Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

John 21:11

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.
New American Standard

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Fish;   Galilee;   Net;   Peter;   Thompson Chain Reference - Bible Stories for Children;   Children;   Home;   Pleasant Sunday Afternoons;   Religion;   Stories for Children;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Fishes;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Fish, Fisher;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Hospitality;   Miracle;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Fishing, the Art of;   Peter;   Resurrection of Christ;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Fish;   Net;   Holman Bible Dictionary - John, the Gospel of;   Presence of God;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - John, Gospel of;   Peter;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Animals;   Apostles;   Discourse;   Draught of Fishes;   Fish, Fisher, Fishing;   Honey;   Luke, Gospel According to;   Nets;   Numbers;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Miracles;   3 To Draw, Drag;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Chief parables and miracles in the bible;   Smith Bible Dictionary - John, Gospel of;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Fish;   Thomas;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Jesus of Nazareth;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Fish;   Fishing;   James;   Thomas;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Christianity in Its Relation to Judaism;   New Testament;   Simon Cephas;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for October 19;  

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

An hundred and fifty and three - The number is mentioned because it seems to have been a very unusual draught, and it was particularly gratifying and striking to them after they had spent the whole night and had caught nothing. This convinced them that it was no other than the same Saviour who had so often worked wonders before them that was now with them.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 21:11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-21.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Simon Peter went up,.... Either to the sea, that being higher than the land, or to the ship which lay by the shore: he went aboard it, and

drew the net to land full of great fishes; not alone, but others of the disciples with him; though he only is mentioned, being the leading person in this affair; an emblem of the whole number of God's elect being brought safe to shore, to Christ, and to heaven, through various tribulations and afflictions in the world, fitly signified by the waves of the sea. What mystery there may be in the number, I know not. The conjecture of Grotius, that it is a figure of the proselytes in the days of David and Solomon, seems to be without foundation; since they were not only so many thousands, but six hundred over. And as little to be regarded is the thought of others, that the larger number, one hundred, regards the converted among the Gentiles, and the lesser those among the Jews; much better is the observation of others, that it may design a collection, out of all sorts of people, to Christ, and his church.

And for all there were so many; in number, and these so large and big, and the weight of them so great. The Syriac reads כלה יוקרא בהנא, "with all this weight", or "burden", and so the Persic; but the Arabic, "with such a number"; both ideas of number and weight are to be preserved, to make what follows the more observable:

yet was not the net broken; which must be ascribed to the divine power of Christ; and is an emblem of the power of God attending the Gospel to the regeneration, conversion, and salvation of his people, and of the great usefulness of it, however mean and despicable it may be in the eyes of men, and of its permanence and duration, until all the elect of God are gathered in by it.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 21:11". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-21.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Peter went up — into the boat; went aboard.

and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three; and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken — The manifest reference here to the former miraculous draught (Luke 5:1-11) furnishes the key to this scene. There the draught was symbolical of the success of their future ministry: While “Peter and all that were with him were astonished at the draught of the fishes which they had taken, Jesus said unto him, Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” Nay, when first called, in the act of “casting their net into the sea, for they were fishers,” the same symbolic reference was made to their secular occupation: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18, Matthew 4:19). Here, then, if but the same symbolic reference be kept in view, the design of the whole scene will, we think, be clear. The multitude and the size of the fishes they caught symbolically foreshadowed the vast success of their now fast approaching ministry, and this only as a beginning of successive draughts, through the agency of a Christian ministry, till, “as the waters cover the sea, the earth should be full of the knowledge of the Lord.” And whereas, at the first miraculous draught, the net “was breaking” through the weight of what it contained - expressive of the difficulty with which, after they had ‹caught men,‘ they would be able to retain, or keep them from escaping back into the world - while here, “for all they were so many, yet was not the net broken,” are we not reminded of such sayings as these (John 10:28): “I give unto My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand” [Luthardt]? But it is not through the agency of a Christian ministry that all true disciples are gathered. Jesus Himself, by unseen methods, gathers some, who afterwards are recognized by the constituted fishers of men, and mingle with the fruit of their labors. And are not these symbolized by that portion of our Galilean repast which the fishers found, in some unseen way, made ready to their hand?

