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.

 What is the significance, meaning, or symbolism, that John’s Gospel records how Jesus and the disciples caught 153 large fish in the miraculous catch or draught of John 21 ? What is the Catholic Church Fathers tradition ? 153 fish is metaphor that would have been obvious to John's readers.   Why 153 large fish in John 21 in the bible ?  What was the meaning and significance of the miraculous catch or draught of 153 fish?

Why  153  Fish  in  John  21:11  ?

Read the Answer which answers all the Questions.



In Luke 5:1-11 there is another Miraculous Catch



Scholars have suggested hundreds of possible meanings for John’s reference to “153 Fish.” These suggestions are greatly varied, and tend to be extremely speculative. How could the Apostle John have expected his readers to see any of those connections? 

This article is based on two key principles.
1. The simplest explanation is the most probable.
2. Context is the key to interpretation.


The Bible points us to a context that holds the key as to what St. John meant by 153 large fish. 


John does not offer any explanation as for the meaning of 153 fish.  This highly suggests that he knew his meaning would have been so obvious to those whom he was writing, the first century Greeks, that no explanation was required.

This web site examines all the traditional explanations. And, it explains how we can see a reasonable proof that there is only one answer that we know John could have expected his readers to recognize.



The early church fathers offered different meanings for the “153 Fish.”  They used good theology, however closer examination shows that it is highly unlikely that the meanings they chose for “153 Fish”  could have been John’s meaning. 



No sustainable argument has been presented that defends or explains how Saint John could have known his readers would have made the connections that the early church fathers did. 

When the early church father’s disagree amongst themselves, we are not required to agree with them.  This is more closely explained further down on this web site.

First, we need to look at the context to which the Bible points us.

John is writing his Greek Gospel in the Greek city of Ephesus in which he lived.  Understanding this cultural context in which John wrote points us to his purpose.

John’s Purpose

What meaning did John intend by his reference to “153 fish” ?

John 20:31
“ … these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”

John was fully engaged at trying to help the Greeks convert to the Gospel. 

The Greeks excelled in natural wisdom.  And they took pride in their great accomplishments. 


They even looked to mathematical wisdom as the key on how to live. See more details at this web site below. 


However, they had mistakenly thought that their natural wisdom contradicted and precluded the possibility of the supernatural wisdom of Jesus' revelation of being true.

Primary Obstacle For The Greeks

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 wisdom. The greatest mathematical minds of antiquity were all Greek.  There was Archimedes, Euclid and Pythagoras, and not to mention Plato.


Plato the philosopher had an inscription carved over the archway of his Academy: “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here.”

The Gentile Greeks rejected the Gospel as foolishness because it seemed to contradict their natural wisdom, in which they took much pride. 


 And without the gift of faith, the idea of Jesus who is God, Who dies on a cross for sinners is hard to accept from a worldly point of view. 


So, St. John as a pastor wants correct this impasse, this seemingly logical contradiction between the natural wisdom the Greeks possessed and the wisdom Jesus came to reveal.

So, John uses the analogy of “153 fish” to represent all wisdom.

The Greeks will recognize “153 fish” to symbolize first and foremost Archimedes’ work on π, but in a secondary way all Greek Wisdom including the Pythagoreans and Euclid.

This is demonstrated at this web site.  See  Archimedes, and Calculating the Size of the Fish.

In the analogy, the Apostles have no fish until Jesus appears.  Jesus is the source (and master) of the 153 fish.  Jesus could command Peter to bring him some fish because Jesus is the rightful owner, and the source of all the fish which represents all wisdom.


The Greek Gentiles had thought that their own wisdom precluded them from accepting the message of Jesus which appeared as a contradiction to their wisdom. They saw the Gospel as foolishness. 


But, according to John’s analogy, the one net contains all the fish.  By analogy it contains both the wisdom that comes from Jesus as well as the natural wisdom of the Greeks. 

Because there is no inconsistency or conflict between these two wisdoms the same one net which contains them both does not tear.


John 21:11
“ … and although there were so many, the net was not torn.”

John was not just communicator, he was also an Evangelist, par excellence.  He recognized the spiritual needs of the heart.

By having 153 fish swim into the net, Jesus was enabling John to use his skills as an evangelist.  John, being the ultimate evangelist, knew how to meet his prospective converts where they were at and to acknowledge their strength, their natural wisdom, and to build on that. 


Compare how St. Paul built on the partial truths of the pagans in Acts 17:23. 


See more on reasons why it was
beneficial for John to use an unexplained metaphor.


How did John know that his Greek readers in Ephesus would make the connection between “153 fish” and wisdom?


To see the answer to this question we need to understand the cultural context in which John wrote. 


We need to understand the importance of Archimedes in that culture.  We need to examine his most important work – the work most widely used by others –  where he derives a new and accurate method for calculating the value of Pi.


When examining that work we should not examine it written in modern notation.  Rather, we need to see it from the same style in which John and his readers, the Greeks, would have seen it. 


In order to do that we need to understand their limitations to express mathematical concepts. 


The use of the decimal point to express fractions of a whole number would not be introduced to this area until hundreds of years later. 


The same is true of the horizontal fraction bar.  So, a portion of a whole number would have to be expressed as a ratio (a fraction) of two numbers. 


And this would be expressed in a linear or horizontal format.  For example  they would have used the linear expression of  1:8,
not the vertical
,  and definitely not as  0.125.

See more below why this fact is so important.


See more on Archimedes’ work on Pi.

See Brief Summary of Meaning of 153 Large Fish










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