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THE SECOND MIRACULOUS DRAUGHT OF FISHES.
JOHN xxi, 1–23.
It almost seemed as though St. John's Gospel had found its solemn completion in the words (ver. 30, 31) with which the preceding chapter ended; so that this chapter appears, and probably is, in the exactest sense of the word, a postscript,—something which the beloved apostle, after he had made an end, thought it important not to leave untold; which he may have added, perhaps, at the request of his disciples, who had often heard delightedly the narrative from his own lips, and desired that before his departure he should set it down, that the Church might be enriched with it for ever.
* The question concerning the authenticity of this chapter was first stirred by Grotius; not that he esteemed it altogether spurious, but added, probably after St. John's death, by the Ephesian elders, who had often heard the history from his lips. Very unlike the other suspicious passage in St. John's Gospel (viii. 1-11), there is no outward evidence of any kind against it. Every MS. possesses it, and there was never a doubt expressed about it in antiquity. He, therefore, and those who have followed him in the same line, Clericus, Semler, Lücke, Schott, (Comm. de indole cap. ult. Ev. Joh., Jen., 1825,) can have none but internal evidences, drawn from alleged differences in style, in language, in manner of expression, from St. John's confessed writings, on which to build an argument,-evidences frequently deceptive and always inconclusive, but here even weaker than usual. Every thing marks the hand of the beloved disciple. Not merely do we feel the tone of the narration to be his; for that might be explained by supposing others to be telling what he had often told them; but single phrases and turns of language, unobserved by us at first, and till we have such motives for observing them, bear witness for him. It is he alone who uses TiBepías, Báhaooa tñs Tißepiádoç (vi. 1, 23), for the lake of Galilee; or radía, as a word of address from the teacher to the taught (cf. ver. 5 with 1 John ii. 13, 18); prúčelv, which occurs twice in this chapter (ver. 3, 10), is met with only three times, save in St. John's writings, in the whole New Testament; but is so much a favorite with him,
It was upon the sea of Galilee that this appearance of Christ to his disciples, with the miracle which accompanied it, took place. Doubtless there is a significance to be found in the words, “ Jesus showed," or manifested “himself," as Chrysostom long ago observed, -no other than this, that his body after the resurrection was only visible by a distinct act of his will. From that time the disciples did not, as before, see Jesus, but Jesus appeared unto or was seen by them. It is not for nothing that the language is changed, or that in language of this kind all his appearances after the resurrection are related. (Luke xxiv. 34; Acts xiii. 31; 1 Cor. xv. 5, 6, 7, 8.*) It is the same with angels, and all heavenly manifestations: men do not see them, as though it lay in their will to do so or not; such language would be inappropriate: but they appear to men; (Judg. vi. 12; xiii. 3, 10, 21; Matt. xvii. 3; Luke i. 11; xxii. 43; Acts ii. 3; vii. 2; xvi. 9; xxvi. 16;) are only visible to those for whose sakes they are vouchsafed, and to whom they are willing to show themselves.f Those to whom this manifestation was vouchsafed were Simon Peter and Thomas and Nathanael, James and John, and two other disciples that are not named. It makes something for the current opinion that the Nathanael of St. John, is the Bartholomew of the other Evangelists, thus to find him named not after, but in the midst of, some of the very chiefest apostles. Who were the two unnamed disciples cannot, of course, be known. They too were not improbably
that besides these, there are six instances of its use in his Gospel alone, (vii. 30, 32, 44; viii. 20; x. 39; xi. 57,) to which may be added Rev. xix. 20. Again, thrów (ver. 6, 11) is one of his words (vi. 44; xii. 32 ; xviii. 20), being found else but once. The double duív at the beginning of a sentence (ver. 18), is exclusively St. John's, occurring twenty-five times in his Gospel, but never elsewhere. The appellation of Thomas, Owpis heyouévos Aidwuos (ver. 21, cf. xi. 16; xx. 24), is also exclusively his. Compare, too, ver. 19 with xii. 23 and xviii. 32; the use also of duoíws (ver. 13), with the parallel use at vi. 11. 'Oyápov, too, and múliv dettepov (ver. 16), belong only to him (iv. 54): and the narrator interposing words of his own, as a comment on and explanation of the Lord's words (ver. 19), is quite after the favorite manner of St. John. (ii. 21 ; vi. 6; vii. 39.) And of these peculiarities many more might be adduced.
* 'Epavépwoev éavrov (see John ii. 11) is here = úoon in the passages quoted above, which might easily be multiplied.
