The number 153 is also a hexagonal number, and a truncated triangle number, meaning that 1, 15, and 153 are all triangle numbers.
The distinct prime factors of 153 add up to 20, and so do the ones of 154, hence the two form a Ruth-Aaron pair.
Since , it is a 3-narcissistic number, and it is also the smallest three-digit number which can be expressed as the sum of cubes of its digits. Only five other numbers can be expressed as the sum of the cubes of their digits: 0, 1, 370, 371 and 407. It is also a Friedman number, since 153 = 3 × 51, and a Harshad number in base 10, being divisible by the sum of its own digits.
The precision of the number of fish in this narrative has long been considered peculiar, and many scholars, throughout history, have argued that 153 has some deeper significance. Jerome, for example, wrote that Oppian's Halieutica listed 153 species of fish, although this could not have been the intended meaning of the Gospel writer because Oppian composed Halieutica after the Gospel text was written, and at any rate never gave a list of fish species that clearly adds up to 153. It has also been noted that the Tetragrammaton occurs 153 times in the Book of Genesis.
Augustine of Hippo argued that the significance lay in the fact that 153 is the sum of the first 17 integers (i.e. 153 is the 17th triangular number), with 17 representing the combination of divine grace (the 7 gifts of the Spirit) and law (the Ten Commandments). Theologian D. A. Carson discusses this and other interpretations and concludes that "If the Evangelist has some symbolism in mind connected with the number 153, he has hidden it well," while other scholars note "No symbolic significance for the number of 153 fish in John 21:11 has received widespread support."
Writers claiming a major role for Mary Magdalene have noted that in Greek isopsephy her epithet "η Μαγδαληνή" bears the number 8 + 40 + 1 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 30 + 8 + 50 + 8 = 153, thus, it is suggested, revealing her importance. Similarly, the phrase "τὸ δίκτυον" (the net) used in the passage bears the number 1224 = 8 × 153, as do some other phrases. The significance of this is unclear, given that Koine Greek provides a choice of several noun endings with different isopsephy values. The number 153 has also been related to the vesica piscis, with the claim that Archimedes used 153 as a "shorthand or abbreviation" for the square root of 3 in his On the Measurement of the Circle. However, examination of that work does not find the number 153 used in that way.
^Jason Byassee, Praise Seeking Understanding: Reading the Psalms with Augustine, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007, p. 130, ISBN 0-8028-4012-4.
^John E. Rotelle (ed) and Edmund Hill (tr), The works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, Part 3, Volume 7 (Sermons: On the Liturgical Seasons), p. 112, ISBN 1-56548-059-7.
^D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Pillar Commentaries Series), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1991, p. 673, ISBN 0-85111-749-X.
^Leland Ryken, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman, Colin Duriez, Douglas Penney, and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Fish), InterVarsity Press, 1998, p. 290, ISBN 0-8308-1451-5.
^ abcMargaret Starbird, Magdalene's Lost Legacy: Symbolic Numbers and the Sacred Union in Christianity, Inner Traditions / Bear & Company, 2003, pages 49 and 139, ISBN 1-59143-012-7.
^J.W. Wenham, The Elements of New Testament Greek, Cambridge University Press, 1965.
^For example, ἰχθύς (fish) has isopsephy values of 1219, 1069, 1289, 1029, 1224, 1220, 1869, 1229, and 1279 with the different noun endings on p. 124 of Wenham, and a further range of possibilities when the definite article is added.
^Heath, Thomas Little (1897), The Works of Archimedes, Cambridge University, pp. lxxvii ; 50, retrieved January 30, 2010
^William Harmless, Desert Christians: An Introduction to the Literature of Early Monasticism, Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 320–341, ISBN 0-19-516222-6.
^Montfort.org.uk, "its fruitfulness as shown in the net that St. Peter by order of Our Lord threw into the sea and which though filled with 153 fish did not break."