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It is no doubt unfair to fish to associate them with what we also call “tall” stories.  It would seem that from time immemorial, fishermen have not been able to resist adding to the length of the fish they claim to have caught.  No one ever boasted of catching a sardine.

The Bible is a collection of fish-stories, some of which actually concern fish.  The biggest in both categories is, of course, Jonah and the Whale, a literary classic perhaps less gripping, more difficult to … swallow, but far more readable than “Moby Dick”.  Jesus Himself made reference to it (Mt.12:39-41) and presumably believed it actually happened.  (He saw it as a model for the miracle of His own Resurrection, so He must have thought it was more than pious fiction.)  He chose as His Apostles a bunch of fishermen, establishing His credibility by offering them a miraculous, net and record-breaking, catch.  He told one of them, Peter the future Pope, that he would be a “fisher of men”.  When a crowd of 5000 and later another of 4000 forgot to bring a picnic lunch with them to His open-air rallies, He fed them all with a few loaves and … fishes (some jokester said that’s not a miracle, that’s tapas).  Some unknown early Christian, who was into acronyms, wanted to find a clever secret code for members of the persecuted sect.  He came up with “ICTHUS” – “I-esous CH-ristos TH-eou U-ios S-oter”, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” : the Greek word for … fish !  Better still, it was enough to use two simple intersecting curves to draw a stylized fish, the prototype of a collection of centuries of Christian art.  (Humankind is descended from fish; so is Christian iconography.)

(Just for fun  :  “F-aith  I-s  S-imply  H-allucination !”   Anyone for acronyms ?)

Both Testaments have their fish-stories, but the one I like best is in Mt.17:27 : Jesus has the I.R.S. on His back, so He sends Peter fishing.  From the mouth of the first fish he catches he pulls out a coin, just enough to pay Jesus’ – as well as his own – taxes.  And you thought money grew on trees !

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

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