Mark 1:16 Commentary | Fishing For Fishers of Fish

Mark Commentary

Mark 1:16 Text & Translation

16 Καὶ παράγων παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας εἶδεν Σίμωνα καὶ Ἀνδρέαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν Σίμωνος ἀμφιβάλλοντας ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ· ἦσαν γὰρ ἁλιεῖς.1

While passing by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting nets into the sea — for they were fishermen. (Mk 1:16, AT)

Exhibit A

Following King Jesus’ grand proclamation in Mark 1:14 and Mark 1:15, entailing the nearness of the kingdom of God, this episode records more meager beginnings than one might expect2 for the Spirit-filled, Son of God (Mk 1:1-13).

There is no “pomp and pageantry” (cf. Mk 10:42-45).3 Things starts small — like a mustard seed (Mk 4:30-32).4

Nonetheless, the call(s)5 of Jesus’ first disciples exemplifies how people should respond to His proclamationrepent and believe (cf. Mk 1:15)!6

Concerning turning from one’s old way of life and following Jesus faithfully, this is Exhibit A.

See Them on The Sea of Galilee

Although Jesus was from Nazareth (Mk 1:9), which was 18 miles away,7 He fishes for disciples near the center of the region’s economic life: The Sea of Galilee.8

The Sea of Galilee9 is actually a lake;10 only people who lived nearby called it a sea.11

Luke calls it the Lake of Gennesaret (Lk 5:1;12 cf. Lk 8:22, 33),13 and it was also called the Sea of Tiberias (Jn 6:1, 21:1)14 (named after the Emperor Tiberius),15 or (in Hebrew) Kinnereth/Chinnereth (Num 34:11; Josh 12:3, 13:27),16 or the Sea of Gennesar.17

Many towns surrounded the Sea — including Capernaum, Jesus’ home base18 (and the place of Simon and Andrew’s home).19

Many towns were actually named after fish: Bethsaida (“house of the fisher”), Magdala (“fish tower), and Taricheae (“salted fish”).20 There were at least 16 ports on the Sea.21

Suffice it to say: in this context, fishing was a big deal.22 Thus, much of life revolved around the Sea.23

Unsurprisingly, the “Sea” (i.e., lake) of Galilee is an important location in Mark (Mk 2:13; 3:7; 4:1, 39; 5:1, 13, 21; 6:47, 48, 49; (Gk. θάλασσα | thalassa)).24

Simon and Andrew (Simon’s Brother)

Simon and Andrew were from Bethsaida (Jn 1:44).25

In John, we find that (at least) Andrew was formerly John the Baptist’s disciple and had met Jesus previously (Jn 1:35-42 esp. Jn 1:40).26

Among Palestinian Jews, Simon was actually the most popular name.27 Simon is a Greek name but sounds very similar to the familiar Hebrew name, “Simeon” (e.g., Gen 29:33 cf. Šimo˓̄n = Συμέων Ac 15:14, 2 Pet 1:1).28

Andrew (Ἀνδρέαςis simply a Greek name with no Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent.29 The fact that they have Greek names may speak to how much first century Palestine was influenced by Greek culture (i.e., Hellenized).30

More importantly, the fact that Andrew is introduced as the brother of Simon (who is mentioned twice) underscores Peter’s prominence in Mark.31

If a celebrity’s relative does something newsworthy, headlines will likely read, “So-and-So Celebrity’s Relative Did [Something Newsworthy]”. Peter is more famous than his brother Andrew. As one scholar writes:

The double reference to Simon most likely indicates his relative stature in Mark’s Gospel, which refers to Simon (7x) and Peter (10x) proportionately more than does either Matthew or Luke.32

Some tally the numbers differently. See this footnote –>33

Simon Peter is called Simon in Mk 1:16(2×), Mk 1:29–30, 36; 3:16; 14:37 and Peter in Mk 8:29, 32–33; 9:2, 5; 10:28; 11:21; 13:3; 14:29, 33, 37, 54, 66–67, 70; 16:7.34

He is first called Simon (Σίμων, Simōn) (Mk 1:16, 29, 30, 3:16, 14:37)35 until he is called by his Greek nickname, “Peter” (Πέτρος | Petros) after Mk 3:19 (in Mk 3:16)36 (except for Mk 14:37).37

Prominent Peter was likely the leader of the disciples — for better or worse! (cf. Mk 8:32-33, 9:5-6, 14:29-31, 66-72).38

Peter answers correctly when he tells Jesus that He is the Messiah (Mk 8:29). But after Jesus foretells of His suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection (Mk 8:31), Peter begins to rebuke Jesus (Mk 8:32). So, of course Jesus rebukes Peter:

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mk 8:33, NIV)39

Later, Peter offers to make shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah when Jesus is transfigured on the mountain (Mk 9:5). But he is afraid and doesn’t know what he’s saying (Mk 9:6).

A few chapters later, Peter swears that He will not disown Jesus — even if others will (Mk 14:29). But, of course, he denies Christ three times before the cock crows twice (Mk 14:30, 66-72 esp. Mk 14:72).

