Re: 153/John 21.11

From: David Scholer (
Date: Mon May 13 1996 - 00:33:04 EDT

Of course, the 153 may simply be the literal number in the catch. But, a
symbolic meaning should not be so quickly dismissed. The suggestion that
there is nothing to suggest a symbolic meaning may be ignoring the
statement that "the net was not broken" = the Johannine concern for
unity/"that they all may be one." And, Johannine rhetoric certainly
raises the issues of symbolism (e.g., the jars of water = wine in John 2;
the bread/Lord's Supper conundrum in John 6). Thus, the 153 might be
symbolic of "all the kinds of fish," but I do know the difficulties of
evidence or lack thereof from ancient sources about the species of fish
(see R. E. Brown's commentary, J. R. Michaels' commentary and others).
But, I do remember a Ray Brown comment many years ago at a meeting of the
Society of Biblical Literature: "I fear that when I get to heaven, John
will come up to me and say: 'Stupid, I said 153 because there were
153!'" At any rate, it is an interesting facet of this Johannine text.

David M. Scholer
Fuller Theological Seminary
Pasadena, CA 91182

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