Going fishing.

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:08 am

Michael BG wrote:
Sat Oct 14, 2017 3:23 pm
There are no fish at the Last Supper or the Eucharist.
Well, quite. That was supposed to be clear in the OP. My whole analysis depends upon the eucharistic overtones of fish being late and derivative, not early and constitutional.
I don’t think you have provided clear linkages between fish being symbolic of something in Judaism, or of it being a particular symbol of the Messianic banquet.
This is a valid concern. The earliest explicit naming of Leviathan as a fish may well be the Talmudic attribution of a saying about the monster to Johanan bar Nappaha (century III). However, I think that the naming of Leviathan as a fish is based on ideas implicit in the Hebrew scriptures and attendant traditions.

Before I go into that, however, I ought to point out that nothing central to my thesis hangs on this. If you are completely correct, then it merely means that I cannot explain how exactly fish came to represent the eucharist (say, in the catacomb art and such). My central thesis, however, requires only that this eucharistic connection not be the reason for fish being a theme in the resurrection appearances. And I think the evidence that I gave for this negative is pretty good.
2 Baruch 29:1-8 has people eating the Behemoth and the Leviathan monsters but not fish. I am not sure there is any evidence that anyone in first century Judaism would have seen the Leviathan as a fish rather than a serpent.
Okay, perhaps, but not the kind of serpent that we find in the garden of Eden, for example. Not the kind that crawls upon the ground. The Jewish tradition repeatedly divides animalkind into 4 basic groups:

A. Beasts (or cattle) of the land/earth.
B. Birds of the sky/air.
C. Fish of the sea/water.
D. Creeping things upon the land/earth.

Genesis 1.26: 26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over [C] the fish of the sea and over [B] the birds of the sky and over [A] the cattle and over all the earth, and over [D] every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

Genesis 1.28: 28 And God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over [C] the fish of the sea and over [B] the birds of the sky, and over [A and D] every living thing that moves on the earth."

Genesis 9.2: 2 "And the fear of you and the terror of you shall be on [A] every beast of the earth and on [B] every bird of the sky; with [D] everything that creeps on the ground, and [C] all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given."

Deuteronomy 4.15-18: 15 "So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, 16 so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of [A] any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of [B] any winged bird that flies in the sky, 18 the likeness of [D] anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of [C] any fish that is in the water below the earth."

1 Kings 4.33: 33 And he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of [A] animals and [B] birds and [D] creeping things and [C] fish.

Job 12.7-8: 7 "But now ask [A] the beasts, and let them teach you; and [B]the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. 8 Or speak to [D?] the earth, and let it teach you; and let [C] the fish of the sea declare to you.

Psalm 8.6-8: 6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the [A] beasts of the field, 8 [B] the birds of the heavens and [C] the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

Ezekiel 29.5: 5 "And I shall abandon you to the wilderness, you and [C] all the fish of your rivers; you will fall on the open field; you will not be brought together or gathered. I have given you for food to [A] the beasts of the earth and to [B] the birds of the sky."

Ezekiel 38.20: 20 "And [C] the fish of the sea, [B] the birds of the heavens, [A] the beasts of the field, [D] all the creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; the mountains also will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse, and every wall will fall to the ground."

Hosea 4.3: 3 Therefore the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes along with [A] the beasts of the field and [B] the birds of the sky; and also [C] the fish of the sea disappear.

Habakkuk 1.14: 14 Why have You made men like [C] the fish of the sea, like [D] creeping things without a ruler over them?

Zephaniah 1.3: 3 "I will remove man and [A] beast; I will remove [B] the birds of the sky and [C] the fish of the sea, and the ruins along with the wicked; and I will cut off man from the face of the earth," declares Yahweh."

1 Enoch 7.1-6: 1 And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants. 2 And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: 3 Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, 4 the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. 5 And they began to sin against [B] birds and [A] beasts and [D] reptiles and [C] fish, and to devour one another's flesh, and drink the blood. 6 Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones.

This typology is pervasive. (As a side note, humankind seems to occupy a niche apart from the four other categories.) It continued well into the medieval period, giving us the concept of primacy: the lion is the king of beasts, the eagle the king of birds, and the dolphin (or sometimes the whale) the king of fish.

