If you have ever fished, or known someone who has, then you know the temptation to embellish. What began as a small catch, becomes a medium catch, becomes a large catch. Maybe this is a stereotype, but fishermen are notorious for letting their stories grow over time.
The same can be true with Scripture, especially in books like Revelation, Daniel, or John. When a biblical author uses symbolism to portray his message, the true words of God can be enlarged, exaggerated, or embellished over time.
This method of embellishment often is often associated with something called allegory, as interpreters of Scripture take something in text of Scripture and interpret it by something outside of Scripture. This extra-biblical ‘thing,’ might be a philosophy, a moral imperative, or a doctrinal truth. But what it is not is something that immediately comes from the text of Scripture.
Historically, this allegorical method of interpretation has taken a number like 153—the number of fish in Peter’s catch (John 21:11)—and turned the fish into a symbol for something else. For instance, Augustine, who is at times helpful and at other times allegorical, derived from this number a proof text for the Trinity (See Klink, John, 902). How so?
Well if you add 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 all the way up to 17, you arrive at the total of 153. One hundred fifty-three is a perfect triangle number for 17. Even more, when you add the 10 Commandments to 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit, you get 17, which gives you a triangular number of 153 that symbolizes the Trinity.
It’s as simple as that. Can’t you see it? No? Neither can I. Continue reading