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Why 153 Fish in
John 21:11 ?
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
John goes even a step
further to reinforce the connection to Greek wisdom. Besides the
conspicuous use of the term “children,” and the obvious reference to the
very unique number of
153, which we find so prominently in
on Pi, John gives us three more clues below.
Authors often use repetition to get the reader’s
attention of an implied symbolic meaning. John uses 8 references to
fish and 8 references to the measure of the fish in these 11 verses.
John only makes 4 other references to fish in all his 20 other chapters.
8 References to Fish
Verses 6, 8, and 11 use a common word for
fish, Greek ιχθυων [Strong’s number 2486, ΙΧΘΥΣ (Ichthys)]
Verses 9, 10, and 13 use a different word for fish [Strong’s
Verses 3 and 5 imply fish because of their context. See RSV
This gives us a total of 8 references to the word
8 References to Measure of
We also see a total of 8 references to the measure
of the fish in terms of its quantity and size. In verse 11 alone we see
3 of these besides the number 153.
Verse 3 States
“they caught nothing.”
Verse 5 In response to Jesus’ question do they have any
fish “They answered him, “No.”
Verse 6 States they were not able to haul in the net
because of “the quantity of fish.”
Verse 8 States they were dragging the net and it’s
described as “the net full of fish”
Verse 11 Describes the net of fish as
“full” and the fish as
“large” and the net was not torn
even though the fish “were so many”
and it gives the total measure as “153.”
153 Fish John's Gospel 21
3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going
They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the
boat; but that night they
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples
did not know that it was Jesus.
5 Jesus said to them,
fish?” They answered him,
6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you
will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were
able to haul it in, for the
7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When
Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he
was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea.
8 But the other disciples came in the boat,
full of fish,
for they were not
far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with
lying on it, and bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the
that you have just caught.”
11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the
ashore, full of
of them; and although there
so many, the
12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the
disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the
14 This was now the
time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was
raised from the dead.”
While this repetition would have most likely gone
unnoticed during a first reading the Greek person reading John’s Gospel
would have recognized the very specific and unique number 153 as it is
associated with Archimedes’ work on Pi. With
his curiosity perked he would have noticed this passage more closely and
then noticed the eightfold repetition of the word for fish and the
eightfold repetition of the measure of the fish.
Because of the culture of
the Greeks placed such a high value on mathematical wisdom, the Greeks
also highly esteemed Euclid and Pythagoras. By using this eightfold
reference to fish and to its measure John is able to bring out a
The Greeks would notice
the connection to Euclid’s work Elements, Book 1, Proposition 1,
where he constructs two circles whose intersection is in the shape of
fish. The width to the height ratio of this fish is the square root of 3.