O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Here is another intriguing blog post on the relationship between the blessed fish in Genesis 1:21-22 and the ministry of Christ:



In my recent sermon series on Mark, I pointed out that very same connection, as well as the wider covenant context for the feeding of the 4000. You can see how Mark records the covenantally universal ministry of Christ using the imagery of sea and land especially in sermons #13, #18, and #21 in the series linked above.



Tim Martin




Views: 422

Comment by Doug on January 11, 2012 at 11:48am



What do you think of the significance of the 153 fish in John 21:11?


Comment by Tim Martin on January 11, 2012 at 12:25pm


I think James Jordan is on the right track in his article on the topic:

Let us look back at the event recorded in John 21. To begin with, we have to remember that in Biblical symbolism the land represents Israel and the sea represents the gentiles. The land is above the sea, with mountains on it reaching up toward heaven. The land is a “priestly” territory between God’s heaven and the rest of the world. Throughout the Old Testament the gentiles are often spoken of in terms of the sea, or are reached by crossing waters of one sort or another. This land-sea symbolism is applied consistently in the book of Revelation to distinguish the Jews and Judaizers from the gentiles.

Corresponding to this, the priestly people are symbolized as sheep, goats, and oxen, while the gentiles are symbolized by fish. Jonah, for instance, is swallowed by a big fish and then spat out again. This symbolized Israel’s going into Assyrian exile and then being returned to the land. Thus, the fish was Assyria, a place where Israel would be protected while dwelling in the gentile sea.

None of the priests, prophets, and kings of the Old Testament were fishermen. They were all farmers or animal husbandmen. By way of contrast, none of Jesus’ disciples was either a farmer or a husbandman. The most prominent of the disciples were fishermen. Nobody is shown eating fish in the Old Testament, but Jesus feeds the 5000 with fish, not with beef jerky. After His resurrection He eats a fish, not a piece of lamb. The disciples are almost never spoken of as shepherds; they are fishers of men. This shift in imagery indicates that Jesus’ new kingdom is going to go to the whole world, to the gentiles. (Significantly, Jesus combines shepherding and fishing right here in John 21, as Peter is told to “feed My sheep.”)

And now, in John 21, Peter catches 153 large fish. Clearly, these large fish speak of the nations of the world who are going to be caught in the net. The net is the kingdom of God, focused in the Church. The net does not break, despite the large number of big fish. The Church will not be destroyed by the nations she converts, but will hold them and bring them to Jesus, as Peter does. As the net draws the fish, so Jesus draws all men to Himself.

The big fish as the gentile nations provides us with an explanation of the number 153 as the triangular of 17...

153 Large Fish

This, of course, fits perfectly with the idea that Genesis 1:21-22 is prophetic of covenant history. Genesis 1 predicts a great blessing to come upon the fish of the sea by the end of the old covenant order. This is what Jordan is applying to the first-century gospel ministry of Peter and the apostles. I believe it also highlights that Genesis 1 is a covenant creation text that was never intended to to describe the physical universe (just like Rev. 21:1).

I think the issue can be pushed further. Genesis 1 gives a boundary to its fulfillment by the end of the old covenant. The reason I say that is that Revelation 21 (as well as Isaiah 65, Hosea 2, Jeremiah 31) describes the new covenant, the new heavens and new earth, as existing without any sea. Therefore, the blessing on the fish in Genesis 1:21-22 is fulfilled by the end of the age when the gospel was preached (past tense) to every creature under heaven (Col. 1:6, 23 -- a text that, surprise, surprise, must be read in covenant context).

Hope that helps!


Tim Martin

Comment by Doug on January 11, 2012 at 4:54pm

A thought popped into my mind as I was reading your response.

Perhaps the "153" is not a number that we are supposed to understand now. But if it was indeed illustrative of the nations extant then, then perhaps the disciples understood perfectly that the 153 was, say, the number of the existing tribes/nations in theis area that the old world knew about.

I haven't done any research on which nations were known in Roman times, but wouldn't it be great to uncover that fact now? I don't know where to start to find out which nations were part of the Roman world in Jesus' day.


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