St. Augustine rightly observed its significance. 153 is the triangular of 17. That means that if you add all the numbers decreasing from 17, you get 153. That is to say, 17 + 16 + 15 + 14 +13 + 12 + 10 + ... + 1 = 153.
What is the significance of the number 17? The number was a sign. St. John has a special love for the number 17. The 12 extra baskets of bread from the five barley loaves adds up to 17. (St. Augustine said that it represented the gifts of the Old and New Covenant - the Ten Commandments and the Sevenfold Spirit.)
Seventeen is also the age at which Joseph was sold into Egyptian slavery (Gen 37:2) and the Patriarch lived in Egypt for seventeen years (Gen 47:28). The Book of Acts lists seventeen nations present for Pentecost (Acts 2:7-11). Seventeen seems to be number of the nations, just as seventy also serves as the number of the nations (cf. Gen 10).
10 x 7 = 70
10 + 7 = 17
Peter's catch of 153 seems to indicate the superabundance of the ingathering of the nations. A sort of "wink wink" for the reader who is in the know.
153 also is a "magic number." Not only is it the triangular of 17, the Pythagoreans believed the number to be unique. 153 is the sum of the cubes of its own digits (1x1x1 + 5x5x5 + 3x3x3 = 153).
Friday, April 09, 2010
Canterbury Tales indulges in a bit of patristic numerology to answer the question, "Why did St. John record the exact number?"
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