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Draught of Fishes

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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DRAUGHT OF FISHES.—A twice repeated miracle: (1) at the beginning of the Lord’s ministry, (2) after the Resurrection. The main points are similar, but differences in the details have always been considered important and significant.

1. Luke 5:1-11. At the Lake of Gennesaret, Jesus, after teaching from Peter’s boat, bids him put out and let down the nets for a draught. He and his companions have toiled all the night without success, but obey, and enclose a great multitude of fishes, so that the nets are in danger of breaking. With the aid of their partners they fill the boats, which begin to sink. Peter, who some time before had been brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew (John 1:41) and had followed Him as His disciple (Matthew 4:18, Mark 1:16), now begs Jesus to depart from him for he is ‘a sinful man’ [the vision of the Divine is the revelation of man’s sin], but on a repeated command leaves all and follows Jesus.

2. John 21:1-14. Some days or weeks after the Resurrection, when the Apostles have returned to their work as Galilaean fishermen, after a night of fruitless labour, when they are drawing near the shore, an unrecognized voice hails them, asking if they have anything to sell for food. On their answering in the negative, they are advised to cast the net on the right side of the ship. Having done so, they are not able to draw the net for the multitude of fishes. Instinctively John recognizes the Lord, and tells Peter, who at once swims to land. On drawing the net, the number of ‘great fishes’ is found to be 153, yet the net is not broken. None of the disciples has any doubt that ‘it is the Lord.’

The natural explanation of the miracle, that from a distance Jesus saw what those in the boat failed to observe, is possible, but is not necessary. The power is rather that of guiding to the required place. ‘The miracle lies in the circumstances and not in the mere fact. The events came to men from the sphere of their daily labour, and were at once felt to be the manifestations of a present power of God’ (Westcott, Characteristics of the Gospel Miracles),—in the second case the manifestation of the power of the presence of the risen Lord.

The significant differences between the details of the two incidents have been drawn out by St. Augustine (in Joh. cxxii. 7). ‘The one miracle was the symbol of the Church at present, the other of the Church perfected; in the one we have good and bad, in the other good only; there Christ also is on the water, here He is on the land; there the draught is left in the boats, here it is landed on the beach; there the nets are let down as it might be, here in a special part; there the nets are rending, here they are not broken; there the boats are on the point of sinking with their load, here they are not laden; there the fish are not numbered, here the number is exactly given’ (Westcott, St. John, in loc). For interpretations of the number of fish (John 21:11), see Westcott and other commentators.

Literature.—The Comm. and Lives of Christ on the two passages; Trench and Taylor on Miracles; Expositor, iv. vi. [1892] 18; F. W. Robertson, The Human Race, 125; Ruskin, Frondes Agrestes, 152.

R. Macpherson.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Draught of Fishes'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​d/draught-of-fishes.html. 1906-1918.
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