Friday, 24 August 2012
The position of the prophet Jonah over the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel is most significant.
First of all it relates to the deep (the unconscious) which existed before the separation of light and darkness (the first panel of the ceiling).
Secondly, it represents the resurrection - Jonah was three days in the belly of the whale, Jesus was three days in the tomb. This is "'the sign of the prophet Jonah'" Matthew 12:39b (NRSV) that Jesus spoke of.
Thirdly, the figure of Jonah leans heavily to the right as if casting a net. This recalls the story when Jesus tells the disciples to cast their net on the right side of the boat and it is overwhelmed with fish.
Fourthly, Jonah looks upwards towards the Separation of Light and Darkness. He looks directly at the light of God. This reflects his words, "'I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishment.'" Jonah 4:2b (NRSV)
Lastly, the last word in the story of Jonah is that God spares the city of Nineveh for pity citing many ignorant people and animals. (This echoes God's word about Sodom and Gomorrah).
So in effect God's mercy is over the judgment.
(Scripture quotations (marked NRSV) are taken form the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved.)
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