Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Names of Jonah and Jason Are Similar


[The AMAIC would give the priority to Jonah, instead]

Several parallel motifs are of considerable significance in both stories: the names of the heroes, the presence of a dove, the idea of "fleeing" like the wind and causing a storm, the attitude of the sailors, the presence of a sea-monster or dragon threatening the hero or swallowing him, and the form and meaning of the difficult word kikayon. Looking at these themes and motifs reciprocally illuminates both accounts.


First of all, the names of the two sea adventurers appear to be strikingly similar, at least in Greek. Jonah’s name in Hebrew, Yônah, when transliterated in Greek as Iônas, can easily be seen as a metathesis of Iasôn. Whether that was a factor in the author's choice of a name cannot be known. But it is curious to read in the twelfth-century commentator Eustathius that an ancient tradition thought the name Jason was a metathesis of his own father’s name, Aisôn.**9** The fluidity of this name, together with the personality of the hero, may explain why Jason was one of several Greek names often used by Jews in Palestine, Egypt, and Cyrenaica, at least from the third century BCE on.**10** Regarding Cyrenaica, it is notable that in some of the many variants on the return of the Argonauts,**11** the latter reach Africa and meet a Triton, the merman of pre-Greek mythology, who announces to them that Cyrene would be the possession of their descendants. The legends and the name of an heroic sailor circumnavigating the sea on the first mythic long-ship would have appealed to Jews and other peoples who were settling around the Mediterranean sea. This interest is still in evidence at the time of the so-called “Tomb of Jason” in Jerusalem, which is dated to the beginning of the first century BCE and contains a Greek inscription and the drawing of a military ship.**12**

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