The Bible and the Book of Mormon

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Symbolism is something that has always fascinated those who are interested in religion, especially Christians. The reason for this is because the religious rituals of the Israelites during Old Testament times and the teachings of Jesus are full of symbolism. In this article we will discuss one symbol in particular that, in my opinion, has great significance. This symbol is that of the "Fish".

The Fish

The early Christians used this symbol to represent Christianity and even today many Protestants still use it to show they are Christians. But I think there is a deeper meaning beyond that of merely indicating one's religious preference. In studying the scriptures I've noticed that this symbol is often connected with the bread, especially with the two miracles when Jesus feed thousands of people with only a few loaves and fishes. But even more than this is His promise concerning the power of prayer. As I explained in my article entitled "The prayer," the only safe way to know the truth is by direct revelation from God.

We know that Jesus is the bread of life. When a fish is used in connection with the mention of bread, this symbolizes gaining a knowledge about the bread of life, who is Jesus.

Let's see how this symbolism works in the scriptures. In Matthew 7:7-10 Jesus taught, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?"

Let's take a closer look at these verses of scripture. What Jesus is saying here is that if we want to find out something or have something, we need to ask and seek after it. He then states that if we do that what we are asking or seeking for will be given to us. Then He uses examples to illustrate what He means. However, the items He uses to illustrate His point are very revealing. The first example is "what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?" Bread is the staff of life. It is alive and gives health and vitality to those who partake of it. Jesus is the "bread" of life and gives eternal life and spiritual health to those who partake of His gospel. On the other hand, a stone is an inanimate object which has no ability to give live, health or vitality. Without the gospel in our lives, we have no eternal life, spiritual health or moral vitality. The things which the world offers us are of no use to us when we are dead. Thus, the things of the world are like a stone.

The second illustration Jesus used was if a man "ask [for] a fish, will he give him a serpent?" We need to keep in mind what Jesus is trying to illustrate here. He had just gotten through saying "Ask and it shall be given unto you." His first example is about asking for "bread." His very next example is about asking for "fish." In other words, what Jesus is saying, if a person asks for eternal life it shall be given him, and likewise if a person asks for knowledge about God it shall be given him.

But is this the correct interpretation of the word "fish?" To find out, all we need to do is look at the counter example -- a serpent. What does the serpent represent? In the garden of Eden, it was a serpent who sought to deceive both Adam and Eve by giving them false knowledge about God's ways. Furthermore, the serpent is a symbol of the devil (Rev. 12:9). There can be no doubt that the devil can't give us true knowledge about Christ because he is the father of lies. Thus, we can paraphrase Jesus as saying, "If a man seeks knowledge (fish) will he be given a lie (serpent)?"

We know that the first disciples and apostles of Christ were fisherman, but what's more interesting to note is that, they were also seekers of knowledge. Before they met Jesus they were already followers of John the Baptist. They had heard his message and wanted to know more. Thus, these fishermen looking to gain more understanding and knowledge about God's ways. In John 1:40-42 we read, "One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone."

But notice, this scripture doesn't say they became instant followers of Jesus at this time. However, in Luke 5:1-11 we learn, "And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him."

Notice carefully that at the beginning of this incident Simon Peter was not a disciple of Jesus. However, after Jesus had performed a miracle with fish, "when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." At this point Peter had received knowledge about who Jesus was that he didn't have before this incident happened.

The scripture further states, "he (Peter) was astonished, and ALL THAT WERE WITH HIM, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken." Over His three-year ministry many people were astonished by the miracles which Jesus performed, but not very many actually believed He was the long awaited and promised Messiah. Therefore, they did not forsake all they had and followed him. And the reason they didn't was because they hadn't received the knowledge of who He was. However, Peter "and so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon." believed on Him "And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him." And the reason they forsook all and followed him was because they had received a knowledge of who He really was. And how did they gain this knowledge? Because of the miracle of fishes which He performed.

And what about the feeding of five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fishes? Let's see what we can learn from this event. Matthew 14:15-20 says, "And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full."

Under most circumstances, Christ was more interested in spiritual things than the things of this world, but in this story we see Him being concerned about the temporal needs of the people, or so it may seem on the surface. But perhaps there was a deeper spiritual significance happening as well. My opinion on this is that this event symbolizes that Jesus gave the people the gospel (bread) and a knowledge of who He was (fish). Also, consider this: He fed the people with five loaves of bread and two fishes. The total of these is seven. As I explained in my talk entitled "Key for numbers," the number seven represents something that is complete. Therefore when Jesus used these seven items, He gave the people a complete spiritual meal as well as a fulfilling physical meal.

But notice that there were also twelve baskets of food left over after the meal. What this symbolizes is that there was much more information and knowledge that the people didn't receive that they could have had. As such, they took only what they wanted but left much more by the way side (so to speak).

The second miracle of feeding the multitudes is found in Matthew 15:33-37 "And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude? And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full."

I find it interesting that the number seven is again used. This time there were seven loaves of bread but there is no number given for the number of fish. As such, the only number we can derive from this story is seven, again showing that Jesus gave a complete knowledge.

After His resurrection, Jesus met several times with His disciples "being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3 ). During many of those occasions, He ate meat with them. What kind of meat this was isn't clearly stated, except in one place. In John 21:13 we read, "Jesus then cometh and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise." Fish is meat and was one of the most common kinds of meat because it was so readily available. Therefore, it wouldn't be any stretch of the imagination to say that each time Jesus sat "at meat" with His disciples after His resurrection, He ate fish. Once more we see the use of bread and fish being used together as Jesus gives understanding and knowledge "of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God."

Also, consider this: During the flood, meat was destroyed from the face of the earth except that which was on the ark. However, all the fishes in the water were spared this fate. If the symbol of the fish represents knowledge, then the symbolism of this is that through the flood, the knowledge of truth about God was preserved while the knowledge of the world was wiped away. And if this is so, it gives more meaning to the scripture that states "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14)

The fishermen were seekers for the truth and this is the meaning of this symbol:"knowledge"

Last Updated on Friday, 03 September 2010 14:08  

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