153 fish, three loves, and one call to follow in John 21

The Sunday gospel lectionary reading for the Third Sunday of Easter in Year C is John 21.1–19. Unlike the reading for Easter Sunday, where we may read John 20 every year, and Easter 2, where we must read about ‘Doubting’ Thomas each year, we only read this in Year C—but it is an extremely well-known passage, though very long to preach on in one go.

As we have found in previous weeks, the narrative has both the hallmarks of eye-witness observation, but also the ‘double meaning’ of symbolic resonance, and in reading and preaching on this we need to pay attention to both. In addition, it includes two very well-worn subjects of debate, the question of the 153 fish and Jesus’ threefold question and answer with Peter about love, both of which I have written about separately—go to the posts for more detail on each.

It is striking that, where this gospel sometimes counts the passing days with some precision (as it has in fact just done in John 20.26), this episode begins with the most general possible time marker, ‘after this’ (Μετὰ ταῦτα, curiously the repeated phrase that marks successive visions in the Book of Revelation). This, combined with the sense of a summary ‘ending’ statement in John 20.30–31, has generated quite a tradition of believing (amongst critical scholarship) that chapter 21 is a secondary appendix added to a work that finished at chapter 20. But most commentators now point out that there is zero manuscript evidence for this, and that the style, vocabulary and content of chapter 21 match completely all that has gone before. But what the double ending does do is to create a sense of this chapter describing an ‘in between’ time, when Jesus has been raised, but the post-Pentecost work has not really begun. This might point to a confirmation of the ‘Johannine Pentecost’ when Jesus breathes on the disciples in John 20.22 as pointing to a future promise which has yet to be fulfilled.

It is also striking that Jesus is described here not merely as ‘appearing’ to his disciples or even happening to be around so that they see him, but of ‘revealing’ himself (though using φανερόω rather than ἀποκαλύπτω). The gospel writing is here couching this realistic account in theological terms; Jesus’ resurrection person has continuity with his previous existence, but he is not mundanely resuscitated. His appearances are deliberate, and are offering to create growing understanding rather than mere observation.

Galilee is described as the ‘Sea of Tiberius’, as it has been before (John 6.1) suggesting important themes of rule and occupation. Seven disciples are listed, suggesting some kind of completeness about this group, though they only partly overlap with the Twelve, who are not ever actually introduced and do not feature much in this gospel, in sharp contrast to the Synoptics. This is the only time in this gospel that the ‘sons of Zebedee’ and Simon Peter are mentioned together, which would be odd if John of Zebedee were the author of this gospel. The mention of Nathanael forms an inclusio his appearance in chapter 1. Tantalisingly, two of the seven are not named, but it transpires (in John 21.7) that one of them is the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’.

Simon Peter’s decision to go fishing appears to be one that simply fills a void; he has nothing better to do. That the others go with him is a sign of solidarity. The failure of their efforts, the command of Jesus to do something different, and the dramatic result all remind us of Luke 5, once more as though the writer of this gospel assumes that we have read the others—or simply that we know the things that have happened. I find arguments that there was a single event which has been ‘reworked’ in two different ways by the two gospel writers implausible; there are points of contact, so that the one reminds us of the other, but plenty of differences too. Why should this not happen twice? Why attribute creativity and care to the gospel writers rather than to Jesus?

Day is just breaking, as it was in John 20.1; though Jesus himself is present, the light has not yet dawned. Jesus’ location ‘on the shore’ contributes to the ‘liminality’ of this episode as being in an ‘in-between’ place. His address to them as ‘children’ is kindly rather than condescending, and though the disciples are referred to in this way in Luke 10.21, it is the only time Jesus addresses them in this way. Their response is terse. But everything changes with the miraculous haul of fish. Simon Peter has been γυμνός for work, from which we get ‘gymnast’, since the competitors were naked—but the term can simply mean stripped to undergarments. (It provides an explanation for the meaning of Jesus coming into the boat ‘just as he was’ in Mark 4.36, that is, without stripping off prepared for the work of sailing or fishing.) He is as impetuous as ever; I remember watching the re-enactment of this episode at the Wintershall Life of Christ, and it was truly dramatic!