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 21:11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/john-21.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Went up (ανεβηanebē). Into the little boat or dinghy.

Drew (ειλκυσενheilkusen). Same verb as ελκυσαιhelkusai in John 21:6. Peter now did what they had failed to do.

Three
(τριωνtriōn). The addition “three” to the “hundred and fifty” looks as if they were actually counted these “large” (μεγαλωνmegalōn) fish. It was a great fish story that John recalls vividly.

Was not rent
(ουκ εσχιστηouk eschisthē). First aorist passive indicative of σχιζωschizō to split (our word “schism”).

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 21:11". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/john-21.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Went up

Into the vessel.

To land ( ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς )

Strictly, upon the land.

Great fishes

All authorities agree as to the abundance of fish in the Lake of Galilee. M. Lortet, cited by Dr. Thomson, says that two castings of the net usually filled his boat. Bethsaida (there were two places of that name on the lake) means House of the Fisheries. The fame of the lake in this particular reached back to very early times; so that, according to the Rabbinical legend, one of the ten fundamental laws laid down by Joshua on the division of the country was, that any one might fish with a hook in the Lake of Galilee, so that they did not interfere with the free passage of boats. The Talmud names certain kinds of fish which might be eaten without being cooked, and designates them as small fishes. So ὀψάρια is rendered in John 6:9. Possibly the expression great fishes may imply a contrast with the small fishes which swarmed in the lake, and the salting and pickling of which was a special industry among its fishermen.

Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 21:11". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/john-21.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

The Fourfold Gospel

Simon Peter therefore went up, and drew the net to land1, full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty and three2: and for all there were so many, the net was not rent3.

  1. Simon Peter therefore went up, and drew the net to land. Peter, already wet, could lend material assistance in bringing the net to shore.

  2. Full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty and three. John tells us the exact number of the fishes to show the magnitude of the miracle, both as to the catch and as to the unbroken nets.

  3. And for all there were so many, the net was not rent. This forms a sharp contrast to the broken nets of Luke 5:6. Possibly when the hour approached when they would become fishers of men, Jesus meant to show them that a greater and fuller miraculous power would attend and bless their efforts.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 21:11". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/john-21.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Drew; that is, with the help of the others.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on John 21:11". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/john-21.html. 1878.

Scofield's Reference Notes

was not

Contra. Luke 5:6.

Copyright Statement
These files are considered public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available in the Online Bible Software Library.
Bibliographical Information
Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on John 21:11". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/john-21.html. 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

Ver. 11. Yet was not the net broke] When God will bless a man, all second causes shall cooperate and contribute their help. As when he will cross us, the strongest sinew in the arms of flesh shall crack, our likeliest projects miscarry; he will curse our blessings, blast our proceedings, as King John confessed, "ever since I was forgiven and subject to the see of Rome, I never prospered." {a} Oto, one of the pope’s muscipulatores, mice catchers, as the story calls them, sent hither by Gregory IX, after three years’ raking together of money by most detestable arts, at last departing hence, he left not so much money in the kingdom as he either carried with him or sent to Rome before him. Such notable fishers are Peter’s pretended successors; all is fish with them that comes to net.

{a} Postquam Deo reconciliatus me ac mea regna (proh dolor) Rom. subieci ecclesiae, nulla mihi prospera, sed omnia contraria advenerunt. John Rex.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on John 21:11". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/john-21.html. 1865-1868.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

11.] ἀνέβη, into the boat, which apparently was now on the beach, in the shallow water.

ἑκατὸν πεντ.] This enumeration is singular, and not to be accounted for by any mystical significance of the number, but as betokening the careful counting which took place after the event, and in which the narrator took a part.

