What is the meaning or significance of 153 fish ? Why 153 large fish in John 21:11, in Bible.  What is the tradition of the Catholic Church Fathers on the miraculous catch or draught of 153 fish? 153 large fish is metaphor.

Why  153  Fish  in  John  21:11  ?

Read the Answer which answers all the Questions.




In Luke 5:1-11 there is another, The Miraculous Catch)


This article is based on two key principles.

  •  The simplest explanation is the most probable.


  •  Context is the key to interpretation.


Scholars have suggested numerous possible meanings for John’s reference to “153 Fish.” These suggestions are greatly varied, and tend to be extremely speculative.



The Bible points us to a context.  And this context is the key to understanding what St. John meant by 153 large fish. 


The fact that John does not offer an explanation for the 153 fish highly suggests that he knew his meaning would have been so obvious to those whom he was writing that no explanation was required.


This web page examines all the traditional proposed explanations for 153 Fish.  And, it explains how we can see a reasonable proof that there is only one answer that we know John could have expected his readers to recognize.


The early church fathers offered many different answers.
For more details see link below.


However, no sustainable argument has been presented that defends or explains how the Apostle John could have expected his readers to make those connections they did. 


Scripture scholar Raymond Brown explains

“… They all encounter the same objection: we have no evidence that any such complicated understating of 153 would have been intelligible to John’s readers”

(Gospel according to John XIII-XXI, 1075.)


Theologian D. A. Carson concludes that:

“If the Evangelist has some symbolism in mind connected with the number 153, he has hidden it well,”

(Carson, The Gospel According to John (Pillar New Testament Commentary), 673)


But John was one of the four great evangelists. He spent his life communicating his message, not hiding it.


John’s Purpose


What meaning did John intend by his reference to “153 fish” ?


John 20:30

 “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book”


So, John must have had reasons for making room for including what he did.


John 20:31

“ … these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”


John was fully engaged at trying to help the Greeks convert to the Gospel. 


Primary Obstacle For The Greeks


The Greeks looked to mathematical wisdom as the key on how to live. See more details at this web site below. 



1 Corinthians 1:22-24

“For Jews demand signs and
Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and
foolishness to Gentiles, but … Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  NAB


Understanding the Greek Culture


Above all else the Greeks esteemed and excelled in natural wisdom. The greatest mathematical minds of antiquity were all Greek.  There was Archimedes, Euclid and Pythagoras.


 “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here”  was the inscription carved over the archway of Plato’s Academy.


The Greek Gentiles had thought there was a contradiction between their natural wisdom and the wisdom proclaimed by Jesus.  So, they saw the Gospel as foolishness.  And without the gift of faith and from a worldly point of view, God dying for sinners is hard to accept. 


So, St. John as a pastor wants to overcome this impasse, this seemingly logical contradiction between these two wisdoms.


Below it will be shown how we can know with reasonable certainty that the Greeks of Johns time and place would have recognized  “153 Fish”  as a metaphor for wisdom.  


But first, let us continue the study of why it was so beneficial and arguably even necessary for John to make a reference to wisdom to help the Greeks.


The Apostles have no fish until Jesus appears.  The “153 Fish” represent all revealed wisdom.  And, Jesus is shown to be its source.  That is why Jesus could command Peter to bring him some. 


And, according to John’s analogy, the one net contains all of the 153 Fish.  So, by analogy it contains, all wisdom, both the wisdom Jesus revealed as well as the natural wisdom of the Greeks. 


Luke’s miraculous catch is a completely different.   In Luke the nets (plural) were tearing. 

But, John refers to a different miracle.  He uses a different metaphor to make a different analogy.  He is teaching a different message.


John 21:11

“ … and although there were so many, the net was not torn.”



But, why did John point out that the one net did not tear ?


Above, John wrote that he had limited space in his scroll.  So, it is very unlikely that he would be repeating his teaching about Church unity with a weak metaphor here when he had already declared it more explicitly, and much more authoritatively in Jesus’ prayer to the Father.  John 17:21-23.


John was implying there is no inconsistency or conflict between these two wisdoms.  That is why the same one net which contains them both does not tear. 


