large fish John bible meaning significance of the
atch draught. Archimedes
Why 153 Fish in John 21:11 ?
What is the meaning and significance or symbolism of
the number 153 large fish in John’s Gospel, the
Bible. Archimedes Euclid Pythagoras Pythagoreans.m,
that John’s Gospel records how Jesus and the
disciples caught 153 large fish in the miraculous
catch of John 21 ? What is the Catholic Church
Fathers tradition ? 153 large fish is metaphor for
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
Why Church Fathers Did
Not (could not?) Give John’s Idea
Time and Place
It is necessary to understand the cultural context
of the time and place when John's Gospel was
written. He used the literal event of the 153 fish
in John 21 to doubled as simple metaphor.
We must not assume our modern cultural standards
were the same as John’s. We need to train ourselves
to look from John’s perspective.
John’s Gospel is commonly dated as the last one
written. The Church at this point was already
actively reaching out to the Greeks.
We need to look through the eyes of a Jewish
fisherman who converted to Christianity, who was
writing a Greek Gospel,
from the ancient
Greek city of Ephesus,
at a time in history when the Church was fully
engaged at trying to help convert the Greeks to the
St. Irenaeus tells us the Apostle John lived in Asia
and expressly declares that he wrote his
Gospel at Ephesus.
This area of the world had been heavily influenced
by Greek culture even before Alexander the Great
(died 323 BC)
had conquered this whole area all the way down into
It was only later that the Romans came, but they
still used Greek. Pilate had his inscription on
Jesus’ cross translated into Hebrew and Latin, but
also into Greek. Cf.
The Old Testament translation that was most often
used by the New Testament writers was the Greek
Septuagint rather than the Hebrew text.. And much,
if not all the New Testament was written in Greek.
Understanding the Greek culture of this time holds
the key to understanding what John meant by 153
As will be
explained later, the
sequence 3.14 would have appeared as
a completely random number with no significance to
the Greeks in the first century. And conversely,
the number 153 which seems to be a totally random
sequence in today’s culture would have been very
recognizable to the common Greek man in the first
century. So, John could easily use it as a metaphor
without the need to explain its meaning.
To understand why John does not explain his metaphor
and why his meaning would have been obvious to the
Greeks, we need to understand what the Greeks
What do we know about the Greeks ?
Greeks and Wisdom
The Greek culture esteemed natural wisdom, which
Later we will examine 1
Corinthians 1:22-24 and its connection to
use of 153 Fish.
One of the most important characteristics of the
Pythagorean order was that it maintained that the
pursuit of philosophical and mathematical studies
was a moral basis for the conduct of life.
Indeed, the words philosophy (love
and mathematics (that which is learned) are
said to have been coined by Pythagoras.
The Greeks excelled in natural philosophy and
mathematics. They are even credited for creating the
mechanical computer in about 100 BC.
Their culture esteemed their philosophical and
Archimedes was their greatest mathematician and his
work on Pi was his most influential, and most used
Because of their national pride they would have
wanted to know about his new method for calculating
Pi that separated him, and in essence all Greek
culture, from all who preceded him.
A few hundred years earlier, the Pythagoreans had
made a ground breaking discovery and proved what is
now called Pythagorean theorem. Pythagoras was from
Samos, just off the coast of Ephesus.
This enabled mathematicians to calculate the sides
of a right triangle. Building on that in the 3rd
century BC, was the greatest mathematician of
antiquity, Archimedes. He was able to compute with
great accuracy the value of pi, π, using the value
of the square root of 3 in his calculations.
Archimedes, in his book the Measurement of a
Circle, Proposition 3, provided an entirely new,
ingenious, and accurate method for solving for the
value of Pi. His method did not involve any
measurements and was based entirely on mathematical
calculations. It allowed a person to calculate Pi
with as much accuracy as one desired.
He began by using √3 and the ratio 265:153.
This ratio represents the most accurate value of
√3 that can be expressed by using small whole
Archimedes : Measurement of a Circle :
Here Archimedes begins his calculations on solving
for π, Pi, the measurement of the circumference of a
circle divided by its diameter. Notice how
frequently the number 153 is used.
In the first section, Archimedes calculates Pi to be
slightly less than 3 and one seventh.