+ Thus Ambrose on the appearing of the angel to Zacharias (Exp. in Luc., I. 1, c. 24): Benè apparuisse dicitur ei, qui eum repente conspexit. Et hoc specialiter aut de Angelis aut de Deo Scriptura divina tenere consuevit; ut quod non potest prævideri, apparere dicatur .... Non enim similiter sensibilia videntur, et is in cujus voluntate situm est videri, et cujus naturæ est non videri, voluntatis videri. Nam si non vult, non videtur : si vult, videtur. These are Chrysostom's words : 'Ev TỤ eineiv εφανέρωσεν εαυτόν, τούτο δηλοί, ότι ει μη ήθελε, και αυτός εαυτόν διά συγκατάβασιν εφανέρωσεν, ουχ ωράτο, του σώματος όντος άφθάρτου,
apostles, disciples in the most eminent sense of the word ;* Lightfoot supposes that they were Andrew and Philip.
Peter's declaration that he will go to fish, is not, as has been strangely supposed, a declaration that he has lost his hope in Jesus as the Messiah, renounced his apostleship, and therefore returns to his old occupations, there being no nobler work for him in store.
But it was quite in the wise manner of the Jewish teachers, to have a manual trade that they might fall back on in the time of need, and thus not be dependent on their scholars for support; what good service Paul's skill in making tents did him is well known; probably also they found it healthful to their own minds, to have some outward occupation for which to exchange at times their spiritual employments. The words themselves, “I go a fishing,” are not merely a declaration of his intention, but a summons to his friends to accompany him, if they are so minded; whereupon they declare their readiness; “ We also go with thee.” During all the night, though that is ever accounted the opportunest time for fishing, they caught nothing. When at early dawn the risen Lord stood upon the shore, they did not at first recognize him. Nor even when he addressed them as Children,” did they know that it was he, the mighty change which had passed upon him at his resurrection had so left him at once the same and yet another. (Cf. John xx. 14, 15.) When they acknowledged in reply to his question, "Have ye any meat ?" the ill success which had attended their labors of the night, he bade them cast in their net on the right side of the ship, promising that it should not be in vain. And they, though taking it even now but for the counsel of a kind and, it might be, a skilful stranger, were obedient to his word :
They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes."
As before, the Lord had made himself known in his higher character through a marvellous success of the like kind, so does he now; yet it is not Peter on the present occasion, but John, that first recognizes in whose presence they are. Thereupon he “saith unto Peter, It is the Lord.” Both the apostles come wonderfully out in their proper characters: he of the eagle eye first detects the presence of the Beloved, and then Peter, the foremost ever in act, as John is profoundest in speculation, unable to wait till the ship should be brought to land, throws himself into the sea that he may find himself the sooner at the feet of his Lord. He was before “naked,” stripped, that is, for labor, wear
* St. John does not know the word úróoto hoc as a term for the twelve. He uses it but once, (xiii. 16,) and then generally for one that is outsent.
+ Chrysostom: “Ως δε επέγνωσαν αυτόν, πάλιν τα ιδιώματα των οικείων επιδείκ
ing only the tunic, or garment close to the skin, and having put off his upper and superfluous garments :* for the word "naked” means no more, and is continually used in this sense; but now he girded himself with his fisher's coat,t as counting it unseemly to appear without it in the presence of his Lord. Some have supposed that he walked but we have no warrant to multiply miracles, and the words, “ cast himself into the sea,” do not look like this. Rather, he swam and waded to the shore. The distance was not more than about “two hundred cubits,"'S that is, about one hundred yards. The other disciples followed
νυνται τρόπων οι μαθηται Πέτρος και Ιωάννης ο μέν γαρ θερμότερος, ο δε υψηλότερος ήν και ο μεν οξύτερος ήν, ο δε διορατικώτερος.
* The word is of continual use in this sense. Thus Virgil gives this advice to the ploughman, Nudas ara, (cf. Matt. xxiv. 18,) which he has borrowed from Hesiod, who will have him γυμνόν σπείρειν, γυμνόν τε βοωτεϊν. So, too, Cincinnatus was found “naked” at the plough, when he was called to be Dictator, and sent for his toga that he might present himself before the Senate (PLINY, H. N., 1. 18, c. 4); and Plutarch says of Phocion, that, in the country and with the army, he went always without sandals and “paked” (uvumódntos úel kal yuuvos éßádicev): and Grotius quotes from Eusebius a yet apter passage than any of these, in which one says, nunv γυμνός εν τω λινά εσθήμάτι. The Athenian jest that the Spartans showed to foreigners their virgins naked is to be taken with these limitations—with only the chiton or himation. (Mueller's Dorians, 1. 4, c. 2, § 3.) Cf. 1 Sam. xix. 24; Isai. xx. 3; at the last of which passages the Deist Tindal, in his ignorance, scoffs, as though God had commanded an indecency, but which both are to be explained in the same manner. (See DEYLING's Obss. Sac., v. 4, p. 888, seq. and the Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Antt., 8. v. Nudus.)
