The Book of Jonah is centered around a major conflict between God and Jonah, initiated by Jonah’s resistance to obey God, who calls upon him to declare judgment in Nineveh. Jonah resists this calling and attempts to flee, only to be thrown overboard as a result of a storm inflicted by God. Jonah is then swallowed by a great fish sent by God.
Jonah remains in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, before reciting a prayer asking God for mercy. The previously relentless God answers Jonah’s prayer, and forgives him. Jonah then proceeds to fulfill the call of prophecy, and manages to turn 120, 000 people to God in Ninevah.Why is this worthy of comment? I recall being puzzled by the inclusion of this page at the time since there is no obvious relationship between Jonah and the (original) Talpiot tomb. Bear in mind that this appeared in 2007, several years before the excavation of Talpiot Tomb B with its alleged imagery of Jonah and the fish. Does this demonstrate, therefore, that there was at least a predisposition to interpret a symbol found in a subsequent tomb as Jonah and the fish?
The 2007 website also features a page on the Fish as an early Christian symbol. Moreover, the book that accompanied the website and documentary, Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino, The Jesus Family Tomb: The Evidence Behind the Discovery No One Wanted to Find (2007), 153-4, likewise features material about Jonah, here in the context of Jacobovici's descent into the Talpiot Tomb where he lands in "piles of modern texts falling apart at the touch of my fingers", one of which was "a damaged book of Jonah":
The irony, which was not lost on me, was that Jesus, who spoke in parables and codes, told his disciples that the only "sign" that he would pass on to them regarding his mission on earth was "the sign of the prophet Jonah." Christian theologians have always interpreted this to mean that just as Jonah spent three days in the belly of the whale, Jesus was predicting that he would spend three days in the belly of the tomb before he was resurrected. I had studied this passage in Luke because I believe Jesus was following in the footsteps of Jonah when he sailed to the mysterious "land of the Gadarenes." It was on this fateful trip to the land of the Gadarenes that Jesus, according to the Gospels, quelled the tempest, and it was in the necropolis of Gadara that he exorcised demons from two men and transferred the demons into a herd of swine (Matthew 8.24-27; Mark 4.35-41; Luke 8.22-25).** It was a code. Strangely enough, I had been working on that code, parallel with the search for the tomb. Now I found myself crawling in the dark over half a dozen books of Jonah, in the belly of what was arguably Jesus' death chamber.Somewhat surprisingly, Jonah and the whale is in Jacobovici's mind at the very moment that he is exploring this tomb, several years before the discovery of an alleged image of Jonah and the fish on an ossuary in the tomb next door.
The fact that we might have a demonstrable predisposition for a particular interpretation does not, of course, invalidate that interpretation. And if the experts end up agreeing that the picture in Talpiot Tomb B is of Jonah and the Whale, the predisposition will simply be interesting but irrelevant. However, where there is scepticism about the interpretation of the picture as Jonah and the Whale, the natural human inclination to find what one is looking for may need to be taken into account.
** Note: The references given here at to the Stilling of the Storm pericope and not to the Gerasene Demoniac, for which see Matt. 8.28-34 // Mark 5.1-20 // Luke 8.26-39. The "two men" detail is taken from Matthew's (secondary) redaction of Mark's story.