Story behind – 153 A fascinating number

The 153 story

“There is an interesting story about Pythagoras that was told that demonstrates His remarkable powers. Pythagoras, in His travels, apparently one day came across some fishermen who were drawing up their nets which were filled with fish. Pythagoras told the fishermen that He could tell them the exact number of fish they had caught, which the fishermen thought to be an impossible task, given how many were caught in the nets. The fishermen said that if He was right they would do anything He said. They counted all the fish and Pythagoras was totally accurate in His estimate. He then ordered the fishermen to return the fish to the sea and for some mystical reason none of them died. Pythagoras paid the fishermen for the price of the fish and left for Crotona. Incidents like this caused Pythagoras’ fame to spread. During one of His lectures in Italy it was said that He gained 2000 disciples from that one lecture alone.”

In this story, though it is not mentioned in this excerpt, Pythagoras counted 153 fish. Take note of that number especially. The number 153 was most significant for being the denominator in the closest fraction known, at the time. Now we go to the story of Jesus and the fishermen in John 21:1-11.

“After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish. So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.”

Between the stories we see a few parallels. The one that strikes me the most is the number 153 and the role it played in the story. Both stories include fishermen, nets, fish, and the number 153. I see 2 possible theories to this parallel. It could be that the writer of John was using the number 153 as a “generic” term for “many fish”, since it was a common number at that time or, possibly, we have a writer using the pythagoras narrative to rewrite the story of Jesus as a means of proclaiming his divinity. This appeared to be a common phenomenon in the times of Jesus and after. I remain agnostic on the subject for now..Perhaps with more study I can come to a more solidified conclusion. Please share your thoughts and theories!

Vesica Piscis:

The vesica piscis is a shape that is the intersection of two disks with the same radius, intersecting in such a way that the center of each disk lies on the perimeter of the other.[1] The name literally means the “bladder of a fish” in Latin.

The Pythagoreans had a diagram of 2 intersecting circles, one above, one below, with the circumference of one touching the center of the other. The 2 circles represented the spiritual and the material domains. The “transcendental” region where the circles intersect resembles a fish shape-exactly as used as the symbol for Christianity. The Pythagoreans called this shape vesica piscis. The ratio of the height of this fish symbol to its length is 153 : 265, which is the nearest whole number to the square root of 3 and the controlling ratio of the equilateral triangle



Vesica Piscis Src: wikipedia

The mathematical ratio of the width of the vesica piscis to its height is the square root of 3, or approximately 1.7320508… (since if straight lines are drawn connecting the centers of the two circles with each other and with the two points where the circles intersect, two equilateral triangles join along an edge). The ratios 265:153 = 1.7320261… and 1351:780 = 1.7320513… are two of a series of approximations to this value, each with the property that no better approximation can be obtained with smaller whole numbers.



how we compared to our life


In Christian art, some aureolas are in the shape of a vertically oriented vesica piscis


The modern Cover of Chalice Well  Src:Wikipedia


Application behind Vesica piscis

The shape may be found in the topology of certain networks.

The vesica piscis is also used as proportioning system in architecture, in particular Gothic architecture. The system was illustrated in Cesare Cesariano‘s Vitruvius (1521), which he called “the rule of the German architects”.

Anyway, remember that first number-153. Now the stories of both Pythagoras and Jesus have them telling fishermen-who have failed to catch any fish all day-to cast their nets again. Miraculously, their nets come in full of fish. Pythagoras was said to have correctly predicted the exact number of fish caught. In his story, the mystic number is not revealed, but in the Gospel story of Jesus the number of fish caught is given-exactly 153!

Some More Interesting thing about 153

  • Another interesting feature of the number 153 is that it is the limit of the following algorithm:Take a random positive integer, divisible by three.
            Split that number into its base 10 digits.
            Take the sum of their cubes.
            Go back to the second step.
    An example, starting with the number 84:


153 is:

  • the smallest number which can be expressed as the sum of cubes of its digits:
    153 = 13 + 53 + 33
  • equal to the sum of factorials of number from 1 to 5:
    153 = 1! + 2! + 3! + 4! + 5!
  • The sum of digits of 153 is a perfect square:
    1 + 5 + 3 = 9 = 32
    That’s a big one for me.
  • The sum of aliquot divisors of 153 is also a perfect square:
    1 + 3 + 9 + 17 + 51 = 81 = 92 Aliquot divisors of a number are all the divisors of that number excluding the number itself but including 1. It is seen that the sum of aliquot divisors of 153 is the square of the sum of the digits of 153.
  • On adding the number 153 to its reverse,504 is obtained, whose square is the smallest square which can be expressed as the product of two different numbers which are reverse of one another:
    153 + 351 = 504

5042 = 288 x 882


Sacred Geometry – The Vesica Piscis [Read 3rd lesson]



About Lekshmana Perumal M

Proud be an Indian, passion to teaching & learn, love mathematics, enjoy with family & friends, job to code. Care about child education, Indian culture
This entry was posted in math, maths, Numbers, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Story behind – 153 A fascinating number

  1. Luís Gonçalves says:

    153 is also the 17th triangular number: the sum of all natural numbers from 1 to 17! =)

  2. Tim says:

    Seems like part of the miracle was that the net did not brake despite the number of fish caught.

    Jesus performed this miracle for his disciples to once again prove it was Him alive as it paralleled the similar fishing miracle He did in Luke 5.

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