Gnostic Doctrine

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Fishes - 153 of them (John 21:11)

Fishes - 153 of them (John 21:11)

A fishing party, which included the present writer, once caught in a fairly short time off the coast of British Columbia, six splendid salmon. Their total weight was sixty-three pounds. If the "great fishes" caught in Galilee were on a par with these, this would make the total catch now under consideration to be about three-quarters of a ton.

But why — the question may well be asked — was John so careful as to specify meticulously how many fish were caught? At different times thousands of his readers have scented a special significance here. There is a sound instinct behind this.

Here, then, is a list of suggestions (doubtless incomplete). Some of these have a good Biblical flavour; others not at all.

153 = 9x17: and 9 is the number of judgment (is it?), whilst 17 combines the ideas of "spirit" and "order": 10 + 7 (do they?). So it is said! (Companion Bible).
There were not 153 fishes, but 154—and this is 11 x 14 (or 22 x 7), again with corresponding numerical meaning. Sic!
Contemporary Greek zoologists asserted that the sea contains precisely 153 different species of fishes. So John saw this number as symbolizing men out of all nations within the gospel net (Hoskyns).
By Gematria (that is, substituting the numerical value of each letter), the Greek word for "fishes' (ichthues) gives 1224 which is 153 x 8. Thus, "fishes" suggests those caught in the gospel net according to the eighth sign.
When "Sons of God" is written in Hebrew characters it gives, by Gematria once again (par.4): 153. This result only holds true, however, if the Hebrew definite article is included: B'nei ha-Elohim, which could signify: Sons (disciples, converts) of the Mighty (the Apostles), that is, the fruits of their preaching.
2 Chronicles 2:17 gives 153 thousand and six hundred as the number of "strangers", i.e. Gentiles, in Israel who were numbered by David. And in Exodus 30:14-16, numbering of the people is associated with atonement and redemption.
And now, mathematics. For the reason made plain by this diagram, 10 is called a triangular number 4.


The next in the set is, of course, 15; and then 21, and so on.

153 is one of this family. 153 = triangular number 17.

Similarly, 120 (Acts 1:15) = triangular number 15 (and 15 = triangular number 5).

276 (Acts 27:37) = triangular number 23.

666 (Rev. 13:18) = triangular number 36 (and 36 = triangular number 8).

These are the most noteworthy, but not the only, examples to be found in the NT The odds against all the three-figure numbers in the NT being "triangular" are enormous. Has such a thing happened by "chance"? So it looks as though the early church saw special meaning in the idea of triangular numbers. But what? Possibly, but not certainly, according to Matthew 28:19, thus:



Holy Spirit

There may be some other more satisfactory explanation of 153 outside the range of the seven suggestions listed here. But it is not necessary to believe that the eighth sign has eight different meanings.

Studies in the Gospels. By Harry Whittaker

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