There is a very suggestive interaction between the work of Jesus and the work of the disciples in the preparation of breakfast. On the one hand, Jesus has already provided all they need; the mention of both fish and bread reminds us of John 6 and the feeding of the 5,000, though there is not even a hint of ‘eucharistic action’ here. On the other hand, he invites them to contribute what they have caught. And yet the work they have done was entirely dependent on obedience to the call of Jesus and entirely the result of his miraculous provision. But they still had to do the work, and their work still made a contribution to their own provision.

And so we come to the 153 fish. There have been many bizarre and speculative interpretations of this number, which I list in the earlier post exploring the meaning of this number. I also note that we cannot simply dismiss all these; we need to be aware that we are reading a text from a different time and culture, where these symbolic things mattered—though it is quite natural for any commercial fisherman to count the catch!

There are not very many large numbers mentioned in the New Testament: this is one; Luke mentions that there are 276 people who are saved from the shipwreck in Acts 27.37; and the number of beast in Rev 13.18 is 666. It is striking mathematically that all three of these are ‘triangular’ numbers, as several of our theories note, which is a much more important thing in a world where you primarily count using physical objects, rather than in our world where numbers are more like abstract concepts. In fact, the word in the New Testament for ‘to calculate’ (psephizo) derives from the word for ‘pebble’ (psephos).

If 153 as the triangle of 17 is important, then perhaps we need to think about the significance of 17 itself. Commentators struggle to make much sense of the list of regions whose residents were at Pentecost in Acts 2.9–11; Ben Witherington in his socio-rhetorical commentary (pp 136 to 137) notes the anomalies, and the failure of things like astrological theories to make any sense of the list. But, taking the ‘Jews and proselytes’ from Rome as two groups, we have a list of 17, and perhaps Luke here is simply communicating that people hear the message from all over the known world. (Luke is clearly interested in numerology himself; the late Martin Menken pointed out that Peter’s Pentecost speech consisted of two halves of 444 syllables each, the total 888 being the gematria value of Jesus’ name in Greek. And Joel Green draws on Menken’s work to note that, in stories like the raising of the widow of Nain’s son, the word for ‘compassion’ comes at the numerical centre of the narrative.)

The connection with the nations of the world is also suggested by a connection with Ezekiel 47, which is the context for Jerome’s reflection which assumed there were 153 kinds of fish in total in the world.

In Ezekiel 47, we see baptismal waters flowing from the overturned Bronze Sea of the Temple, flowing out to the boundaries of the Land. Remember that Jesus claims to be the source of such living waters. In Ezekiel 47:9, we are told that “very many fish” will live in the (formerly) Dead Sea as a result of these living waters. In verse 10 we read, “And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from En-Gedi to En-Eglaim there will be a place for spreading of nets. Their fish will be acording to their kinds, like the fish of the Great [Mediterranean] Sea, very many.”

The Dead Sea is the boundary of the new land after the exile, and a place of contact with gentiles. The fishes are clearly gentile nations. The fact that the sea is formerly dead and now is brought to life surely indicates the influence of Restoration Israel over the nations before Christ, and points to the greater influence of the Kingdom after Pentecost.

Now, it is well known that Hebrew letters are also numbers: the first nine letters being 1-9, the next nine being 10-90, and the last five being 100-400. “Coding” words with numbers is called gematria. If we substract the “En” from En-Gedi and En-Eglaim, since “en” means “spring,” then the following emerges:

Gedi = 17 (ג = 3; ד = 4; י = 10)

Eglaim = 153 (ע = 70; ג = 3; ל = 30; י = 10; מ = 40)

Again, this seems too close to the mark to be a coincidence. Once again, we have the number 17 (Gedi, mentioned first) and its relative 153 (Eglaim, mentioned second) connecting to the evangelization of the gentiles, symbolized by fishing.

Conclusion: The number 153 represents the totality of the nations of the world, which will be drawn in the New Creation.

This connection is also made by Richard Bauckham, in what is perhaps the most comprehensive study of this issue in print, in the final chapter of his The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple. (It is worth noting the other connections with Ezekiel in both the Fourth Gospel and the Book of Revelation.) Bauckham further connects the numerology here with the opening chapters of the gospel, thus arguing that this ‘second’ concluding chapter was always part of the whole work, contrary to the dominant view in the previous generation that chapter 21 was a later addition. (Mark Stibbe also makes the case for unity on the basis of literary features of the text.)