Therefore, the Greeks should recognize Jesus as the source of their wisdom and to see that the Gospel is Not foolishness. 



John the Evangelist was a communicator par excellence.   He recognized the spiritual needs of the heart.


The Gospel says that the net contained 153 Fish.  This implies two separate facts.  God caused that number of fish to swim into the net. 


And secondly, John purposely chooses to include that detail.  Therefore, it has meaning.  See St. Augustines strong assertion of this point at web page below.


John knew how to meet his prospective converts where they were at and to acknowledge their natural strengths, their natural wisdom, and to build on that.  Compare how St. Paul built on the partial truths of the pagans in Acts 17:23. 


John wrote his Gospel in Greek in the Greek city of Ephesus.


How did John know his audience would recognize the connection between “153 Fish” and wisdom?


To answer this question we need to understand the cultural context in which John wrote.  We need to look from their perspective and to view things through the same lens they did. 


This will enable us to see the unmistakable connection that was so obvious to them that John knew he did not have to explain it.


First, let us consider some obvious connections we have in our modern American culture.


If someone says,

“That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind,”

then we can be sure that the listeners will be thinking about the American Hero Neil Armstrong and the first landing on the moon in 1969. 


The numbers  9-1-1  also have obvious connections.  And dedicated sport fans will make a quick mental association with their heroes when they encounter numbers associated with them, e.g. 16 - Joe Montana,  30 - Steph Curry


As mentioned above the Greeks excelled in wisdom and especially in mathematical wisdom.  For example Euclid’s book on geometry was used up until the 1700’s, and the geometry that is studied in high (secondary) school is called Euclidean Geometry. 


The heroes of that culture were its mathematicians.  This includes Pythagoras and Euclid, but the greatest mathematician of antiquity was Archimedes.  So, arguably he was their greatest hero.


Archimedes most important work was the one that was most applicable, most widely used, and the one most needed. It was his work on Pi.  He devised a new method using mathematics to calculate Pi as accurate as one wanted.


The first section was the most important one because it was there that he arrives at the answer, the fraction, which was most commonly used.  Archimedes calculates Pi to be approximately 3 1/7. 


This section is very short. Archimedes gives 10 equations. Each one is based on the previous one.  And he adds very little additional text. The striking peculiarity of his work is that the first 9 of these 10 equations end with the number 153.


The Greeks would have recognized “153 Fish” to symbolize first and foremost Archimedes’ work on π, but in a secondary way all Greek Wisdom including the

Pythagoreans and Euclid.

See more at web page below.


It would be a mistake to examine his work in modern notation only.  We need to examine Archimedes’ work in the same format that he and Saint John would have used and seen.  That way we can see what the early Greeks saw.


They did not have the decimal system, so they had to use fractions to express portions of whole numbers.  They did not have the horizontal fraction bar, so they had to express these fractions as ratios in a horizontal or linear format, e.g.  1:8  rather than  


When Archimedes’ work is expressed in modern notation the number 153 gets lost amongst all the other numbers.  And it  disappears completely when his work is converted into the decimal system. 


However, in the format he used the number 153 is undeniably prominent.  The first 9 of Archimedes’ 10  equations end with 153 as the final number. 


That is why John did not have to explain it.  He knew his audience was familiar with their greatest hero’s most important work. 


The Greek’s would have recognized that John was claiming that Jesus is the source of all wisdom, and that there is no contradiction. 


And therefore, the Gospel is not foolishness, but true.


See more details below.

Archimedes’ work on Pi


Calculating the Size of the Fish


Recognizing the Number  153


Brief Summary on Recognizing John’s Analogy of 153 Large Fish



Sections :

Church Fathers : Sts. Jerome, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Cyril A.


No Reason ?
Why Church Fathers’ Answers Could Not Be John’s


Problems with Square Root of 3 Answer

Context Points to the Answer : An Explanation That Works
Archimedes : Context of Time and Place
Greeks and Wisdom
Calculating the Measure of the Fish

John’s Purpose

Why Church Fathers Did Not (could not?) Give John’s Idea





The meaning and significance of the measure of 153 large fish.


153 Fish Bible. 153 Large Fish in John Bible



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153 Fish Large in Bible John 21:11

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