Fulfilled Prophecy or Fish Story? What did Jesus mean when he said the resurrection was the “sign of Jonah”?

by Erik Manning

One of the greatest pieces of evidence we have for the resurrection of Jesus is the creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. Virtually all scholars agree that Paul is quoting oral tradition that predates his conversion. Normally we tend to focus on the appearances as proof of the very early belief of the bodily resurrection of Christ and that’s definitely a good thing. That’s kind of what this site is all about. But notice that this creed provides a two-fold proof. It lays out eyewitness testimony, but it goes a step beyond that. It makes the bold claim Jesus death and resurrection fulfills prophecy. Let’s read it:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…”

OK, the substitutionary death of Jesus is an easy one. If you’ve been a Christian very long, your mind immediately goes to the Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah 53. (Here I wrote on why only Jesus could be the Suffering Servant) But let’s keep going:

” that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures “

Raised on the third day according to what Scriptures exactly?

OK stop. Wait a second. We know that Isaiah says that the Suffering Servant will “see the light of life and be satisfied.” And we read in Acts that the apostles referred to Psalm 16 as a proof text for the resurrection. (Read the sermons in Acts 2, 13) But what’s this third-day stuff? That’s rather specific, isn’t it? I can’t think of a passage in the Bible that predicts three days. There’s some vague mention of it in Hosea 6:2, but that seems to refer more to Israel. If we know our New Testament, we know that Jesus himself provides the answer…
 

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Fulfilled Prophecy or Fish Story? What did Jesus mean when he said the resurrection was the “sign of Jonah”?