So there is a good case, supported in multiple ways, for seeing the 153 as having both real and symbolic significance. The connections with the number 17 at Pentecost, and the parallels in this episode with the commissioning of the disciples in the similar experience in Luke 5, do suggest that the symbolic significance has to do with gospel ministry which will draw on people from all over the world. This is a ‘hidden’ meaning which simply says the same thing as the narrative in Luke 5, though in a distinct way and using distinct language and symbolism.

If I am right here, then this does make the meaning of the narrative strongly focussed on the theme of restoration and renewing commissioning, which immediately links to the final part of the narrative with the interrogation of Simon Peter.

It is quite common to hear this episode expounded by noting the different words for ‘love’ that are used here. But there are several serious problems with this way of reading John 21. The first is that, if there was a significant difference between the two terms, why would Jesus make the progression that he does, from the ‘higher’ form of love to the ‘lower’? Surely he should start asking Peter about the most undemanding form of love, and then progress to that which will sustain him through the trials that Jesus says he is to face? And the use of these two synonyms also needs to be put in the context of Jesus’ synonyms for ‘feed’ and ‘my sheep’. The order is as follows:

Jesus’ questionPeter’s answerCommandObject

I am not aware of any commentator who makes much of the synonyms for ‘feed my sheep’ as a progression, so why should we think that the changes of synonyms for ‘love’ is important? Moreover, Peter does not respond to Jesus’ question ‘Do you agapao me?’ with ‘No, Lord, but I do phileo you’—he responds ‘Yes!’ And he is grieved in verse 17 not because Jesus has changed the verb he uses, but (as John tells us quite explicitly) because Jesus asked him ‘a third time’, a phrase John repeats for emphasis. Is this because Peter naturally feels that he has given an adequate answer already? Or is it because he is now wincing inside at the threefold question that he was asked in the courtyard by the fire, and this third question of Jesus is both a painful reminder of that failure, and the excruciating process of healing that wound, just as we wince in pain as someone pulls a splinter or thorn from our hand that has embedded itself in the skin? The act is painful, but without it healing cannot come. (Bultmann is just about alone in all the commentators in history who does not see the parallel here.)

Vineyard scholar Kenny Burchard vents his frustration at the common differentiation and highlights the interchangeable ways in which John uses the two verbs. He points out that John uses the agape word-group (in various forms) about 37 times (including Jn. 3:16, 3:19, 3:35, 8:42, 10:17, 11:5, 12:43, 13:1, 13:1, 13:23, 13:34, 14:15, 14:21, 14:23, 14:24, 14:28, 14:31, 15:9, 15:12, 15:17, 17:23, 17:24, 17:26, 19:26, 21:7, 21:15, 21:16, 21:20), and this includes the saying that people loved (agape love) the darkness rather than light in Jn. 3:19 and that the Pharisees loved (agape love) the approval of men more than the praise of God in Jn. 12:43. On the other hand, John uses phileo (in various forms) about 13 times (Jn. 5:20, 11:3, 11:36, 12:25, 15:19, 16:27, 20:2, 21:15, 21:16, 21:17), and this includes the Father loving (phileo-love) the Son in Jn. 5:20, Lazarus, whom Jesus loved (phileo-love) in Jn. 11:13 and 11:36, God’s love in John 16.27, and the disciple whom Jesus loved (phileo love) in Jn. 20:2. John’s actual uses does not sustain the common differentiation between the two terms in his gospel—whatever usage elsewhere might look like.

So is there any significance to the structure and variation in Jesus’ three-fold questioning of Peter? It seems to me that the central point here is the restoration of Peter, and it is characteristic of John to make connections backwards (known as ‘analepsis’, ‘looking again’) and forwards (‘prolepsis’, ‘looking ahead’) throughout his gospel; the reference to ‘feeding my sheep’ takes us back to Jesus’ claim to be the good shepherd in John 10—and John has already made a connection between this teaching and Peter’s betrayal by using the same word (aule) for both the sheep-pen of the good shepherd (John 10.1, 16) and the courtyard of the failed disciple (John 18.15). The theme of restoration is in fact one that has already occurred, especially if we see the great catch of fish earlier in the chapter as a conscious repeat of the episode in Luke 5 which began the ministry of Peter and the others; here is another new beginning, but one in the light of Jesus’ resurrection life.