οὐκ ἐσχίσθη τὸ δίκτ., herein differing from what happened Luke 5:6, when it was broken.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on John 21:11". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/john-21.html. 1863-1878.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

John 21:11. ἰχθύων μεγάλων, of great fishes) which just now the great Lord had called, little fishes, John 21:10. It was thus (by fishing) that they had their livelihood (whilst in Galilee) up to the time of their journey into Judea.— ἑκατὸν πεντήκοντα τριῶν, a hundred and fifty-three) It is wonderful that the actual number should be thus expressed in tin’s passage, as contrasted with Luke 5:6 (the ratio of which number might have affected the disciples more then than now), although the completely round number one hundred and fifty was so near, to which ὠς might have been also added for accuracy, as in John 21:8, “about two hundred cubits.” The number cliii., is memorable. Jerome, on Ezekiel 47 : [9, 10, “There shall be a very great multitude of fish—their fish shall be according to their kinds”], “They who have written of the natures and peculiar qualities of animals, who have learned ἁλιευτικὰ, as well in the Latin as in the Greek language, of whom Oppian, a Cicilian, is the most learned poet, assert that there are one hundred and fifty-three kinds of fishes, all of which were taken by the apostles, and not one remained uncaptured; whilst both the noble and base-born, the rich and poor, and every class of men, are being drawn out of the sea of the world to salvation.” Comp. Matthew 13:47, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind.”— οὐκ ἐσχίσθη, was not broken) A new miraculous circumstance.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on John 21:11". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/john-21.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

See Poole on "John 21:10"

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 21:11". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/john-21.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

сто пятьдесят три Запись Иоанном точной цифры указывает на факт, что он был очевидцем описанных им событий (1Ин. 1:1-4). Действия Иисуса, направленные на обеспечение рыбой, показали, что Он по-прежнему будет заботиться о нуждах Своих учеников (см. Флп. 4:19; Мф. 6:25-33).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on John 21:11". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/john-21.html.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

11.Great fishes—The net cast in the former similar transaction, catching fishes, good and bad, may represent the Church of the earth mixed with hypocrites and apostates. But this, where the fishes are all good and great, represents the Church of the finally saved.

A hundred and fifty and three— This reckoning presents no number of mystical signification. So it does not show that the elect are the fixed foreordained number which can be neither increased nor diminished. But it does intimate literally that the fishes were each worthy of a count, and that the whole was a lot to rejoice at. Symbolical that the finally saved will each be accounted great and worthy in the eye of the Saviour.

Not the net broken—In the former miraculous draught the net began to break. So the earthly Church is often distracted and torn by false members, by sins, and by schisms; but the Church of the advent will be an unbroken Church.

 

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 21:11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-21.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Peter did not leave his fellow disciples to struggle with the nets while he stood by. He helped them pull the huge catch of fish that Jesus had provided to land.

There have been many allegorical explanations of the meaning of the153fish. Most of these are much too involved to explain here. [Note: See the commentaries, or for a brief overview, Carson, The Gospel . . ., pp672-73.] Many of these involve gamatria. Gamatria is the discipline of deriving a word or words from the Hebrew, or in this case the Greek, letters that also represent numbers in their respective languages. One of the more credible explanations of the153fish is as follows. Jesus formerly told His disciples that they would become fishers of men, an obvious metaphor ( Mark 1:17). If the fish here represent the converts that Jesus would miraculously provide for His disciples to "catch," perhaps their large number represents many converts (cf. Matthew 13:47-50). The fact that the net did not break may symbolize the capability of the gospel to "catch" many people without failing. [Note: Bruce, pp401-2.]

Perhaps John simply recorded the number as a detail to lend authenticity to his testimony (cf. John 2:6). He was, after all, a fisherman himself. Most fishermen know exactly how many fish they have caught whenever they catch some, and this was a very unusual catch. Probably the disciples divided the catch and so had to count the fish.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 21:11". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-21.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

John 21:11. Simon Peter therefore went up, and drew the net to the land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three; and for all there were so many, yet was not the net rent. Again Peter appears in all the prominence of his character and work,—the leader of the apostolic company. The fishes drawn to shore by means of the net were ‘great:’ yet neither by their sire nor by their number was the net rent. No fish was lost. (See further below.)