Peter is often the spokesman for the disciples. He is often the first to speak and the first to act. His heart is typically in the right place, but his understanding is often wrong.

Simon Peter is is always listed/mentioned first (Mk 3:16-19, 5:37, 9:2, 13:3, 14:33).40 and is also singled out at the end of Mark, after Jesus’ resurrection (Mk 16:7).41

7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” (Mk 16:7, NIV)42

Poor Fishermen?

Few were rich in Jewish Palestine; most were rather poor.43 An estimated 70-90 percent were rural peasants.44

Fisherman, however, were often more like what we would call middle class.45

The Galilean fishing business was booming.46 Galilee was known as a center for trade47 and fish were exported as far as Alexandria (in Egypt) and Syria.48

Given that fishermen were often targeted by tax collectors — and the Sea of Galilee was often full of fish — 49 – they likely made pretty good money.50

Today, we Americans love beef, pork and poultry. But in first century, fish (not meat) was “the staple food of the Greco-Roman world”.51

I say that to say, it seems to be incorrect (as many assert) that Jesus’ first followers were poor fisherman.52

As one scholar remarks:

“That fishermen in Galilee competed in the larger Mediterranean market testifies to their skill, prosperity, and ingenuity—and probably to their command of Greek, which was the international language of business and culture. The fishermen whom Jesus called were scarcely indigent day laborers. In order to survive in their market league, they needed to be—and doubtlessly were—shrewd and successful businessmen.”53

Fishers of Fish

Some say Simon and Andrew were relatively poor54 or had a less prosperous business since they were likely a casting net near the shore instead of from a boat.55

Yet, they could have been in a boat — as they are later in Mark (Mk 4:1, 35-36).56 Nonetheless, Simon Peter and Andrew were probably in the fishing business with James and John (cf. Lk 5:7-10)57 and also had a boat of their own (Lk 5:3).58

Casting nets (ἀμφιβάλλω | amphiballō) refers to throwing out a (circular) casting net,59 which were typically about 10-15 ft. in diameter, 60 or up to 20 ft61 or more.62

Circular casting nets typically had small weights (such as bars and rocks)63 on its ends,64 and could be thrown by one person.65 The person would wind it around their arm and throw it out in a circular motion66 from a boat or from the shore67 or while wading in the water.68

The net would land like a parachute in the water.69 A rope in the middle of the net allowed trapped fish to be pulled up70 (perhaps like a sort of drawstring), or fisherman would dive and gather the weights at the bottom of the sea.71

Mark 1:16 Commentary | Fishing For Fishers of Fish72

I mention these details because many times we may hear of illustrations of fishing for people (Mk 1:17) entailing bait, fishing rods, “reeling people in”, etc. But, this is not the kind of fishing described here.

The disciples were not to necessarily hook people with the Gospel, but Catch For Christ (with a net). Hence the title of this site, CatchForChrist.net

Conclusion

After Jesus’ proclamation concerning repentance and faith in the Gospel in response to the inbreaking kingdom of God (Mk 1:14-15), Jesus fishes for His first followers on the Sea (lake) of Galilee.

Mark records Simon and Andrew as the first to respond appropriately to the summons of King Jesus

For more commentary on Mark, please visit the Book Study Overview page. For the sources cited, please see the bibliography.

Sources

  1. Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Mk 1:16.
  2. France, 94. “A similar paradox has already occurred in [Mk 1:9] with the arrival of the ἰσχυρότερος [the More Powerful One (cf. Mk 1:7)] in the form of Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας [Jesus from (the small town of) Nazareth of Galilee], a candidate for baptism, and in [Mk 1:12] with the sequel to the declaration of the Son of God taking the form of a spell in the wilderness with Satan and the animals.” France, 94
  3. France, 94
  4. France, 94
  5. Mk 1:16-20 are essentially two call narratives (Witherington, 83; Guelich, 49; cf. France, 94)
  6. Keener, 130; Bock, 411; Kernaghan, 45; Cole, 113; Garland, 69; Guelich, 52; cf. Lane, 68)
  7. Schnabel, 52
  8. “It has been suggested that Jesus moved to Capernaum because it was a larger town… was more strategically located for Jesus’ itinerant ministry, was closer to the border with Perea allowing Jesus to escape Herod Antipas, and was economically more viable after Herod Antipas founded Tiberias as his new capital on the Sea of Galilee, allowing Jesus to take better care of his mother and brothers once Joseph had died and he was responsible for the family…(cf. John 2:12). The house in Capernaum in which Jesus stayed (Mark 2:1; 9:33) was the house of Simon Peter (cf. [Mk 1:29]).” Schnabel, 52-53
  9. “The ‘Sea of Galilee’ is actually a large kidney-shaped inland lake, fourteen miles long and six miles wide and located 682 feet below sea level. The OT refers to it as (lit.) the “Sea of Kinnereth” (Num 34:11; Josh 13:27; perhaps from the Hebrew word for “harp,” referring to its shape).” Strauss, 83.

