meaning and significance of the measure of the draught of
153 large fish. Significance of 153 fish catholic Father’s
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
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 :
“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
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.
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and
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,
used up until 1700's.
However, their greatest mathematician was
Measurement of a Circle
calculated the value of Pi, π.
It was his most useful, and therefore, his most influential
work. The unusual number of
figured most prominently in that work.
As a Pastor, John knew the
wrongly believed the Gospel of Jesus was
and in contradiction to their wisdom.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
The context of his time and
place was sufficient to make John’s meaning clear.
John shows that not only does Jesus not contradict natural wisdom,
He is the source of all wisdom.
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.
list of the Evidence
Click on the hyperlinks below for
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
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 :
“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
The Church Father’s explanations
not have been John’s
primary explanation for 153 fish.
seems to be an allusion to (the need) for
“153” is an allusion to the wisdom of
Archimedes because 9 out of his 10
equations end with
that number 153.
repetition of fish and its measurement
is a subtle clue
that a metaphor is being employed.
express the “Measure of a Fish”
in a rational number,
which you have to do to use it in the real world,
number is 153.
Therefore, there is an
implied connection between John’s reference to “153” and the symbolic
meaning of the fish.
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
The eightfold repetition of fish as well as eight references to its
measure suggests the numbers
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
nature. And the most distinctive miracle that authenticated Jesus’
teachings is that He rose from the dead on 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
Parallel with Jesus’ first miracle.
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.
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
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
in such a prominent way in his greatest work, John’s meaning
And when we consider the secondary evidence such as
decision to include the conspicuous reference to the Apostles as
the use of the word
as well as the reference to
it is clear that the
evidence is substantial.
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
In fact, there seems to be no
evidence Anywhere that Anyone made the particular connections to the
number 153 that the
made before they themselves wrote out their own particular
When we consider the
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,
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.
21:11 - A Verse, A Piece of Wisdom, for Today ?
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
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
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