top of page

The Church of Peter's Primacy

Table of Contents Next Page

153 Fish. The Mystery of Peter's Primacy

This site is always part of our live Octagon Tour.

Location - Galilee North Shore

Map Coordinates - 32.871751, 35.550409

Merged Gospels story - 297


This was on this spot where Jesus gave the responsibility to Peter to feed God’s sheep – to take care of His flock. It was in this place Peter became the point man for the church. And that’s true, since he was the head of the church in Jerusalem for about twelve years up until the time that he traveled to Rome, which is where he lived out the rest of his days.

The Ancient Boat Docks.


The beach is flanked by two ancient piers constructed from black basalt boulders.  That proves that this was a fishing spot during the time of Jesus, and it was on these piers that fishermen would embark and disembark from their boats.


There are two ancient boat docks here made of black basalt stones.

The Biblical Story.

This story is told in the Gospel of John, chapter 21. The Apostles had been fishing all night, and had caught nothing. Suddenly when the day came they saw a man standing on the beach who told them to throw their net on the right side of the boat. Doing as they were told, they caught 153 large fish (see John 21:11). They instantly recognized that this man was Jesus, and when they all came ashore He cooked breakfast for them.

Jesus tells His Apostles to throw their nets over the right side of the boat.

153 Fish?


What was this miracle all about? Many people throughout history have tried attaching some meaning to this number 153 - some symbolic, geometric, mathematical, metaphorical, numerological, mystical or spiritual meaning to the number 153. But while there are many theories, they all encounter the same objection. We have no evidence that any such complicated understating of the number 153 would have been intelligible to John’s readers. Hence the number would have meant nothing to these people. 

Some commentators have assumed that there were 153 fish in the net because it was believed at this time in history that this was the total number of species of fish known in the world. The problem with this theory is that there is no historical proof that this was a common understanding at that time.

153 large fish were caught, but their nets did not break.

They were professional fishermen. They were used to counting fish, because they had to sell the fish. They needed to know exactly how many there were. The first miracle on this day is that they caught any fish at all, given that they had been working all night. But how does the story describe the fish? It says that they were large fish, and that may be one of the points we need to emphasize.

Here’s what I think this miracle was really all about. Their nets did not break, which is what they may have expected, given that the last time there was a miraculous catch of fish, their nets did break. It may just be that the number 153 doesn’t have any significance at all. The two big takeaways here are the fact that (1) their nets did not break as they raised (2) large fish up into the boat. Doesn’t that sound like John 6:39 when Jesus said, “And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day.” Compare that statement to this miracle - large fish where none is lost as they raised them up into the boat. That may be the true meaning here. The number 153 may be symbolic of something, or it may just mean that there were 153 fish, where none of them were lost.   

Jesus prepared breakfast for the Apostles on the beach.

The Rock Outside.

The Church of Peter’s Primacy.

Planted on this beach is a boulder called The Mensa Christi, which in Latin means The Table of Christ.  This is where Jesus is believed to have served His Apostles a fish breakfast after they docked their boat. (One might ask as to where did Jesus get the fish that he was cooking before they arrived? Did he miraculously create them? I suspect so.)

There are some stairs cut into this rock, and it’s believed that someone carved these steps in the second or third centuries, which is why in the year 381 AD Egeria visited this area and reported that, “next to the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, which is nearby, there are some stone steps where the Lord stood". 

Stairs cut into the rock.

Egeria didn’t mention there being a church here, because there probably wasn’t one during her time, but we know that a church was built here shortly after she left.

The Twelve Thrones.


There was a document written in 808 AD (Commemoratorium de Casis Dei, XLIV-XLV) that mentions a church that was called The Twelve Thrones, and it refers to a table where Jesus sat with His Apostles. We know that the Church of Peter’s Primacy is being referenced here, and that the twelve thrones referred to in this document probably come from the six heart-shaped double-column blocks that were placed on the beach about twelve hundred years ago. Each one of these six blocks has two columns. That would equal twelve columns – referring to the twelve Apostles. 

Why are they called 12 Thrones? This is probably a reference to a passage found in Luke 22:30, where Jesus told His twelve Apostles that they would sit on thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. That’s probably why this church was called The 12 Thrones.

The 12 Thrones - six double-column blocks laid here in the ninth century.

This church was destroyed when the Crusaders were defeated in 1187 AD. It was rebuilt in 1260 AD and destroyed again three years later. (Knocking down churches happens a lot in the Holy Land.) 670 years went by, and in 1933 the Franciscans rebuilt this church. That’s the church that we see here today.

The Meaning of the Story.

I’ve already mentioned the meaning of the large fish where the nets did not break. Well, there’s even a richer truth toward the end of this story.

When Jesus was arrested, John 18:18 says that Apostle Peter was warming himself around a fire of burning coals. This was the moment that Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.

Peter shed his garments and jumped into the water.

What is so remarkable about this breakfast is that the Apostle John, deliberately makes a point of telling us that Peter is, once again, near a fire of burning coals (John 21:9). That’s interesting. Around this breakfast table Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me”. And how many times did Jesus ask him this question?  Three. It almost seems deliberate that Peter was asked to express his love for Jesus the same number of times that Peter denied knowing Jesus. I think the lesson here is that Jesus allows every person to back out of every sin they’ve ever committed, and that these sins can be forgiven and totally erased, as if they never happened, simply by repenting and falling in love with Jesus.

Table of Contents Next Page

bottom of page