“Whispered in the Sound of Silence”: Traumatising the Book of Jonah

Elizabeth Boase, Sarah Agnew


The Book of Jonah is replete with narrative gaps and textual silences, silences which invite the audience to read into the indeterminacy of meaning. Too often, however, the book is interpreted as an object lesson for its intended audience, a tale designed to show the true meaning of God’s mercy and justice, warning against false nationalism or against the perils of disobeying God. Such readings read against Jonah and Jonah’s community, functioning to both silence and, we suggest, wound an already wounded community. Against the dominant trend, this paper draws on trauma theory to argue that the silences in the book can be read anew. The silences enact and speak into the traumatic memories of a community whose identity was shaped by the experiences of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the exile, and who continued to live under the oppression of the Persian Empire.


Jonah; trauma theory; traumatization; communal trauma

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391