153 Fish Bible. 153 Large Fish in John Bible - John explains his purpose for the use of 153 Fish, 153 large fish in John 21:11, as a metaphor.  Bible points to the context.



The meaning and significance of the measure of the draught of 153 large fish.  Significance of 153 fish catholic Father’s explanation


Why  153  Fish  in  John  21:11  ?






There are well over a dozen independent reasons listed below that support the conclusion that  “153 fish”   is a metaphor for wisdom.  Study will reveal that there is a high degree of certainty that this answer is correct.


There are too many converging reasons all pointing to this answer for all of them to be coincidental.  No one has presented any evidence showing how Saint John could have expected his readers to make any other association or connection to  “153 Fish.”


And a detailed examination of Greek culture makes clear the Greeks of this place and time, of John’s writing, would have recognized the correlation between 153 and the wisdom of Archimedes and his most useful and influential and, therefore arguably his most important work, that is, his work on Pi, π.


A thorough examination of this topic raises several questions.  But, there is only one answer, given here, that can offer a satisfactory explanation to each of these questions.


John explains his purpose for using the metaphor of “153 fish” immediately before this account of the miraculous catch. He states :


John 20:30-31
“Now Jesus did many other signs … that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God…”

John was writing in Greek to a Greek audience from the Greek city of Ephesus. See
 ( Irenaeus Against Heresies III.1.1)
So, we must ask what was the obstacle that kept the Greeks from accepting the Gospel.


The cultural context in which John the Evangelist lived and wrote is the key to understanding to what he was alluding to by the reference of 153 Fish in John 21:11.  The simplest explanation is the most probable.

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


Above all else the Greeks esteemed Mathematics, Wisdom and Philosophy. It was their guide to living a good life. The Greeks gave us Aristotle, as well as Socrates, Plato.  And they gave us great mathematicians such a Pythagoras and Euclid whose book on geometry, “Elements,” was used up until 1700's.


However, their greatest mathematician was Archimedes.  
In his
Measurement of a Circle  he calculated the value of Pi, π.  It was his most useful, and therefore, his most influential work. The unusual number of 153 figured most prominently in that work.

As a Pastor, John knew the Greeks wrongly believed the Gospel of Jesus was foolishness and in contradiction to their wisdom.  So, John includes the detail of 153 fish in John 21:11.  


The Greeks would have immediately recognized how his use of the number 153 alluded to the wisdom and the work of their esteemed cultural hero, Archimedes  and by extension to all Greek wisdom.


They would have understood that John was claiming that Jesus, who is God, is the source of all the fish, and by extension He is the source of all wisdom.  


The Net Does Not Tear

The same net which contains all the 153 fish, and by extension all the wisdom offered through Jesus to man, both the Greek natural wisdom and Christian wisdom of revelation.    The one net does not tear because there is no inconsistency between these two types of wisdom.



Surprisingly, Jesus is said to be cooking some fish before the Apostles arrived ashore.  The fact that Jesus already had some fish before the apostles came is indicative of the fact that he is not restricted to the wisdom that is revealed to man.  He is the source of all wisdom.  He is God.



The Church Fathers were separated from John the Evangelist by time and space.  They lived in a different culture than John.  Most likely they had lost familiarity with Archimedes’ actual text.  Without that context they would not have been able to see to what John was alluding.


It is very doubtful that the meanings the Church Father gave for the “153 fish” could have been John’s primary intention.  How could John have expected his readers to get his message if it had been one those meanings ?


And there is another reason that it is very doubtful John’s meaning was the same as one of the early fathers. 


St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and Evagrius Ponticus each write out an explanation for what that metaphor stands.  And they each give a different explanation for the meaning of “153.” 


Why do they each write out their explanation? 

Because the Fathers knew that their own particular explanations were not in the minds of their readers, or at least not until those readers read what the Fathers wrote. 


And, we know that John the Evangelist was an effective communicator, par excellence. 


So, why does John not explain his meaning for 153 fish ?

Since John gives no reason, we can reasonably conclude John knew that no explanation was required by his readers.  His meaning must have been obvious to them.


We have no reason to think that John’s readers would have been thinking what the Fathers’ explained, other than pure speculation.  Not even the Fathers’ expected their meanings to be so obvious that no explanation  by them was necessary.   Because of this as well as other reasons we can reasonably conclude that none of the Fathers’ explanations could have been John’s intended meaning. 


The context of his time and place was sufficient to make Johns meaning clear. 


So, by gentle analogy John shows that not only does Jesus not contradict natural wisdom, He is the source of all wisdom.

Read more on why John desired not to explain his metaphor and how he knew its meaning would be obvious to the Greeks ...


Below are the list of arguments supporting the conclusion of this website.  We might suppose that some are just coincidental, but it is very difficult to suppose that they ALL are just coincidental. 


A list of the Evidence

Click on the hyperlinks below for more details.


One of John’s over all themes in his Gospel was wisdom.


Introduction to John’s Gospel in the NAB Bible

“ … and the sayings of Jesus have been woven into long discourses of a > quasi-poetic form resembling the speeches of personified Wisdom in the Old Testament.”


So, if John was using “153 Fish” as a metaphor for wisdom that would have fit perfectly with his theme.

John wrote his Greek Gospel in the Greek city of Ephesus.  He lived with and pastored the Greeks,


He would have surely desired to show that their natural wisdom did NOT mean Jesus’ Gospel was foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:22).


And, on the contrary that Jesus was the source of All Wisdom, (153 Fish.)   As their pastor John was surely motivated to address this issue.  But where else if not here ?


