The text of John 21.11 specifically states that the apostles hauled in 153 fish after the Lord told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. What is St John's reason for including this number?
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Posted 01 December 2015 - 12:19 PM
No one knows for certain. It is likely to be a symbolic figure but symbolising what has been the subject of speculation since early times. I have read that Aristotle thought there were 153 species of fish so the figure could symbolize the 'fishers of men' preaching the Good News to all men.
Posted 01 December 2015 - 12:26 PM
Here are a few expositions on the passage.
In The Four Gospels: Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament, Archbishop Averky (Taushev) states:
... It was evidently another miracle that despite the huge amount of fish, the nets did not break. In any case, one must assume that this miraculous catch had a very strong effect on St John, since he even remembered the exact number of fish. p 253
In "Homily 24", St Gregory the Great offers the following:
When the net is said to be full of large fish, we are told how many, namely one hundred and fifty-three.The number has a deep and mysterious meaning, but the depth of so great a mystery confronts you as you contemplate it. The evangelist would not have told us the exact number unless he had judged it replete with mystery. You know that in the Old Testament every work is prescribed by the 10 commandments, but in the New Testament the power of the same work is given to the increased number of faithful through the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit. The prophet foretells this when he speaks of the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and devotion, and he filled him with the spirit of the fear of the Lord [Isa 11:2-3]. A person acquires the ability to work in this Spirit who acknowledges faith in the Trinity, believing that Father and Son and the same Holy Spirit are one power, and confessing that they are of one substance. Because there are 7 commandments, given, as I've said, more widely by the New Testament, all of our power and work can be fully comprised by 10 and 7. Let us multiply this 17 by 3, and we have 51. This number possessed a deep and mysterious meaning, because we read in the Old Testament that the 50th year, in which the entire people is to rest from all work, is to be called a jubilee [Lv 25:10-12]. True rest, though, consists in unity, since what is one cannot be divided where there is division and separation there is no true rest. Let us multiply 51 by 3, then, we have 153. Because all our work, practiced through belief in the Trinity, tends toward rest, we multiply 17 by 3 to arrive at 51; and our true rest exists when even now we recognize the glory of the Trinity, which we hold as certainly existing in the unity of the divinity; and so we multiply 51 by 3, and hold the complete number of the elect in our heavenly home to be like that number of 153 fish. And so the net that was let down after the Lord's resurrection was suited to catch a number of fish that would indicate the elect in our celestial home. Forty Gospel Homilies, p 183
In The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to John, Blessed Theophylact offers:
When this net is hauled up, it brings to Christ not only Gentiles, represented by the hundred, but also Israelites, the fifty. "For when the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, then all Israel shall be saved [Rm 11:25-26]." Three indicates faith in the Holy Trinity. If not for this Three, the catch of the hundred and fifty - the Gentiles and the Jews - would amount to nothing. For without faith in the Holy Trinity, no one can be caught in the apostles' net. p 306
Edited by Georgianna, 01 December 2015 - 12:36 PM.
Posted 01 December 2015 - 09:57 PM
Another explanation I've read somewhere is 153 is the 17th triangle number where 17 is taken as a representation of the fullness of God's gift to man – for the seven days of creation and the Law symbolised by the decalogue – which have been made plentiful through the Trinity (triangle).
Posted 14 December 2015 - 04:18 PM
I read that in Judaism it reflects the number of people who make up a Jewish religious community. This is the number for the Qahal or Ekklesia.
The fish represent the members of the Qahal, as Jesus said He would make the apostles fishers of men. So the caught fish are the 153 members of the Qahal.
This needs to be modified I think a bit because the either the number of the Qahal was not precisely 153 or there must be a modification made to add in the apostles. But I think that this idea could be right.
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