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27 thoughts on “153 fish, three loves, and one call to follow in John 21”

  1. Does anyone in the CoE preach from the lectionary Old Testament Readings? Or how about the Acts reading in this instance? Or perhaps drawing out some commonalities, some discontinuities and continuities between the readings?

  2. Not having any Greek knowledge leaves me with only one option to see extra meaning:
    If Jesus gave Peter one of his fish then 153+1=154.
    154 divides by 7 to produce 22 fish each.
    22/7 reminds me that, since Peter was called by the lake, he has come full circle.

    Does ιχθύς have any special gematrical meaning?

  3. ‘Feed my lambs’, ‘shepherd my sheep’ and ‘feed my sheep’ is not a progression but a differentiated set of three. The three envisaged ministries of the pastor-teacher of Ephesians 4. Catechesis/paideia; shepherding adults; teaching adults.

    This is confirmed not only by the larger 5fold ministry structuring of John 20-21 and the disciples involved therein, but also by the
    A: ‘little children’ (John 21.5 – pay no attention to NIV ‘friends’);
    B: drawing together of fish into one (cf. earlier references e.g. 10.16);
    C: feeding
    structure of the earlier part of John 21.

    • [‘Feeding lambs’, ‘shepherding sheep’ and ‘feeding sheep’ are thus, sequentially, the 3 things commanded by Jesus
      – in pretty much his only 3 speeches in 21.1-14 –
      and in each case Peter is the one who obeys or carries out the command, which is significant because of 21.15ff.

      He makes sure the ‘little children’ have fish. He goes before the mass of disciples and the symbolic fish (converts) in exiting the water; they follow his lead. And finally he brings the food for consumption.]

  4. I broadly agree with Ian’s conclusion that the central point of verse 15 onwards is “the restoration of Peter”. Consequently I cannot see how the 3-fold affirmation and command cannot in some sense be seen as a “progression”(see above).
    However, I would question whether “Simon Peter’s decision to go fishing was simply to fill a void”. In verse 4 we are informed that up until that point, the disciples (presumably including Peter?) did not realise that the stranger was Jesus. It is only after ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved *said to Peter* “Is is the Lord”‘ that Peter took off. Why? Could it be that Peter was still riddled with guilt concerning his 3- fold denial prior to the crucifixion? And if so, does this not reinforce the necessity of a strategic, pastoral building up of the disciple’s shattered ego?

  5. I find this a very puzzling chapter in so many ways.
    Ian could you please elaborate why is 17 an important number to start with? Have I missed something? Luke may have 17 “nations” in Acts 2, but why would 17 be important to Luke?
    The 17 and 153 gematria link to Ezekiel is intriguing but I think I have missed the importance of 17, unless it is 10 + 7 so two complete numbers together. Does that really make it so significant, and would John’s readers know all this? You are right we live at some distance from the original readers and listeners. I can see 12 as important and 7 and I can see gematria being more relevant maybe in Revelation, but might this not just be like the 6 stone water-jars?
    I think there is some difficulty in harmonising this chapter with the other Resurrection accounts – why the disciples are up at the lake (and are they all Galilean? – I think you argue disciple who Jesus loved is a Jerusalemite) and not remaining in Jerusalem as Luke would have it. Stibbe suggests Peter has fallen back to what he knows, almost as if the first Resurrection appearance had not happened, but ..
    It is also strange how John wants 7 disciples present, but three named, two brothers identified by their father (but otherwise not in the gospel) one identified by relationship to Jesus (which is a very “arrogant” way to self-identify) and one unknown!
    Some strange detail and some apparent tidying of loose ends; I accept it can be the authentic, author’s ending, while still being a bit of an appendix chapter, but it still leaves a lot of questions!

    • I think you are right to be sceptical about the numbers. Christianity is not freemasonry, and the idea that Luke went through his draft, counted the syllables, amended the draft until he had the right number of syllables and amended it again to ensure that the speech divided into two halves has more than a whiff of the absurd. I’m amazed that a theologian should even think of counting the syllables. This is not the way to be reading Scripture even at an academic level, let alone in churches or privately at home, and I doubt it was food of this sort that Jesus had in mind in John 21:17.

      • Yes. You are perfectly correct in your assessment. However Ian Is being like David before the Philistine king. There are more than enough mad people in the world, should not even they be addressed?

        • Steve – what Steven Robinson has perhaps missed is that John’s gospel probably contains a proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem for those who read the gospel in the right way.

