Belly of the whale

Why does the psalm 150 response in the distribution refer to the 'belly of the whale'? Wasn't it a big fish? Isn't the whale a mammal, not a fish?

Wondering if there's some interesting explanation!


  • DEAr @ShareTheLord,
    I think that's based on the translation of the Coptic Holy Bible..
  • The Old Testament is not meant to be taken as scientific fact. For the writer of the book of Jonah a whale could perhaps easily be misinterpreted as a fish. As orthodox we don't read the Old Testament and say "see it can't be a whale cause it says fish" when we need to look firstly at the spiritual language and secondly at the intention behind the words. Besides it doesn't really matter if it was a whale or a big fish anyway.
  • @sirlanky1990, there is nothing dogmatic about this mistake and does not remove or change much in the story that is agreed. I, however, believe our hymns always has a high level of credibility. Finding any type of minor mistake need to be corrected to uphold it's high level of credibility. There are many errors that are due to translation. My curiosity was whether it was translation or not. 

    @ophadece, when looking at the Coptic Reader, a friend of mine told me the Coptic response, has the word Pikitoc, which is really a great fish according to him...  
  • the septuagint calls it a 'huge sea creature' (see the orthodox study Bible, jonah 2:1).

    i don't think jonah went back and dissected it in order to check that it was correctly classified, 
    so we'll just have to accept we'll never be sure until we can ask him directly.

    may God bless your fasting

  • edited February 2016

    One small correction. The Psalm 150 addition is not in Coptic. It is an Arabic response translated into English. Technically, the best translation for kytoc الحوت would be cetacea. 

    Here is what Wiki says about cetacea.

    Cetacea (/sᵻˈteɪʃə/), (from Latin cetus "large sea creature" and Greek ketos "sea-monster"[2]) are a widely distributed and diverse infraorder of carnivorous, aquatic, marine mammals. They comprise the families Balaenidae (right whales), Balaenoptera (rorqual), Eschrichtiidae (the gray whale), Delphinidae (oceanic dolphins), Monodontidae (Arctic whales), Phocoenidae (porpoises), Physeteridae (the sperm whale), Kogiidae (lesser sperm whales), Platanistidae (Old World river dolphins), Iniidae (New World river dolphins), Pontoporiidae (the La plata dolphin), and Ziphidae (beaked whales). There are currently 88 species of cetacean. While cetaceans were historically thought to have descended from mesonychidsmolecular evidence supports them as descendants of Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates). Cetaceans belong to the order Cetartiodactyla (derived from Cetacea and Artiodactyla), and their closest living relatives are hippopotamuses, having diverged about sixty million years ago.

    Technically, the Greek is translated as "sea creature" but it really is understood as "cetacae", which compromises 88 different species. The closest common English word that people would understand is "whale". You can use "sea creature" if you like. Just don't use fish or dolphin. Cetacea excludes  common fish and dolphins. Oh and it's pronounced "SE tay sae" not "ki TA kay". "SE tay sae" makes the word sound even more foreign and incomprehensible.

    Just for fun, you can say "sea hippopotamus" and be more correct than whale. But I'd love to see how the priest and people react.

  • If I had to guess, the mostly likely species for Jonah's "whale" would be the giant beaked whale, whether the northern bottlenose or the southern Baird whales. They are about 30-37 feet long, which would make anyone think they are "sea creatures". They have teeth that are visible when the mouth is closed. They are deep dive whales. The record for a recorded mammal dive is a giant beaked whale which went down to 1000 meters (3300 feet) and stayed under water for an hour before it came up for air.  They are also known to be playful with humans which makes them easy prey for whale hunters. However, it is unlikely a giant beaked whale would swallow a human. I guess this is where we can say God's providence took over.

    This fits well with Jonah's story because Jonah said he went down to the realm of the dead when he called for help in Jonah 2:2. The Coptic word for "realm of the dead" is amen] which is the same word for Hades/Hell/Sheol. So it is not unreasonable that a giant beaked whale would swallow Jonah (under God's divine plan), remain diving in deep waters and come up for air every hour. In this sense it is not so far fetched to call it a "sea creature" instead of fish or a common whale. 

    Of course this is all speculation but at least we have scientific evidence that shows how certain species of of whale and dolphin are taxonomically categorized as "sea creatures" and how certain species of whale can survive in unimaginable sea depth to coincide with Jonah's story.
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