So far so good. But for anyone thinking in these categories Leviathan would surely belong, not to the things which crawl upon the earth, but to the creatures of the sea; at the same time, the expression "the fish of the sea" was as ubiquitous as its siblings "the birds of the heavens/sky" and "the beasts of the earth/field" were. This is obviously why the Leviathan came to be thought of explicitly as a fish in rabbinic thought; the only question is whether this concept came early enough to account for the fish at the feedings of the 4000 and 5000. If not, then that is a loose end in my reconstruction, albeit not a central one. If so, however, I think the link would be clear.

For my money, in a world of zoological thought dominated by the fourfold typology outlined above, considering Leviathan a fish would be simply obvious. Psalm 104 (103 LXX) has sections about the beasts of the field and about the birds of the sky, as well as about various kinds of vegetation, but Leviathan is mentioned in the section about creatures of the sea.

The simplest clue would be, however, simply that Leviathan is said in 2 Baruch 29.4 to provide food for the messianic banquet. That must mean it is kosher. Serpents are not kosher; fish are.
Therefore the association of the Behemoth and the Leviathan monsters does not make fish a good symbol for the Messiah banquet....
I take it you mean that fish are not a good symbol during this time period. It is indisputable that Leviathan was considered a fish in later Jewish thought, and indisputable that its flesh, salted and preserved (just like that of fish!) was to provide food for the messianic banquet. You must just be questioning the timing of the concept, not its very existence.

If the reasons given above for considering Leviathan a fish as part of its original conception are not good enough for you, then you are free to doubt this part of my reconstruction.
It should also be noted that the two Lucan passages that refer to a Messianic banquet do not contain any fish – Lk 13:29 and 14:15-24 and nor do the parallels in Matthew (8:11, 22:1-10).
Granted. And somewhat irrelevant, since not every passage has to hit on every available symbol.
Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Sat Dec 23, 2017 9:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Michael BG
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Michael BG » Sun Oct 15, 2017 4:46 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:08 am
Michael BG wrote:
Sat Oct 14, 2017 3:23 pm
There are no fish at the Last Supper or the Eucharist.
Well, quite. That was supposed to be clear in the OP. My whole analysis depends upon the eucharistic overtones of fish being late and derivative, not early and constitutional.
This contradicts your assigning fish as a symbol of the Eucharist as 1b in your conclusion.
Ben C. Smith wrote: Before I go into that, however, I ought to point out that nothing central to my thesis hangs on this. If you are completely correct, then it merely means that I cannot explain how exactly fish came to represent the eucharist (say, in the catacomb art and such). My central thesis, however, requires only that this eucharistic connection not be the reason for fish being a theme in the resurrection appearances.
Perhaps I have missed the part where you give evidence that fish are eaten as part of remembering the Last Supper. I have attended Eucharist services in a number of Churches including an Orthodox one but I have never seen fish given to the congregation.
Ben C. Smith wrote: … I suggest, made fish a good symbol for a eucharistic meal designed to foreshadow the messianic feast. Catacomb art seems to associate fish with the eucharistic meal, but not strictly with the Last Supper, as Robin Margaret Jensen writes on page 59 of Understanding Early Christian Art:

Thus, given the compositional details of the scenes, the meals should not be identified as actual agape meals or eucharists, although they may symbolically be related by virtue of the basic theme of eating together with Christ. The New Testament texts that seem most relevant are not narratives of the miraculous feeding or even the Last Supper, although these are obviously connected. The key texts are those that refer to the heavenly banquet (Luke 13:29; 14:15-24; Mark 14:25 and parallels) or describe Jesus' postresurrectional meals. Moreover, given the sepulchral setting of the paintings — not an insignificant matter — the eschatological significance of these postdeath meals not only fits the context, but simultaneously connects the images most closely with the tradition of the funeral banquet.

It seems that Robin Margaret Jensen concludes that none of the meals pictured in the catacombs should be seen as Eucharists or even “agape meals”. Do you have any pictures from the catacombs with fish being eaten with bread and wine?

Therefore not only in the New Testament are there no mentions of fish at “Eucharists” but the only fish we have with any Eucharist are the feeding of the 4000 and 5000, which I have suggested should not be seen as an Eucharist.

It would seem that the Greek word for fish appears in the Inscription of Pectorius of Autun (the consensus date is late fourth century) because by then the “Jesus Fish” had been established. I read somewhere that the first letter of the words introducing each of the first five verses form the word fish in Greek.

