Did the species of “fish” that swallowed Jonah go extinct?

FRA 112711 Jonah and the Whale (oil on board) Aris, Fred (b.1934) (Contemporary Artist) FRED ARIS (CONTEMPORARY ARTIST), ,

FRA 112711
Jonah and the Whale (oil on board)
Aris, Fred (b.1934) (Contemporary Artist)

Anyone who’s ever been to Sunday School or read a Children’s Bible knows the story of Jonah (and the whale). If you’ve ever discussed this in church, you probably also know that Christians make a big deal about calling the whale a “fish” because that’s the terminology used in the King James version of the Bible.

Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17

So just to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt, what is the scientific consensus on the ability of a man to survive even 1 day in a fish or a whale?

Research reveals that there are no “fish” in our current classifications that could swallow men. But that a whale shark could fit you in it’s mouth but not into the esophagus. Sperm whales are the second category of “fish” large enough to capture a person but they have no air in their stomachs and have 4 chambers like a cow.

So I did find one apologetics site that found a sea creature that they claim could have swallowed a person but it existed 300 million years ago – before humans – but of course the Christians don’t accept evolutionary theory so if it’s in the fossil record, it existed with humans. When I started writing this, I actually thought that most of the apologetics arguments would be that a fish/whale existed at the time that could store a person in their stomach for 3 days but it had gone extinct. But their arguments are even worse than that. They range from basically God can do anything – he’s God! to a fish specifically created by God to swallow Jonah for this story.

The Christians are in a bind with this story because Jesus himself talked about it as having happened historically (Matthew 12:39-41, Luke 11:29-32) so if Jesus is to be believed, it has to be historical. It can’t be allegorical.

So interestingly, there is a lot of information to be gleaned from this great fish story. First, it’s clear that this is complete mythology in the character of any mythological story you might read about gods, goddesses, dragons, etc. And not only did it never happen historically but if Jesus thought it did, he wasn’t the omniscient God Christians think he is. Maybe he’s mythological too.



  1. It was just a metaphor for being consumed by your own ideas man. As for it being referenced as happening historically, historically, people get consumed by their own ideas everyday.


  2. First, Christians do accept evolution and Darwinian evolution theories at that. God made it. 🙂 They also accept Genesis is a myth, so there is some truth in it. (look up the definition of myth) Truth does not always equate to facts.

    Secondly, Jonah is a story that teaches us about how humanity relates to God. If you dare to dig a bit deeper than the stunning yarn of Jonah you will find this to be the truth too.

    Thirdly, the King James use big fish because the original Hebrew uses a generic noun for all sea creatures, as does the oldest know greek version. So their juries were out too!

    Lastly, here is a reference to a man surviving being swallowed by a sperm whale:

    which quotes…Wilson, A. J. 1927. Princeton Theological Review, XXV, October.

    Jesus used the message of Jonah to underline his teaching that forgiveness is, in God’s eyes, unconditional and indiscriminate. That is what Jonah is about too.

    But hey, whatever you choose.


    1. “Christians?” Not all of them. Check out ‘answers in Genesis’ and Ray Comfort. Out of all the Christians I personally know, none of the protestants accept evolution. The catholics do (at least the younger ones). Granted, the Christians I know are pretty hard core literalists. I think you have a modern take on it and that’s good. I applaud you.


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