Just before the account of the miracle John states his goal is to bring non-believing Greeks into the Gospel.   John writes :


John 20:31

“But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God…”


It is addressed to non-believing Greeks so that they “may come to believe.”  And so, a metaphor to the wisdom would be perfectly in line with their greatest need and his stated goal. That is, an understanding that Christian wisdom is not foolishness  [Corinthians.]


The Church Father’s explanations
could not have been John’s primary explanation for 153 fish.


seems to be an allusion to (the need) for wisdom.


“153” is an allusion to the wisdom of
Archimedes because 9 out of his 10 equations end with that number 153.


eightfold repetition of fish and its measurement is a subtle clue that a metaphor is being employed.


If you
express the “Measure of a Fish”  in a rational number, which you have to do to use it in the real world, the final number is 153


Therefore, there is an implied connection between John’s reference to “153” and the symbolic meaning of the fish.


method by which one calculates the “Measure of a Fish”  employs the wisdom and mathematical achievements of  Pythagoras, Euclid, and Archimedes.  And therefore, this is an allusion to all Greek wisdom.


The eightfold repetition of fish as well as eight references to its measure suggests the numbers
8 and 2 could imply a special meaning.  The wisdom of Christianity could be summarized by its most distinctive teaching. That God became Man. That Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity took on a 2nd nature. And the most distinctive miracle that authenticated Jesus’ teachings is that He rose from the dead on the 8th day.

The reference to the number 3 could be an allusion to :

11.  Third Person of Trinity, and therefore to Wisdom.


12.  John could have been completing a Parallel with Jesus’ first miracle.


13.  Pi, π , which has Biblical value,  or approximation, of 3  (1 Kings 7:23.)


14.  √3  which when expressed in a rational approximation ends with number 153.


15.  It is in Archimedes’ 3rd Proposition that he calculates the value of  Pi, π. 


John’s use of an

unexplained metaphor suggests the possibility that he is correcting someone else’s error.


Church Fathers assumed that the precise and unique reference to “153 fish” was a metaphor.  And Augustine was adamant that the number pointed to a higher meaning.  John’s meaning for his reference to 153 fish must have been unmistakably clear to his readers, as he offers no explanation.


The only explanation for “153 fish” that is suggested so far,  that could have been clearly obvious to John’s readers is that

“153 fish” is a specific reference to Greek wisdom
.    And therefore, there is no contradiction between the Greeks’ wisdom and the spiritual wisdom Jesus revealed.


See a detailed discussion on the importance of the number 153 in Greek culture.  Read :

The Number 153 Was Very Prominent and Recognizable in Ancient Greek Culture


And this interpretation of “153 Fish” lends itself to a very natural explanation of
why Saint John would switch from one style of Greek to another in this final chapter 21.


If by using “153 fish” John meant something other than what is proposed at this web site, then we are left with the conclusion that it is impossible to determine with certainty what John meant.  And we are pushed toward accepting two problematic consequences:


21 A.  It would mean that Saint John the Evangelist, one of the chosen four by God, has failed to communicate what he meant by 153 fish.


21 B.  It would also mean that we have no record of John addressing the issue that there was no contradiction between the Greek’s natural wisdom and what Jesus revealed.  And this is the main problem that those directly under his care had.  See 1 Corinthians 1:22 


Each of these last two positions above are most problematic and very difficult to hold.


When we consider the context of  John’s time and place and how the Greeks’ greatest hero, Archimedes, used the number 153 in such a prominent way in his greatest work,  John’s meaning becomes clear.


And when we consider the secondary evidence such as John’s decision to include the conspicuous reference to the Apostles as  children, the use of the word fish, its repetition, and its measurement, as well as the reference to the number 3 it is clear that the evidence is substantial. 


“153 fish” had a special meaning as a metaphor for wisdom. 


Trying to defend the position that John could have safely assumed that one of the early Father’s positions was already on the minds of his readers and that it was so prominent that it need not be mentioned by John seems to have insurmountable difficulties


In fact, there seems to be no evidence Anywhere that Anyone made the particular connections to the number 153 that the Fathers made before they themselves wrote out their own particular explanation. 


When we consider the motivation that John the Evangelist had in regards to being a pastor to the Greeks, as he lived among them, we find further confirmation.


It seems impossible to imagine that John would not have addressed their misperception that their wisdom precluded acceptance of the Gospel.


Jesus can command that some be brought to Him - even though He already has some - because He is the source of all wisdom.  The Apostles struggle to haul it in because the quantity was so great, verse 6. 


Yet, Peter alone seems to master the load well enough by himself in verse 11.  Peter has a singular gift in defining what is or what is not true wisdom.


There is only one conclusion that fits all the data. John was using the event of the 153 Fish as a metaphor to refer to Archimedes, his work on Pi, and hence to all wisdom. 


The same net which contains all wisdom does not tear because their is no inconsistency and no contradiction between the wisdom Jesus teaches and the natural wisdom of the Greeks.  John explains away the primary objection the Greeks had to the Gospel.


John 21:11 - A Verse, A Piece of Wisdom, for Today ?


This scripture passage is one of the most important verses for today. 


Worldly people often profess the desire to promote the following ideals :       
love, freedom, truth, justice, happiness, reason, human rights (health and gender), as well as the advancement of science.


However, these goals are often misunderstood and even more so are the teachings of the Church misunderstood.


Many people today, not unlike the Greeks in John’s day, believe that there is a contradiction between these goals and the Church.  They believe that God and His Church need to be rejected and removed from society. 

Read more, and Why big Fish?


We need to show how there is no conflict and no contradiction between noble goals, and the true teachings of Jesus Christ.



John 21:11 implies that all true wisdom is compatible with Christian revelation, where the net which holds them both does not tear.  And we must show that all true happiness and freedom is also consistent with Church teaching.




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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


Conclusion  -  This page

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Brief Summary     




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