The comparison of this miracle with that of the draught of fishes in Luke 5:4-7 supplies various points of contrast, at once bringing out and confirming what we have yet to speak of as the inner meaning of the section before us. Of these the most interesting are that the fishes are all great and good, and numbered; in the earlier narrative we have no such statements. In the earlier, too, the net was breaking: here ‘the net was not rent.’ The contrasts all point to the difference between a ministry of trial with a suffering Lord, and a ministry of triumph with a glorified Lord.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on John 21:11". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/john-21.html. 1879-90.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fishes, one hundred and fifty-three; a figure of the great number to be converted by the labours of the apostles. (Witham)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on John 21:11". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/john-21.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

went up = went back.

to. Greek. epi. App-104., but all the texts read eis.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on John 21:11". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/john-21.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

Simon Peter went up (went on board), and drew the net to land full of great fish, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. The manifest reference here to the former miraculous draught (Luke 5:9) furnishes the key to this scene. There the draught was symbolical of the success of their future ministry: While "Peter and all that were with him were astonished at the draught of the fish which they had taken, Jesus said unto him, Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men." Nay, when first called, in the act of "casting their net into the sea, for they were fishers," the same symbolic reference was made to their secular occupation: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:18-19). Here, then, if but the same symbolic reference be kept in view, the design of the whole scene will, we think, be clear. The multitude and the size of the fish they caught symbolically foreshadowed the vast success of their now fast approaching ministry, and this only as a beginning of successive draughts, through the agency of a Christian ministry, until, "as the waters cover the sea, the earth should be full of the knowledge of the Lord." And whereas, at the first miraculous draught, the net "was breaking," through the weight of what it contained-expressive, perhaps, of the difficulty with which, after they had "caught men," they would be able to retain, or keep them from escaping back into the world-while here, "for all they were so many, yet was not the net broken," are we not, as Luthardt hints, reminded of such sayings as these (John 10:28): "I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand"? But it is not through the agency of a Christian ministry that all true disciples are gathered. Jesus Himself, by unseen methods, gathers some, who afterward are recognized by the constituted fishers of men, and mingle with the fruit of their labours. And are not these symbolized by that portion of our Galilean repast which the fishers found, in some unseen way, made ready to their hand?

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 21:11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-21.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(11) Simon Peter went up.—The better reading inserts “therefore”: Simon Peter therefore went up—i.e., because of Christ’s command. He went up into the ship now lying on the shore with one end of the net fastened to it, and drew the remainder of the net to the shore.

Full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three.—The greatness and the number are dwelt upon because in any ordinary haul of fish a large proportion would be small and valueless, and be cast into the lake again (Comp. Matthew 13:47 et seq.). These were all “great,” and their size and number led to an exact account being taken of them. This would be talked of among the Apostles and their friends and fellow-craftsmen, and is, with the picturesque exactness which is characteristic of St. John, recorded here.

We have no clue to any mystical interpretation of this number, and it is probably not intended to convey one. The various meanings which men have read into it, such as that it represents one of every kind of fish known to the natural history of the day; or that one hundred represents the Gentile nations, fifty the Jews, and three the Trinity; or that there is a reference to the 153, 600 proselytes of 2 Chronicles 2:17; or that it expresses symbolically the name of Simon Peter, take their place among the eccentricities of exegesis from which even the latest results of criticism are not free. Still, as all the more spiritual interpreters, from St. Augustine downwards, have seen, the differences between this and the earlier miracle (Luke 5:1-11) are too striking to be unintentional. That represents the visible Church, containing good and bad; the net is cast without special direction as to side; the net was broken and many escaped. This represents God’s elect, foreknown by Him; all are good; the net is brought to shore, and none are lost. (See Notes on the parable of the Draw-net in Matthew 13:47-50, and comp. especially Trench, Notes on Miracles, §§ 3 and 33.)

Yet was not the net broken.—Comp. Note on Luke 5:6. This is again one of the details which point to an eye-witness as the writer.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 21:11". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/john-21.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
and for
Luke 5:6-8; Acts 2:41
Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on John 21:11". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/john-21.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ver. 11. "Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken."