+ This seems to me the meaning; in Deyling's words (Obss. Sac., v. 4. p. 890); 'ETEVÕÚTTV ad Christum iturus sibi circumjiciebat, ne minus honestus et modestus in conspectum Domini veniret. Others, however, as Euthymius, explain the passage differently—that this ŠTEVSÚTns was the only garment which he had on; but as regarded even that, he was acwotos, and so, in a manner, youvós. But going to the Lord, he girt it up; whether for comeliness, or that it might not, being left loose, hinder him in swimming. Thus Lampe. The matter would be clear, if we could know certainly what the énevdúrns was. Yet the etymology plainly points out that it is not the under garment or vest, worn close to the skin, which is rather imodúrns (see Passow, s. vv.), but rather that worn over all, as (1 Sam. xviii. 4) the robe which Jonathan gives to David is called tov ÉTEVŠÚTNU TÒV étavá (LXX.) This is certainly the simplest and preferable view of the words; that Peter, being stripped before, now hastily threw his upper garment over him, which yet he girt up, that it might not form an impediment in swimming.
| Ambrose: Periculoso compendio religiosum maturavit obsequium. & Ovid's advice to the fisher is to keep this moderate distance :
Nec tamen in medias pelagi te pergere sedes
more slowly, for they were encumbered with the net and its weight of fishes, which they drew with them to land. There they find a fire kindled, with fish laid on it, and bread. They are bidden to bring also of their fish, and to unite them for the meal with those already preparing. *
* Peter, again the foremost, drew up the net, which was fastened, no doubt, to the ship, on the beach. The very number of the fish it contained “ an hundred and fifty and three,” is mentioned, with also the remarkable circumstance, that although they were so many and so large, —“ great fishes,”—yet, differently from that former occasion, (Luke v. 6,) the net was not broken by their weight, or by their efforts to escape.
Now we can scarcely believe that all this happened, or that it was all recorded in its minuteness and its details, without some meaning more than lies upon the surface; indeed, the whole is told with an emphasis which will hardly allow us to rest content with such a supposition. Rather here, as we have seen so often before, Christ is speaking to us by his acts. Nor can I doubt that Augustine has rightly attributed in more places than one a symbolical meaning to this miracle ;t and that, whether or not we may consent to every detail of his interpretation, yet in the outline and main features he has given the true one. He brings this miraculous draught of fishes in comparison with the other which fell out before the resurrection, and sees in that first, the figure of the Church as it now is, and as it now gathers its members from the world; in this the figure of the Church as it shall be after the resurrection, with the great incoming, the great sea-harvest of souls, which then shall find place. Then on that first occasion the apostles were
* The abundance and the excellency of the fish in this lake has been often remarked. Thus Robinson (Biblical Researches, v. 2, p. 261): "The lake is full of fishes of various kinds,” and he instances sturgeon, chub, and bream, adding, “We had no difficulty in procuring an abundant supply for our evening and morning meal, and found them delicate and well flavored.”
† Augustine (Serm. 248, c. 1): Nunquam hoc Dominus juberet, nisi aliquid significare vellet, quod nobis nosse expediret. Quid ergo pro magno potuit ad Jesum Christum pertinere, si pisces caperentur aut si non caperentur ? Sed illa piscatio, nostra erat significatio.
Augustine (In Ev. Joh., Tract. 122): Sicut hoc loco qualiter in seculi fine futura sit [Ecclesia), ita Dominus aliâ piscatione significavit Ecclesiam qualiter nunc sit. Quòd autem illud fecit in initio prædicationis suæ, hoc verò post resurrectionem suam, hinc ostendit illam capturam piscium, bonos et malos significare, quos nunc habet Ecclesia ; istam verò tantummodo bonos quos habebit in æternum, completa in fine hujus seculi resurrectione mortuorum. Denique ibi Jesus, non sicut hîc in littore stabat, quando jussit pisces capi, sed ascendens in unam navim .... dixit ad Simonem, Duc in altum, et laxate retia vestra in capturam .... Ibi retia non mittuntur in dexteram, ne solos significent bonos, nec in sinistram, ne solos malos; sed indiffe.