The inscription of Abercius uses “fish of exceeding great size” as a metaphor for faith in Jesus Christ (linking back to the “Jesus Fish”) as spiritual food and not as part of the Eucharist which is descripted later.

You provided no evidence that within Christianity there is an association with fish and the Messianic banquet. The evidence you have provided is that the people at the Messianic banquet will eat two “meats” one from the monster the Behemoth and other from the monster Leviathan. If two types of meat are eaten at the Messianic banquet why does this mean fish rather than beef is associated with the Messianic meal?

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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Oct 15, 2017 8:29 pm

Michael BG wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 4:46 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:08 am
Michael BG wrote:
Sat Oct 14, 2017 3:23 pm
There are no fish at the Last Supper or the Eucharist.
Well, quite. That was supposed to be clear in the OP. My whole analysis depends upon the eucharistic overtones of fish being late and derivative, not early and constitutional.
This contradicts your assigning fish as a symbol of the Eucharist as 1b in your conclusion.
My only point here was that the eucharistic fish is not what lay behind the resurrection fish. That is all. Yes, the Jesus fish depends upon the eucharistic symbolism, or at least goes hand in hand with it. But it does that in patristic thought regardless of our opinions as to why.
Perhaps I have missed the part where you give evidence that fish are eaten as part of remembering the Last Supper. I have attended Eucharist services in a number of Churches including an Orthodox one but I have never seen fish given to the congregation.
I stated specifically in the OP that I do not know whether or how often fish was ever actually eaten at a eucharist. That is not the point. It is beyond dispute that fish became a eucharistic symbol in Christianity (later than the NT, I mean, with the possible but highly meaningful exception of the feedings of the 4000 and 5000), and I am exploring why.
It seems that Robin Margaret Jensen concludes that none of the meals pictured in the catacombs should be seen as Eucharists or even “agape meals”. Do you have any pictures from the catacombs with fish being eaten with bread and wine?
Not sure about the wine, actually. But there are pictures of 7 or 12 people seated at a table eating fish and bread:

Image

Image

Image
Therefore not only in the New Testament are there no mentions of fish at “Eucharists” but the only fish we have with any Eucharist are the feeding of the 4000 and 5000, which I have suggested should not be seen as an Eucharist.
And I disagree with you. I think the fourfold verbal action, not to mention the bread, connects the feedings to the eucharist. I am influenced by Crossan here, I will readily admit. If you disagree, so be it.
It would seem that the Greek word for fish appears in the Inscription of Pectorius of Autun (the consensus date is late fourth century) because by then the “Jesus Fish” had been established. I read somewhere that the first letter of the words introducing each of the first five verses form the word fish in Greek.
Yes, and I gave the inscription of Pectorius in the OP. I also gave the full text of the first known instance of the Jesus fish acrostic (from the Sibylline Oracles). You write here as if you did not read the entire thing (I know it was long).
The inscription of Abercius uses “fish of exceeding great size” as a metaphor for faith in Jesus Christ (linking back to the “Jesus Fish”) as spiritual food and not as part of the Eucharist which is descripted later.
Your interpretation (the fish is a metaphor for faith) is inadequate, and by inadequate I mean impossible. Here is the text again:

Faith everywhere led me forward, and everywhere provided as my food a fish of exceeding great size, and perfect, which a holy virgin drew with her hands from a fountain and this it [faith] ever gives to its friends to eat, it having wine of great virtue, and giving it mingled with bread.

Faith is what gives the fish. The fish is not faith, and faith is not the fish. The fish is what faith is giving. Faith is also giving wine and bread. Laurence Harold Kant remarks on this passage on page 322 of Interpretation of Religious Symbols in the Graeco-Roman World: A Case Study of Early Christian Fish Symbolism that "the description of the meal is clearly reminiscent of the descriptions of eucharistic meals in early Christian literature, where bread and mixed wine are prominently featured — thus indicating that this meal probably refers in large part to the eucharist."

Compare the inscription of Pectorius, which reads at one point: "As you hunger, eat a fish that you hold in the palms of your hands." What a Christian holds in the palm of the hand is probably the eucharist, as evidenced by Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 23.21-22, which I quoted in the OP.
You provided no evidence that within Christianity there is an association with fish and the Messianic banquet.
The Christian evidence for this direct an association is fairly late. The evidence I gave was an attempt to connect the Jewish tradition of Leviathan and the messianic meal with the Christian tradition of the eucharist and the messianic meal, long before the more explicit evidence comes into play.

