. This tomb bore a carving of Jonah emerging from the mouth of a large fish. It’s one of the earliest depictions found by archeologists to indicate an early belief in the Resurrection of Jesus – outside of the Scripture and early Christian writings, of course.

  • This sign of Jonah resurfaced after being submerged for two millennia.

The scientists who found it were as shocked as anyone. James D. Tabor, Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, related his surprise at the implication:

If anyone had claimed to find either a statement about resurrection or a Jonah image in a Jewish tomb of this period I would have said impossible – until now. Our team was in a kind of ecstatic disbelief, but the evidence was clearly before our eyes, causing us to revise our prior assumptions.[1]

  • The unbelievers had cast Jonah’s saga away from their interpretation of reality.

They had relegated “The Book of Jonah” to myth or allegory because they refuse to acknowledge it as factual. They ignored the possibility that something extraordinary and unexplainable can happen and that it did.[2]

  • The supernatural element makes for a better story … that’s true.

C. S. Lewis argued that the great myths of ancient days share a common theme–a heroic struggle known to all men. If we search the origins and the meanings of those epics, we often find they bear some truth.

  • Some of the most famous stories of all time were fish tales.

Whether the plots included clown fish, killer whales, or deadly sharks, they appealed to something within us. Whether horrifying or cartoonish, comical or inspirational, historic or science-fiction, they hooked our souls.

  • Deadly shark attacks along the Jersey Shore inspired Jaws.[3]

Peter Benchley investigated these reports before setting his infamous drama in the very waters where those terrors had occurred. And the movie’s music haunts us when we tread into the deep. Why? Because it bears a semblance of truth.

  • Herman Melville conceived Moby-Dick after a whale sunk a ship by ramming it.[4]

The intrigued author sailed the seas aboard a whaler, getting a taste for the enterprise he chronicled in his classic.

  • Still, the most incredible fish tale is the story of Jonah being swallowed by a large sea creature … and restored again.

Skeptics deny its plausibility. Others accept it on faith. At least one person buried in the newly-explored tomb hoped in it.

  • Such faith is placed in a supernatural God – not in human explanation.

Those who would call it a myth or an allegory dismiss the evidence as inconclusive. Those who believe praise Him, for we know He is no myth. His power and promises are true. That’s why His story will never die.

  • Do you see Jonah’s story as a myth or a factual story?