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BibleProject Podcast
BibleProject Podcast
Classroom Sneak Peek: Jonah • Episode 1
Our Assumptions About Jonah
55m • August 23, 2021

A stubborn prophet, a wicked nation, a giant fish—the story of Jonah is frequently translated into the popular imagination through TV and movies. But what is it really about? In this episode, learn from Tim about where Jonah fits into the story of the Bible that ultimately points to Jesus. This is a sneak peek into our free graduate-level course on Jonah which will be featured in the new Classroom resource available in 2022.

What You'll Learn:
  • Basic principles for how to read the Bible, starting with the Old Testament
  • Why understanding the Hebrew Bible is fundamental for understanding who Jesus is
  • How to find the meaning in seemingly obscure passages of the Bible
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The Bible will exert influence on people, no matter how you read and understand it––it’s that kind of text. The question is, what kind of influence? The Bible shapes people, communities, and cultures, but are they shaped in a way that’s faithful to what the authors were trying to communicate and what Jesus said it was all about? The stakes are not low.


  • Jonah is a microcosm of the beauty and complexity of the Bible. It also represents some of the common challenges we face as we seek to understand the Bible.
  • Because Jesus identifies himself as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Bible, understanding him means we have to try to understand the first three-quarters of the Bible too.
  • Every portion of Scripture is something God can use to correct us, teach us how to live, and produce joy and flourishing in our lives as we encounter the person of Jesus the Bible communicates.

The audio for this episode is the first of a three-part sneak peek of our free graduate-level course on Jonah, which will soon come out of beta with an updated brand and website. For the remaining 42 sessions with Tim, as well as handouts and exercises to enrich your learning, check out the Classroom online courses launching in 2022.

Stories Are for Grown-Ups Too

In part one (0:00-18:05), Tim addresses some of the common misconceptions about Jonah and other biblical narratives, especially how easy it is to see the Bible stories as being primarily for children and the more “complex” passages, like the New Testament letters, as for adults.

However, Jonah is a microcosm of the beauty and complexity of the Bible. It contains both narrative and poetry and also represents some of the common challenges we face as we learn how to read the Bible. Because Jonah has been the subject of so many representations in popular art and media, we approach the original text armed with assumptions that can either help or hinder us.

No matter what portion of Scripture we’re engaging, it’s important to try to suspend our modern assumptions as much as possible, in order to hear what the biblical authors intended to say.

Understanding the Old Testament to Understand Jesus

In part two (18:05-28:30), Tim explores why investing time in understanding the ancient text of the Bible in its entirety and within its ancient context isn’t a task just for scholars and academics.

In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus inaugurates his ministry by reading from Isaiah 61 and announcing himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. In Luke 24:27, Jesus explains to two of his disciples how he is the fulfillment of the entire Hebrew Bible.

By Jesus’ own definition, understanding him means we have to grapple with the first three-quarters of the Bible too. Understanding the whole story of the Bible helps us better understand Jesus.

Jesus Isn’t Something New

In part three (28:30-37:00), Tim addresses questions from the class.

  • For Jews, Muslims, and other people already familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures, what should we emphasize first in evangelism: the Gospel accounts of Jesus or the Old Testament?
  • Beyond the fact that Jonah is embedded in the story of the Bible, are there specific things within Jonah that make it an especially appropriate test case for how we ought to study the Bible as a whole?
  • Why did the Hebrew Bible matter so much to Jesus, and how does it fit into the “eternal gospel” described in Revelation 14:6?
  • When he summarized the entire story of the Bible, Jesus said, “It is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day” (Luke 24:45-46), but that’s rarely what comes to mind when I or others think about the Old Testament. Why is that?

The discussion concludes with the simple reality that, if we take Jesus at his own word, we find that the Hebrew Bible is a multi-faceted portrait of the needs of humanity and the Savior whom God would send to meet those needs. Jesus doesn’t show up as “something new” from God––he’s the culmination of everything God has been doing in and among his people all along.

What Do the Scriptures Do?

In part four (37:00-44:30), Tim explores another reason why followers of Jesus should familiarize themselves with the Hebrew Bible, this time from 2 Timothy.

2 Timothy 3:14-15 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Jesus summarized for his followers what the Scriptures are about. Paul is summarizing for Timothy what the Scriptures do: they provide an education in wisdom, resulting in the knowledge that humanity needs a Savior, who is Jesus, and they provide instructions for how to live in the world, bearing God’s image in the way we were created to.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Every portion of Scripture is something God can use to correct us and teach us how to live. As we study Jonah, we’ll learn how to study the Bible as a whole and see how every story is part of one unified story that points to Jesus.

The Bible Is Meditation Literature

In part five (44:30-end), Tim concludes by reflecting on the principles of Psalm 1. Continual daily meditation on the Scriptures produces a life of joy and flourishing. That’s not because we learn new concepts or information, but because we encounter another mind––the mind of God. We experience how he sees and interacts with the world.

It’s important to remember that engaging with the Bible shapes people and cultures. The question is, are we being shaped by the Bible in a way that is faithful to the authors’ original intentions?

Referenced Resources

Show Music

  • “Defender (Instrumental)” by TENTS
  • “Keep an Open Mind” by Olive Musique

Show produced by Cooper Peltz, Dan Gummel, and Zach McKinley. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.

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Jonah E1  –  55m
Our Assumptions About Jonah
Jonah E2  –  54m
Jonah's Literary Context
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