Later on we get stuff like this from Rufinus (commenting on the Apostles' Creed):

But perhaps some might fear that in a doctrine of this kind —— one in which we have spoken a little before that he was eternally with God the Father and that he was born from his substance and in which we have taught that he was one with the father —— we will now deal with his death. But do not fear, faithful hearer. Alittle after the death of the one you hear, you will see again that he is immortal. For his death is taken up so as to strip death. In fact, the purpose of that sacrament of flesh which is taken up and which we have discussed above, is that the divine virtue of the son of God —— just as a a certain hook —— is covered in the form of human flesh. And just as the apostle said a little before, discovered in the form of a human being [Philippians 2.7], he can invite the prince of the world to the contest. He handed his flesh over as food and, with the hook of divinity inserted inside, he held it. And with the profusion of immaculate blood —— for he alone does not know the stain of sin —— he destroyed the sins of all. In this regard, they stamped the door of his faith with his blood. Therefore, (he is like) a fish (who) seizes a hook covered with food and does not remove the food alone with the hook, but it (the fish) is brought out from the deep to be food for others. Such is he who had the power of death and who seized the body of Jesus in death, though not feeling in it the enclosed hook of divinity. But, when he devours it, he clings continually, and afterwards the gates of Hell are opened, as if he is dragged out from the deep so that he might serve as food for others. Ezekiel the prophet has indicated what is meant by this figure, saying: And I will drag you on my hook and I will extend you over the earth. Fields are filled with you and I will establish above you all the birds of the sky and I will satisfy from you all the beasts of the earth [Ezekiel 32.3-4]. But David said: He will give him as food to the peoples of Ethiopia. And Job similarly bore witness concerning this mystery. With the person of God speaking, he said to himself: Either you will bring a dragon to a hook or you will place a halter around its nose [Job 40.24; this is Leviathan].

Laurence Harold Kant comments on this passage on page 172 of Interpretation of Religious Symbols in the Graeco-Roman World: A Case Study of Early Christian Fish Symbolism:

On the face of it, the evil character of Leviathan would, however, seem to constitute a greater problem for its influence on ("The Fish"). Yet, a passage of Rufinus of Aquileia (in spite of its confusing language) suggests that Leviathan could refer to a fish and that he could refer to the flesh of Christ consumed in a Christian banquet held during the messianic era. Thus, it is possible (at least for Rufinus in the fourth century C.E.) for a fish to refer simultaneously to the savior Christ and to the evil Leviathan.

While I agree it bears explaining, I am not directly concerned with the seeming equation of Leviathan and Christ. But the passage from Rufinus equates Leviathan (from Job) with the fish which will be served as food. This is explicit. My suggestion is that this sort of cross referencing happened early enough to have influenced the feeding narratives.

Augustine writes in Confessions 13.21, 23:

The earth does not need [water creatures and birds], although it eats the fish raised from the sea in that banquet which you have prepared under the watch of the faithful. For the fish is raised from the deep in order that it might nourish the dry land. .... For he judges what is right and he condemns what he finds wrong, whether in the solemnity of the sacraments by which [Christians] are initiated [= baptism], whom your pity searches out in many waters; or in that sacrament in which the fish is displayed [= eucharist], which a pious earth eats after it has risen from the deep.

The evidence you have provided is that the people at the Messianic banquet will eat two “meats” one from the monster the Behemoth and other from the monster Leviathan. If two types of meat are eaten at the Messianic banquet why does this mean fish rather than beef is associated with the Messianic meal?
That is a great question, and I honestly do not know why Leviathan gets so much more airtime than Behemoth (or, later, than Ziz, the avian equivalent to these monsters of sea and land). If you have any ideas on this, feel free to mention them.