    “Lying nearly seven hundred feet below sea level, the Sea is confined by a rather precipitous bank of mountains on the east and by somewhat gentler slopes on the west. Seen from the heights, the lake has roughly the shape of a harp, from which it may have received its name in Hebrew, Kinnereth. Josephus extols the Sea of Galilee for its pure sweet water and many species of fish, its fertile soil and pleasing climate that supplies fruit and produce ten months of the year. The whole region, he says, is one in which ‘nature had taken pride’ (War 3.516–21).” Edwards, 48

  10. Keener, 130; Brooks, 48; Edwards, 48; cf. Mk 7:31; Stein, 77; Strauss, 83; Schnabel, 52. “Supplied by the melting snows of Mount Hermon in the north, it is better described as a “lake” (λίμνη, limnē; Luke 5:1; 8:22, 33) due to its size (12.5 miles long and 7 miles wide at its widest point) and its geography (it is inland).” Stein, 77
  11. Keener, 130; Gurtner, 92
  12. Gurtner, 92
  13. Stein, 77; Guelich, 50; Strauss, 83; cf. Lane, 67
  14. Stein, 77; Guelich, 50; Schnabel, 52
  15. Strauss, 83; cf. Lane, 67
  16. Stein, 77 cf. Edwards, 48; France, 95; Strauss, 83; Schnabel, 52
  17. Josephus, War 3.10.7; Guelich, 50; Schnabel, 52
  18. France, 95; Gurtner, 92; Schnabel, 52; cf. Lane, 67. “Despite his title ([Mk 10:47; 14:67; 16:6]), he does not seem to have spent much time in Nazareth ([Mk 6:1–6 ]is the only visit recorded by Mark” France, 95
  19. France, 96
  20. Edwards, 49
  21. Edwards, 49
  22. ” So numerous were fishing boats that Josephus was able to commandeer 230 of them during the war in Galilee in a.d. 68 (War 2.635…” Edwards, 49
  23. “As a small village in the hills Nazareth offered very limited scope for proclamation of the good news, whereas the lake (or rather its west and north sides; the east and south were outside the province of Galilee), with its prosperous fishing industry and an active trade route running through Capernaum to the neighbouring tetrarchy of Philip, was the focus of the province’s life.” France, 95
  24. Stein, 77
  25. Stein, 77; as was Philip; Guelich, 50; France, 95).
  26. Edwards, 50; Stein, 77, 79; France, 97; Guelich, 52; Strauss, 83; cf. Kernaghan, 44; Witherington, 85
  27. Schnabel, 53
  28. Guelich, 50; cf. France, 95
  29. Guelich, 50; cf. France, 95; Gurtner, 93
  30. Guelich, 50
  31. Guelich, 50; Schnabel, 53
  32. Guelich, 50
  33. “Mark referred to the first of the two persons seen by Jesus as Simon six times, Peter eighteen times, and Simon Peter once. Mark contains more references to Peter in proportion to length than any other Gospel, perhaps showing a special interest in him, but not proving Peter was a source of information. Mark mentioned Andrew elsewhere only in [Mk 1:29; 3:18; 13:3].” Brooks, 48
  34. Schnabel, 53
  35. Stein, 77
  36. France, 95;Strauss, 83; Schnabel, 53
  37. Stein, 77
  38. Stein, 77 cf. Strauss, 83
  39. Stein, 77
  40. Stein, 77; Strauss, 83
  41. Schnabel, 53
  42. Schnabel, 53
  43. Keener, 130
  44. Keener, 130
  45. cf. Stein, 80; Keener, 130
  46. Gurtner, 93; Edwards, 48; Stein, 77; Guelich, 50; France, 95; Strauss, 83
  47. Gurtner, 93; France, 95
  48. Edwards, 49
  49. Witherington, 84; Lane, 67
  50. Witherington, 84; Brooks, 48; Edwards, 49
  51. Edwards, 49; cf. Guelich, 50
  52. “Disparaging remarks about Jesus’ Galilean disciples (Mark 14:70; John 7:52; Acts 4:13) had more to do with their lack of formal religious training and to misgivings about the “orthodoxy” of the more international setting of Galilee.” Evans, 93
  53. Edwards, 49
  54. Kernaghan, 44; Garland, 69
  55. Witherington, 84; Garland, 69
  56. Guelich, 50
  57. Keener, 130; France, 98
  58. Stein, 77
  59. BDAG, 55, EDNT, 73; France, 96
  60. Lane, 67 FN; Strauss, 83
  61. Edwards, 48; Stein, 77
  62. 20-26ft; Schnabel, 53
  63. Edwards, 48
  64. (Witherington, 84; Lane, 67 FN; Edwards, 48; Stein, 77; Strauss, 83
  65. LN, 518; Edwards, 48; Stein, 77; Guelich, 50
  66. (UBS, 39; Edwards, 48
  67. Stein, 77
  68. France, 96
  69. Edwards, 48
  70. Lane, 67 FN; Stein, 77
  71. Edwards, 48
  72. https://thewikibible.pbworks.com/f/1197248392/casting1.jpg
About @DannyScottonJr 231 Articles
Imperfect Servant ✝📖⛪ | Husband | Princeton U. Alum | M. Div. | Assistant (to the) Pastor | Sound Doctrine & Apologetics @catchforchrist