The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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How to interpret a fish: the sequel

Canisius | 05 June, 2006 22:15

Scan down the posts below, and you will quickly see that this is a quiet blog. Not many comments, no big debates. People don't react to Gueranger, apparently. But there is one topic that has consistently stirred the masses, one topic that draws even the most reticent sampler of the blogosphere into the discussion.

You guessed it: fish.

Every post about fish has attracted a string of comments and necessitated multiple follow-up posts. Since I haven't blogged much lately, I thought I should make what few posts I toss up count for as much as possible, so today I want to respond to Philip's comment about the infamous 153 fish story.

As Philip points out, Scott Hahn says that ancient scientists counted 153 species of fish, so that the catch of 153 fish would represent the apostles evangelizing all the world. This interpretation goes back to St. Jerome, whose authority is of course worth taking into account. The one problem is that we can only track down one of the scientists whom Jerome cites, and that one may well have been influenced by John 21. In other words, it may be that a number of people said there were 153 species of fish because of the 153 fish in John 21, and then Jerome read these folks to get his count of the number of species. The only fish-counting author we can dig up who would have written before the Gospel of John is Pliny the Elder, who reckons 104 species of fish (Pliny Nat. 9.16.43).

So Hahn's theory is very attractive, but it's hard to substantiate the claim that folks in John's day would have defaulted to a 153 species count.

There are countless other theories about the number: 153 is the numerical value of the Hebrew phrase bene elohim, "God's children"; a similar numerical calculation links 153 to the names of fishing villages in Ezekiel 47:10; 153 is the numerical value of the Greek phrase "Nathanael gamma", which would mean the third appearance to Nathanael; the list goes on, but doesn't get better.

[While we're decoding the number, I should mention that "one hundred fifty three fish" is an anagram for "Oh indeed, reef hurt thy sniff", indicating that the fish smelled terrible.]

No one to my knowledge has made the ground-breaking insight, available only here on the Gueranger Blog, that Jesus added his fish to the catch and brought the number to 154. The problem, of course, is the number 22.


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