The CBd
Bonner, SMA, 228.

differs from most others dealing with Jonah in representing him standing and praying with upraised hands before he is thrown, or leaps, into the sea; for I do not think that the tall haloed figure amidships can be any other than the prophet. One might, but for the halo, think that this figure represented the captain of the vessel, raising his hands in astonishment or even in prayer; but the prayers that the crew addressed to Jehovah (Jonah 1, 14) could hardly win for their captain the nimbus of a saint. The dim figure in the prow of the boat also has his hands raised, but he is without the nimbus.

Another curious feature is that in the lower scene, showing Jonah in the jaws of the sea monster, he is swathed in grave bandages, just as Lazarus is shown in several works of early Christian art depicting his resurrection. This is perhaps to be explained by the use of Jonah's adventure as a type, not only of the resurrection of Christ, but also of the resurrection in general, the monster representing the grave. In such an allegory it is not unnatural that a body given over to the monster should wear grave clothes.

It is also odd that the monster is taking Jonah feet first. In most other representations of the story, Jonah enters the creature head first and is disgorged head first. Yet the scene on the Newell amulet must represent the swallowing of Jonah, for an engraver would hardly show first the scene on shipboard, then the disgorging, and altogether omit a picture of the monster engulfing the prophet. If this were the only scene in which Jonah is shown entering the sea monster feet first, his nimbus and grave bandages might be thought to offer an explanation. An artist who depicted him as a haloed saint in grave clothes might dislike to hide the prophet's head and shoulders in the bulk of the monster while only his bandaged feet protruded. But there are other representations of the story, notably a small damaged sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum, on which the sailors are lowering Jonah feet first into the water, where the monster has already engulfed his legs.72

This conception of the story may show the influence of a rabbinical tradition. According to certain Jewish legends, the sailors were reluctant to throw Jonah overboard, and first tried dipping him into the sea up to his knees. The storm abated for the moment but resumed its fury when the crew drew Jonah back on board. They then dipped him as far as his waist; but when they lifted him on board again, the winds raged as before. When they immersed him to the neck, the result was the same; and since it was evident that there would be no relief while the prophet remained in the ship, they threw him over.73

While the story of Jonah is undoubtedly a Christian subject, the presence of the anguipede on the Newell amulet another of the many proofs that pagan magic retained its hold on some Christians long after the establishment of the new faith. The amulet can scarcely be dated earlier than the fifth century.

72 The sculpture was published by Walter Lowrie, AJA 5, 1901, pp. 51–57, with two figures.

73 Zohar, 121 a (M. Simon's translation, II, 3); Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, IV, 248, VI, 349, n. 29 (with references to rabbinical sources not accessible to me).

Last modified: 2012-11-02 13:04:30