153 in John 21

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn ( John 20:11).

Most Bible readers would simply skip over this little precise detail in the text, but we should consider always ask why the Spirit of God puts such a detail in the text. This is not just a round number. The text does not say “approximately 153,” but rather it states emphatically there were 153 fishes in the net. Why this precision? Is it simply to confirm that John’s eye-witness account of the event is accurate and that he was really there? Yes. The number serves this function in the text, but it is only an additional benefit in the text. The significance of the number “153” is symbolic.

Rich Lusk notes that:

While the use of triangulation (17+16+15+14….=153) and gematria (the numerical value of words) seems weird to us, there is almost no doubt these things are present in the passage. The number “153” pops out at you from the text, and cries for an interpretation. There are just too many easy-to-find connections to be merely coincidental.

James Jordan comments similarly:

This is one of those texts in the Bible that many people puzzle over. It is not a puzzle for some. They say this just happens to be the record of the number of fish that were caught, evidence of a true fisherman’s recounting (e.g., Leon Morris; William Hendriksen). It is true that there were exactly 153 fish caught, but that is not the reason the precise number is given. It does not occur to such non-literary interpreters that the Holy Spirit often does not give precise numbers, and that if the precise number were not important, the text would only say “many fish” or “about 150 fish.”

Far from allegorical coincidence or allegorical abuse (common in the early church), this is a clear and necessary point of the text. John is communicating the completeness and totality of the nations of world; Gentiles and Jews are now coming into the arena of redemption. They are being joined to form one new family, one new creation under One Lord.

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2 thoughts on “153 in John 21”

  1. Also, think about the 120 in the upper room being the triangular fullness of the 15 regions mentioned in Acts 2:9-11.

    The 120 have the full blessing of what “every nation under heaven” (from 15 regions) is to receive.

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