2021-04-20

Peter, a real “son of Jonah” – part 2

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by Neil Godfrey

It may be that the pattern of events in the Old Testament sometimes foreshadows a similar pattern in the New, for the God of both Testaments is one. — C. S. C. Williams

C.S.C. Williams authored the 1958 Acts commentary from which the following parallels are taken. I think there are other explanations.

A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. — Matthew 16:4

Jesus replied, Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah — Matthew 16:17

Williams was possibly the first to draw attention to several of the parallels between the conversions of Nineveh and the Roman centurion listed in part 1. He also suggested that the king of Nineveh corresponded to Herod in Acts 12.

Jonah went down to the waters of death and appeared to the king of Nineveh as one risen from the dead; the king repented and (a) put off his royal apparel and put on sackcloth, (b) came down from his throne to sit in ashes, and (c) proclaimed a fast, Jonah iii. 6 f.; Peter was smitten on the side, symbolically re-enacting Christ’s Passion for Christ had been struck on the Cross in His side, while Peter lay in prison, which symbolizes the grave.

(Williams, 152)

I suspect that when “Luke” visualized the angel striking Peter on his side that he was posting a flag to draw our attention to the parallel with Jesus on the cross: he was signalling to the reader that the scene of Peter’s adventure in prison was a figure of death and resurrection. The Acts narrative stresses the heavy guard on Peter and the impossibility of him escaping except by miracle. He is indeed “in death” — see M. Goulder’s explanation for such as situation being understood as “a death”.

Jonah 3-4 Acts 12
Jonah was in the fish then spewed out after three days.

 

 

Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time, saying, Get up (ἀνάστηθι), go to Nineveh . . . — Jonah 3:1-2

 

Herod slew James the brother of John with the sword then had Peter arrested and imprisoned, intending to bring him to trial after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. An angel appeared to Peter at night, the chains fell from him and the doors opened of their own accord as he walked past the guards to freedom. Herod refused to believe the miracle of his escape so had the guards executed.

[The angel] struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up (Ἀνάστα)!” — Acts 12:7

 

 

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh,

  • he rose from his throne,
  • took off his royal robes,

covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.

This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

(But at dawn the next day God provided a worm (σκώληκι), which struck the gourd so that it withered – Jonah 4:7)

After hearing news of Peter’s escape from prison, “King Herod”

  • wearing his royal robes,
  • sat on his throne

 

and delivered a public address to the people.

They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.”

 

 

 

Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms (σκωληκόβρωτος) and died.

 

 


Williams, C. S. C. (Charles Stephan Conway). A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. New York: Harper, 1958. http://archive.org/details/commentaryonacts0000will.


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Neil Godfrey

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