          • I think that Scripture is different from other writings. It is like the difference between a rose and an image of a rose. The real thing has infinite depth. The image is only skin deep. I think John was unaware of what he was writing. I don’t think he pored over his work too much. I think as soon as he was able he rolled it up and posted it. The Holy spirit ensured that the unseen foundations were incorporated, and not in some clever, clever way to intrigue theologians but simply because it’s in His nature to make things perfect. However, I agree with Steven R. and Felix; too much study into these things will make you go mad.
            Peter’s trip round the lake, from his first call to breakfast on the shore is a wonderful way to wrap up his story. ……There was an unknown number of fish. Jesus had more than 1. The disciples had 153. I think there is a link to Ps. 119. 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. 8 verses in each. I imagine Jesus starting the first verse and then the disciples continuing the psalm verse at a time. Jesus throws a fish to each as a each line is completed. At the end we have Peter reciting the last verse: Taw: “I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.”
            Anyway, what I mean is, reading into the numbers led me to read Ps.119. Which is a good thing probs.

          • The discussion of this/similar post 7.5.19 covers a lot of ground and brings appreciation of many of the remarkably large number of relevant angles.

      • Sometimes you want things to be of the highest perfection in design, since only that will do justice to the subject matter.

        • Yes, I suppose I do! Is that like seeing objects in clouds or images in static? Does the Holy Spirit direct our dreams? Ultimately theology can go so far, its a tool makers’ profession. Tools are made to be used. Thanks for your precision tools Christopher.

    • Peter – look up triangular number on wiki. It’s simply a number you get in the following way:

      1+2 = 3
      1+2+3 = 6
      1+2+3+4 = 10

      153 is the triangle of 17 means that

      1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10+11+12+13+14+15+16+17 = 153

      So this is what he means when he says that153 is the triangle of 17.

      Steven Robinson is absolutely right here – it might have been that when God decided how many fish to put into the net He thought `I wonder how many generations until they spot that 153 is a triangular number?’ – but it seems a bit far fetched to imagine that the Good Lord was trying to communicate some serious theological point by this.

      • Of course – there is something of much greater significance than the actual number here – it is the way that God dealt with them.

        No doubt the disciples were overjoyed when the saw that they had a huge load of fish – but then the voice came from heaven

        `now I want you to count them all.’
        `what? all of them?’
        ‘yes – every single one.’

        They must have counted them, otherwise we would not have been informed of the number.

        • The fish were a gift from the Lord to those who made their living by fishing. Having caught the fish, they must have brought them to market, counted them and sold them. Perhaps they sold them in lots of three, 3 x 51. No voice from heaven is required to make the counting of them plausible. The fish were a sign that the Lord had control of creation and he would provide for their needs, because – as the sign reminded them – they were to be fishers of men.

          The fish quickly became a symbol of the mystery of Christ: Iesous Christos Theou Uios Soter. It was also, surely, a symbol of the resurrection (Matt 12:40).

          We are not all called to be evangelists, but somehow we all have to devote ourselves to this task of fishing men out of the sea (which will not happen by frequenting the blogosphere). They will die out of water, but they will live again.

        • It may have been common practice then for fishermen to count the number of fish caught. I dont think it requires divine intervention.

          As for the question of the significance of numbers, triangular or otherwise, the point is if such numbers had meaning than simply mathematics to the original readers, then they had that significance and the author was using them to make a point. The only reason we dont necessarily pick up on the implications today is that we typically no longer see such meaning attributed to numbers. But that doesnt mean that meaning was never there – it just reflects our modern ignorance.

          If modern readers accepted the reality that 666 specifically referred to Nero, perhaps much of the nonsense written today about Revelation would disappear!


          • Peter – I think the important point about the number 153 is that – that really was the number of fish caught. The disciples counted the fish (as Ian Paul points out in the article – this would be a natural thing to do, since they were commercial fishermen).

            There may well be some Holy significance in the number 153 – and Ian Paul may well have pointed to it in the article. If this is true, then it was GOD who put it there. The disciples (particularly John who wrote the text) may have understood the significance – or he may not. He may simply have put down the precise number of fish as a way of giving a forensic piece of evidence indicating that the event actually happened – and it may well have been God who decided to give theologians some trivial to think about over the following 2000 years.