In the meantime, consider the logic of the case overall. You have already agreed that I "seem to be on firmer ground" when I "see the eschatological feast and bounty expected during the messianic age in the feedings of the 5000 and 4000." In that case, we have a meal representing the messianic banquet, and that meal consists of bread and fish. The Jewish conception of the messianic banquet includes Leviathan, which virtually has to be considered a fish (for reasons given earlier) and definitely was considered a fish by at least some of the rabbis. On the Christian side, we know that fish eventually came to represent the eucharist itself, which normally consists of bread (and wine). The elements of the equation are all in place: banquet = Leviathan = fish = eucharist. The texts which clearly lay out this equation in its entirety are late, to be sure. But each separate element of the equation is in place earlier. The messianic banquet consisting of the flesh of Leviathan is attested in 2 Baruch. Leviathan being a fish is implied in the Hebrew scriptures. The fish representing the eucharist is the latest attested juncture, the one for which I am relying on the other two as support, but the feedings representing the eucharist in some symbolic way is supported by the fourfold action of taking, blessing, breaking, and giving. Yes, these actions describe something that can be done at any reasonably structured meal, but surely there is something to specifying them, and only them. If you think that specifying these four actions is a natural way to describe any formal or semi-formal meal or whatever, then show me the texts that do so. I would then probably be wrong to connect the feedings to the eucharist because of these verbs.
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Paul E.
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Paul E. » Sun Oct 15, 2017 9:05 pm

Ben: Fascinating, high quality post. Much appreciated!

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 16, 2017 5:05 am

Paul E. wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 9:05 pm
Ben: Fascinating, high quality post. Much appreciated!
Thank you. :)
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Michael BG
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Michael BG » Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:02 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Michael BG wrote:It would seem that the Greek word for fish appears in the Inscription of Pectorius of Autun (the consensus date is late fourth century) because by then the “Jesus Fish” had been established. I read somewhere that the first letter of the words introducing each of the first five verses form the word fish in Greek.
Yes, and I gave the inscription of Pectorius in the OP. I also gave the full text of the first known instance of the Jesus fish acrostic (from the Sibylline Oracles). You write here as if you did not read the entire thing (I know it was long).
You did not post the Inscription of Pectorius of Autun in Greek showing that the first letter of the words introducing each of the first five verses form the Greek word for fish. My point being that the use of fish here is likely to be because of the “Jesus Fish”.

It is possible that the fish in your hand is the same as the honey-sweet food of the saviour and is spiritual. However even if the fish in your hand is Jesus, this links back to the Jesus Fish and is late (the consensus date is late fourth century).

In the inscription of Abercius Jesus the fish is his spiritual food which he partakes with the wine and bread of the Eucharist. The fish does not actually have to be present, because it is Jesus who is present.

Perhaps we could start with dates.

The Jesus Fish earliest known examples 2nd century, not in the New Testament.

Disciples as Fishermen not in Paul, but in Mark (c 65 CE)

Fish eaten at Resurrection appearances in Luke and John (c 90 CE)

Fish eaten at the Messianic Banquet is not in New Testament (cf – Lk 13:29 and 14:15-24 and parallels in Matthew). You have not provided any evidence that only fish and no other meat will be eaten at the Messianic banquet. To be clear I have no objection to people eating fish at the Messianic banquet, but they could eat beef, lamb or chicken.

While I don’t accept that Rufinus is talking of eating fish at a Eucharist or Messianic Banquet, I do accept he could be talking of Jesus as a fish (Wikipedia suggest he is talking about the incarnation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrannius_Rufinus). However he is very late (4th century).

Fish eaten as the body of Christ is not in the New Testament.

We can therefore conclude that fishermen were not in the earliest traditions we have, but is established after Mark’s gospel is written and perhaps was current before this. Likewise the disciples being fishers of men (Mk 1:17).

It is difficult to date the disciples as fishermen and being fishers of men as separate ideas. If the disciples were fishermen then “fishers of men” was added to the tradition. It is possible that “for they were fishermen” (v 16) and “and I will make you become fishers of men” (v 17) are Marcan redaction.

Eating fish during resurrection appearance is not in the earliest tradition and is in the later traditions. They could have been added because the disciples were believed to have been fishermen. This is true even of John 21.
Ben C. Smith wrote:I think the fourfold verbal action, not to mention the bread, connects the feedings to the eucharist. I am influenced by Crossan here, I will readily admit. If you disagree, so be it.
The feeding of the 5000 and 4000 are not Eucharistic in the sense that the bread and the fish are spoken of as being the body of Jesus. Also it lacks wine, another reason it is not Eucharistic.

The relationship between the Eucharist and the future Messianic banquet is difficult to pin down. Did Jesus partake of communal meals with his followers as a foretaste for the Messiah banquet? It is possible, and his blessing over the food and drink would be normal Jewish custom, shared by the early church and in Didache 9:8 looks forward to the gathering of believers with the Coming of God’s Kingdom i.e. Messianic gathering. The order of wine, then bread makes it more likely this is a real meal.

