Did Jesus Think the Book of Jonah Was Historical?
In Jesus’ confrontations with the Pharisees, he declares: “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41).
It seems to me that the judgment of T. T. Perowne, written over 100 years ago, still stands up:
Is it possible to understand a reference like this on the non-historic theory of the book of Jonah?
The future Judge is speaking words of solemn warning to those who shall hereafter stand convicted at his bar.
Intensely real he would make the scene in anticipation to them, as it was real, as if then present, to himself.
And yet we are to suppose him to say that imaginary persons who at the imaginary preaching of an imaginary prophet repented in imagination, shall rise up in that day and condemn the actual impenitence of those his actual hearers.
—T. T. Perowne, Obadiah and Jonah (Cambridge, 1894), p. 51. My emphasis.
A very important book looking at Jesus’ view of the Old Testament is John Wenham’s Christ and the Bible.