What is the significance of 153 fish?
Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.
Is there any significance to the number 153? Or was it counted simply to quantify the miraculous catch?
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I would strongly recommend getting Richard Bauckham's "The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple" and reading the last chapter, "The 153 Fish and the Unity of the Fourth Gospel." The other chapters are great too but this last one would give you much food for thought. It did for me, anyway.
The number 153 has a key multible numerical value, found in the mathematics of the Pyramids in Giza. Trying to find the link if any!
Another 'off the wall' but interesting answer. Strong's "153" in Hebrew is 'edra' or 'a force'. Obviously, neither John nor James Strong 'coincided' '153' with any particular meaning, but both of them recognized it was the 'force' of God to give them 153 fish.
One year has passed, and we are now in the 53 week. Thus, the 53 week stands for renewal and good, in contrast to decay and bad.
The seven disciples dividing the fish, it is automatic for fishermen, found that it lacked 1 (one) fish for the perfect division, the total of 154, which divided for each disciple results in 22 fish, however, Jesus asked for a fish, resulting in two fish, the number 2 (two) There is evidence for the fish, and it is the number of the testimony of the bread that came down from heaven, of the fishing of men into the kingdom of heaven, and that even after all the persecutions, it was on fire.
@Betho's Beautiful. The 153rd chapter is the last of Numbers, so Deuteronomy, the law to be obeyed when entering the promised land, is indicated by end 153, start 154. 154 is also 77+77=Christ+Christ (A=1,B=2,C=3,...) so indicates second coming. Jesus defines "great" in Matthew 5-7, which begins his fulfilment of Deuteronomy also referred to in Matthew 22 as great commandment.
Short Answer: Many have come up with various numerological interpretations of the number 153 in John. I believe this to be reading into the text things not intended by the author.
As the two previous answers to this questions illustrate well, this numerological method allows for several different interpretations of the same passage. Each of the words in the Bible, both Greek and Hebrew, adds up to a number. It is no wonder that of these over 10000 words (most with several different tenses/forms), one can use arithmetic to derive one word/number from other words/numbers as one sees fit, and read meanings into it.
To illustrate my point, here are some other numerological interpretations of 153:
Jerome claimed there were 153 species of fish, thus the catch became a symbol of a fruitful mission as fishers of men.
Emerton notes that the streams of living water flowing from the temple in Ez 47:9-10, will have fishermen standing along the shore, from En Gedi to En Eglaim. "Gedi" has the numerical value 17, and "Eglaim" has the numerical value 153, and 153 = 1+2+3+4+.....+17. Thus the number represents all the fishermen.
Augustine also noted that 153 = 1+2+3+4+.....+17. 17=10+7, which is the ten commandments + the seven spirits of God.
Gregory the Great reaches 17 the same way, but multiplies it by 3, the number of the trinity, to get 51, and by 3 again, unto perfection, to get 153.
Others break 7 further down into 4+3, the number of walls in the new Jerusalem + the trinity
Yet others observe that 17 is the number of loaves of bread in the feeding of the 5000 + the number of baskets picked up after (=12+5).
Others note that 153 is the numerical value of the phrase "The church of love" or "the children of God" or "Cana G" (+ "Cana in Galilee").
Some see the number made up of "Simeon, Bar, Jonah, Kephas".
Thoma finds 153 to be a reference to ICTHYS (a common early Christian acronym, standing for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior").
As D. A. Carson observes,1
"Large quantities of ink have gone into explaining why there should be 153 fish. At the purely historical level, it is unsurprising that someone counted them, either as part of dividing them up amongst the fishermen in preparation for sale, or because one of the men was so dumbfounded by the size of the catch that he said something like this: ‘Can you believe it? I wonder how many there are?'"
I agree: this event made such a lasting impression on John, that he remembered the exact number of fish they picked up. Just as he remembered the name of Malchus, whose ear Peter severed. I read no more into 153 fish, than I do into the 2000 donkeys in 1 Chr 5:21.
1 D.A. Carson, The Gospel according to John (Pillar NT Commentary; Eerdmans, 1990), p. 672.
Another interpretation I found is that there were 153 nations known to the Greek/Romans at the time. I've heard it in some homily, but didn't find the source.
You could add in: Theophylact, who said that the 100 represented the Gentiles, 50 the Jews, and 3 the Holy Trinity; Augustine who related 153 to thrice 50 - representing Pentecost - plus 3, again representing the Holy Trinity. I think your explanation is best, though. It probably just means lots of fish.