It is possible that with Mark the church has already divorced the words over the bread and wine from a real meal and changed the order to make it more palatable, and so created the Eucharist.

If we both accept that seeing Jesus as a fish is late, then it is likely that the fish on tables in the catacombs is late too. It could be the fish is Jesus and comes from the “Jesus Fish”.

In 2 Baruch the Messianic banquet does not consist of only the Leviathan which can then lead on to only fish being eaten at the Messianic banquet. However by the fourth century (Peter of Alexandria) it appears normal for Christians to not eat meat on Fridays, but eat fish instead and this is because of Good Friday. Was it thought by then that it was better to eat fish rather than meat? Therefore if Christians only expected to eat fish at the Messianic banquet (and I am not sure the evidence you have provided shows this, but maybe such evidence might exist) was this because by then eating fish was seen as better (holier) than eating meat. However even if you could provide the evidence that Christians believed that only fish would be eaten at the Messianic banquet it would be later than all the other evidence you have provided.

The order is likely to be:

No fish
Disciples are fishermen
Disciples are fishers of men
Fish eaten at Resurrection appearances in Luke and John because disciples are fishermen
Jesus the Fish
Jesus the fish more widespread and symbolically talked of (pictured) as being shared (but not eaten as part of the Eucharist)
Possible only fish being eaten at the future Messianic banquet.

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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:35 am

Michael BG wrote:
Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:02 am
You have not provided any evidence that only fish and no other meat will be eaten at the Messianic banquet. .... Therefore if Christians only expected to eat fish at the Messianic banquet (and I am not sure the evidence you have provided shows this, but maybe such evidence might exist) was this because by then eating fish was seen as better (holier) than eating meat. However even if you could provide the evidence that Christians believed that only fish would be eaten at the Messianic banquet it would be later than all the other evidence you have provided.
Nothing in my reconstruction requires Christians expecting to eat only fish at the banquet. I fear I have once again run up a hidden assumption on your part, one invisible to me until you spell it out for me.
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MrMacSon
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by MrMacSon » Mon Oct 16, 2017 12:04 pm

This is a very comprehensive thread, Ben! It's terrific. Have you looked at fish in pre-Christian theology?

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 16, 2017 12:10 pm

MrMacSon wrote:
Mon Oct 16, 2017 12:04 pm
This is a very comprehensive thread, Ben! It's terrific.
Thanks!
Have you looked at fish in pre-Christian theology?
Well, yes, at least a bit. Some of it made it to the OP in the form of background Greco-Roman and Jewish attitudes toward fish and its symbolism. There is more of that, but the posts were already getting pretty long....
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Re: Going fishing.

Post by MrMacSon » Mon Oct 16, 2017 12:25 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Oct 16, 2017 12:10 pm

yes, at least a bit. Some of it made it to the OP in the form of background Greco-Roman & Jewish attitudes toward fish and its symbolism ...
Cheers. Yep, I had noticed -
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Thu Oct 05, 2017 1:39 pm

Conclusion

In summary, my hypothesis for the development of the fish imagery so prevalent in early Christianity runs as follows:

Stage 1a: Fishing as a metaphor for preaching. This stage is based on general fish symbolism in the Greco-Roman world and specific fish passages in the Jewish scriptures.
Stage 1b: Fish as a symbol for the eucharist. This stage is based on general fish symbolism in the Greco-Roman world and specific fish symbolism in Jewish eschatological thought.
Stage 2: Disciples as fishermen. This stage developed directly from 1a.
Stage 3: The Jesus fish. This stage developed mainly from 1b, but possibly also from 2: the disciples/apostles preached to "little fish" (as it were), and if believers are little fish then Jesus is the great fish.

Stages 1a and 1b share the same number because I believe they originated independently of one another. I also have no firm opinion on which came first (that is, the a and the b are arbitrary). The fish as eucharistic symbol postdates, I believe, the bread and cup, but that tells us nothing about when the apostleship first came to be linked to the metaphor of fishing for humans.

Appendix

In an effort to trace the development of the Bethsaida tradition, I happened to track down every mention of the village both in the gospels and in Josephus. I have no firm conclusions to draw from these data yet (well, none that I am willing to share as yet), but I present them here because I have them ....

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