            I found Baukham’s book convincing when I read it, but it does concentrate on eyewitness testimony remembered and it doesn’t interact with the idea that people understood that this was the event foretold in Daniel, the once-for-all event and therefore doesn’t interact with the idea that there were serious people taking serious notes at the time of what Jesus said and did.

            While it seems much better than huge swathes that went before it, it still pays some homage to the `exchange the truth for a lie’ approach to biblical scholarship that has plagued the scholarly world for at least 200 years.

            John bar Zeb was the BD and author of 4G – otherwise the inscription `according to John’ is disingenuous and absolutely nothing we received from the early fathers can be trusted. Similarly, the gospel tells us there were 153 fish – which means that either they counted them all and got the number 153 – or else we can’t trust the gospel for anything at all.

  6. John’s content is calculated to fulfil his preworked schemes, hence the approach which I think works scarcely at all for this gospel is the narrative sequential one employed not just by Stibbe (who has a few top insights) but by several other scholars and also by the general reader.

  7. Ian, I had a my own John 1 and John 21 experience in the last couple of days.

    I am currently in New York City. I was talking with a homeless guy. I asked him what his name was. It was Nathaniel (with an i not an a). I told him my name was Philip! I asked him if he knew about Nathaneal in the Bible. He said enough to show that at some point he had been told something but it had become blurry. So I told him about Nathaneal in John 1 and John 21 – and I pointed out that in John 1 he has a conversation with someone named Philip. I explained that Nathanael was someone who wasn’t quickly convinced but that this is not a bad thing – it’s good to be cautious. And I told him that when Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus that Jesus – before Nathanael had even got all the way to him – commented on Nathanael being a person who was honest – without deceit. And how Jesus – by talking about the fig tree – revealed to Nathanael and Philip that he knew everything that had ever happened in their lives.

    I knew this was a God appointment. I didn’t spend too much time wondering about whether to let the bible affirm this man. And I could tell that he was moved at the thought that the Nathanael in the Bible was honest and that Jesus knew everything about him.

  8. Mark Twain was once asked if he was perturbed by the difficult passages in Scripture; to which he replied: ” It’s not the passages I don’t understand I find difficult, it’s the ones I *do* understand I find difficult . To date, much time and energy has spent on this topic regarding numerical speculation and little on the actual text. I have already made one observation about verse 7. I now would draw your attention to verse 17 and for those of you who are drawn towards the “Gnostic Mysteries” , I think that the number *3* might be significant!
    And if I could be so bold as to step aside from the text for one moment, I think that Matthew 4:18 – 22 and Matthew 16:13 – 20 might just be of relevance!
    The Reformers were wont to speak of the perspicuity of Scripture. But then, by and large, they knew what they were looking for!

  9. ‘Scuse a question from ignorance. You say ‘which would be odd if John of Zebedee were the author of this gospel.’ Are you saying that John’s Gospel was written by someone other than the beloved disciple who had been reclining at the table close to him? Or what? – thanks

    • I think Ian tends to agree with Bauckham that John the Elder who Papias references was the author of John. I think Bauckham makes a relatively strong case but Im not wholly persuaded.

  10. Thanks for all these helpful thoughts as ever.
    Reading the text I’m wondering if I’m supposed to draw a link between Peter putting on his garment before diving into the water and Jesus taking off then replacing his during the washing of the disciples’ feet in John 13. I’m probably reading too much into it given that it was Jesus in the first instance and Peter in the second, and that it was just what people did as you mention above. But the use of the same noun (my Greek stretches just about that far) and the context of forgiveness in both stories made me wonder if I am supposed to notice something here – like I am supposed to notice the threefold commission vs threefold betrayal, smell of the breakfast BBQ vs smell of the fire where Peter betrayed Jesus, etc.

    • Thanks. That’s an interesting question. My first observation is simply that that is what people do. Fishermen stripped off for work, but would normally dress again to meet people. It does seem odd to us, since we strip to swim.

      My second observation is that the gospel writer does not seem to make anything symbolic of this. So perhaps we shouldn’t. If there is an allusion, it might more be to ‘they were naked but not ashamed’ in Gen 2; Peter is naked, and he is ashamed.

    • We know that particular smells can reawaken memories, so that is an interesting point.

      But can you imagine how elated Peter must have felt after his forgiveness by Jesus, and not just forgiveness but Jesus now giving him a very important job to do!


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