The same word, ἀνέβη, is used, Mark 6:51, for entering the ship. Peter must first go up into the ship, in order to release the net which adhered to it. He performed this task, doubtless, not alone: he, however, was the chief personage; and his act only is mentioned, because he was the centre of the spiritual fishery which was here symbolized. In this spiritual fishery the drawing of the net to land signified, according to Matthew 13:48-49, the "end of the world," and what will take place then. Accordingly, Peter here represents not the mere individual apostolate, but at the same time the whole ministry of teaching and preaching, which has continued that apostolate from age to age. The net full of fishes represents not merely the "first-fruits of the Gentiles," as they were gathered in by the Apostles themselves, but the whole "fulness of the Gentiles," their πλήρωμα, Romans 11:25, as it is to be gathered down to the end of the world: comp. Matthew 24:14. It follows from this as a direct consequence, that we must not limit our views here to the Apostles as individuals.

That the number one hundred and fifty and three must have a deep significance, is urgently felt by all who discern the symbolical meaning of the whole; otherwise the minuteness of specification would have a character of pettiness: comp. Bengel. It is bootless to object that the historical character of the chapter must suffer if we make the number here of any importance. For the distinction between the great fishes, which alone are reckoned, and the little ones, is a mere passing allusion; so that there is a certain latitude allowed here for theological speculation. The deep meaning of the number was acknowledged in ancient times. Jerome suggested that there were a hundred and fifty-three kinds of fishes, and that it was thereby signified that the Church was a net which received of every kind. But it cannot be established that any one in ancient times counted precisely that number of genera; not to say that such an enumeration was current at the time (Lampe), which however it must have been on that supposition. Then again there is absolutely no analogy for such a natural-historical allusion. All such secret hints in John's Gospel and in the Apocalypse remain within the domain of Scripture. Grotius perceived rightly that the number had some connection with 2 Chronicles 2:17 : "And Solomon numbered all the strangers that were in the land of Israel, after the number wherewith David his father had numbered them; and there were found an hundred and fifty thousand, and three thousand and six hundred:" comp. 1 Kings 9:20. On the "strangers," Kimchi remarks: "The remnant of the Canaanites, who were no longer given over to the worship of false gods." It has been shown, in the commentary on Zechariah 9:7 (Christology, vol. iii. Clark's Trans.), that proselytes were here spoken of; and that the reception of strangers in Israel during David's life was a type of the future entrance of the fulness of the Gentiles among the people of God. As our present passage is related to 2 Chronicles 2:17, so is Revelation 13:18 related to Ezra 2:13. Without the Old Testament key, both passages entirely baffle us. The objection, that John omits the six hundred of the calculation in Chronicles, has but little force. John counts one fish for every thousand; and therefore an incomplete thousand would go for nothing.

τοσούτων, so great in number: comp. on ch. John 12:37. The "net broken" stands in no antithesis to Luke's "and their net brake," ch. John 5:6. There it was only its being in danger of breaking,—a danger which, as we read, was at once obviated. But here also there is the urgent danger of breaking, as is evident from the τοσούτων ὄντων. Where all is significant, this trait also is of moment. Grotius discerned in it a "presage of the wonderful unity of those who should be gathered into the Church by the labour of the Apostles." Of this we can the less doubt, because already, in John's time, the word σχίσμα was also established to denote divisions in the Church (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 11:18; 1 Corinthians 12:25), and is used in John's Gospel itself for spiritual discord: ch. John 7:43, John 9:16, John 10:19. The words are of very considerable importance, as we are all too much inclined to look at the divisions which seem to exist, and to forget the bond of unity that is there. We need not take refuge from the visible in the invisible Church, any more than we need fly from the past and the present into the "millennial reign." The net was never broken, οὐκ ἐσχίσθη; and it is better for us to purge our eyes, that we may see the unity which still obtains in the Christian world. One Lord, one Spirit, one baptism, one Holy Scripture, the common heritage of the three confessions of the ancient Church,—all these show that, despite all σχίσματα, springing from the τοσούτων ὄντων, the necessary concomitants of so many nations with all their peculiarities brought into one fellowship, there is yet an indissoluble bond of unity that encircles the whole Christian Church.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 21:11". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/john-21.html.