Fish, Storms and a Boat

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Jesus had a personal acquaintance with the life of Galilean fishermen.

Adam gave names only to animals and birds, apparently avoiding fish entirely (Gen. 2:19-20). The names of about fifty fish are mentioned in rabbinic literature, but the Torah merely makes a general distinction between clean fish, which Jews are permitted to eat (vertebrate), and unclean (without bones) (Lev. 11:9-12; Deut. 14:9-10). Clean fish are generally recognized by the presence of fins and scales.

The reason for this lack of detailed information about fish in the Hebrew Scriptures is simple: the early Jewish experience was born in the desert, and fish were far less known than other creatures. Nor were the writers of the Gospels much more familiar with the names of the fish of the Sea of Galilee. Thus, in Matthew 13:48, the “bad” fish were the catfish, which because they had no scales, could not be eaten according to the Mosaic dietary laws, and the “good” were all the others in the catch.

Small Fish

The Gospels mention another difference between fish—that of size: the “large fish,” musht (St. Peter’s Fish) and biny (barbels), and the “small fish,” sardines. “Small fish” are mentioned clearly in the miracle of the feeding of the 4,000. According to Matthew 15:34 and Mark 8:5-7, “seven loaves and a few small fish” are what the followers of Jesus had brought to eat.

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This article originally appeared in issue 25 of the Jerusalem Perspective magazine. Click on the image above to view a PDF of the original magazine article.

  • Mendel Nun [1918-2010]

    Mendel Nun [1918-2010]

    Galilean fisherman, kibbutz member, author and foremost expert on the Sea of Galilee, Mendel Nun was born into a Zionist family in Latvia in 1918. In 1939 he immigrated to Palestine where he became a member of Ein Gev, which today is a thriving, modern…
    [Read more about author]

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