if you want to experience what he meant
saying- 8; the fisherman; wise or foolish.
And he says,
The kingdom/ the human being is like a wise fisherman
who cast his net into the sea
and drew it up from the sea full of small fish.
Among them the wise fisherman found a fine large fish.
He threw all the small fish back into the sea
and chose the large fish without difficulty.
Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.
This is Thomas' first parable. To understand it correctly, we might remember that the parable
is not an allegory but functions as metaphor, and that "things" (that which is customary in expectation,
belief, judgment, behavior...etc.) are turned upside-down, in order to make the hearers questioning
their beloved ideas, customs and beliefs. Furthermore, the parable should have done so among
ordinary, illiterate, peasant people in first century Palestine!
Therefore, the parable draws on themes familiar to such people.
Here also the situation is a completely comprehensible one, and was
even more likely so in the neighborhood of the Sea of Galilee, as taken from daily life:
a fisherman at work. So, there is nothing supra-natural, divine, transcendent, esoteric, secret,
enigmatic or other-worldliness about the content of the parable. This may indicate that
all such fantastic and extravagant overtones are completely unnecessary when talking
about the kingdom, as speaking from the natural world around us, of which we
are a part while living our regular daily life, suffices! Such approach strongly carries
a Buddhist flavor, as in many Buddhist sutra’s it is stated that nirvana
(enlightenment, “heaven”, the kingdom-?) is not to be found outside our daily life.
But what is the surprise element in this story, the thing that would have created unease among
Jesus' bystanders? I think they would have felt rather puzzled and hard to accept to hear that
a hard-working fisherman would cast away almost his whole catch as he would satisfy with only
one big fish. The fisherman himself would probably have filled his stomach with the one big fish,
and as that satisfied his hunger for that day he no longer saw any need to make money by
selling the rest of his catch. Not everything we do in daily life should be aimed at making money;
more important is to be satisfied in what one truly needs.
As such, the parable speaks against greed for
more than you actually need for daily living and in favor of contentment.
So, the kingdom relates to what a person does, it is about his actions, his way of living,
of choosing, of thinking, of considering. The kingdom
is a personal process, not an instant event, and certainly not a 'thing' or some institution,
not even a heaven where God lives, not a certain end-of-time situation.
It is bound up by making the right decisions and choosing the right way of living.
To consider Thomas’ Jesus’ teachings as ’secret’, ‘hidden’, ‘esoteric’, only for ‘initiates’
or ‘chosen few’, results from the ‘meme’ we all seem to carry in our brains that
anything ‘religious’ is situated in ‘non-material and higher’ spheres, and when that is
not obviously recognizable, it must be ‘secretly‘ so. From a pragmatic point of view
Thomas’ Jesus’ teachings are rather down to earth, but the master refuses to
illustrate or even to conceptualize what realizing the kingdom encloses,
as such enclosure is rather personal. However, that does not make his teachings ‘secret’!
Buddhism is not a ‘secret’ teaching, is it? Even Zen isn’t! However, only very few really
endorse such interpretation, but if one does, all Thomas’ Jesus’ sayings become
very straightforward in their meaning, falling into place; but only for you individually!
Jeremias (1966) considers the ‘warning cry’ Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear, as
secondary in most cases.
Dodd (1935) states that the parable was a common and well-understood method of illustration
at Jesus' time, and .... are the natural expression of a mind that sees truth in concrete pictures
rather than conceives it in abstractions. The way Dodd saw the nature of the parables comes
close to that of Zen-Buddhist koans: ....a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common live,
arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient
doubt about its application to tease it into active thought. Dodd considered the parables
not mere analogy, but [there is] an inward affinity, between the natural order and the
spiritual order;....the Kingdom of God is intrinsically like the process of nature and
the daily life of men. This sense of divineness of the natural order is the major premise
of all the parables. Dodd suggests that ...the clue [of the parables] must be found, not in
ideas which developed only with the experience of the early Church, but as such ideas as
may have be supposed to have been in the minds of the hearers of
Jesus during His ministry.
Crossan (2012) states that the use of parables was not an invention of Jesus as they
were used earlier in OT stories. However, although parables can be indicated in earlier
Mediterranean literature, their use in the OT is hard to demonstrate, certainly when
the scope of their use is taken into consideration. The one story quoted by Crossan
in which the prophet Nathan interrogates king David is purely allegorical, and not metaphorical
as most if not all of Jesus parables were. On the other hand, the books of Ruth and Job are
brilliantly demonstrated by Crossan (2012) to serve as challenge parable stories.
Scott (1990) states that parables constitute a genre not found in the Hebrew Bible, where
he defines a parable as a short narrative fiction to reference a transcendent symbol, with
the symbol being the kingdom in case of Jesus' parables. Jeremias (1966) also
found the parables a unique tool of Jesus.
Meyer (1992) and Hedrick (2010) point at the Aesop fables as a possible source of this saying.
If you wonder how to seek the kingdom, then this is a clear answer:
empty your mind of all esoteric crap,
and realize that living your daily life comes close to the kingdom,
provided you live it mindfully, content, and without greed,
while performing the right actions.
In the Greek Babrius/Aesop fable 4 ,
the little fish escape through the mesh, but the big one is caught. The interpretation
is “a way to be safe and clear of trouble is to be small, but seldom will you see a person
large in reputation who escapes danger”. Consequently, the moral of the story may be that
you better keep a low profile than to stand out in the world, as you be caught by its
enticements and perish.
A fisherman who casts his net to catch only one appreciable fish doesn't look very wise,
does he? At least he does not look very skilled in his profession. Twice the word wise comes
as a rather ironical designator of the poor fellow with only one fish, the more so since all
else he caught - quite an abundance of small fish which might have been sold - he just
threw away! The man is just a happy fool, mislead by one big fish!
Thus it may look from the eyes of the world.
You may like to ponder further from this Aesop fable:
Here the fisherman was wise indeed! Did this story come first and was lost perhaps?
It reminds me of Ecclesiastes 11:1; cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.
And what if..........
What if we take the kingdom to be a state of enlightenment as in Buddhism, then
the story might run like this:
and he said:
Enlightenment is like this: there was a wise fisherman..........
Please, meditate on this!
In fact, there is a reference in Buddhist literature which comes very close to this saying:
Awakened to reality, they throw away the doctrine just as a fisherman, having
caught his fish, pays no more attention to his nets.... (Hui Hai, 2007, pg.158).
Scott (1990) states that Jesus' specific use of parables may be seen not as derived from
Hellenistic cultural tradition, but as belonging to Hebrew mashal, which
included many different styles, such as e.g. riddle, proverb, short narrative, oracle.
Mashal content refers indirectly to ultimate meaning, whereas such meaning cannot
clearly be delineated in discursive language. Parable is mashal, but mashal is not only
parable. Scott defines a parable as a mashal that employs a short narrative fiction to
reference a symbol. He further remarks that no mashal in the Hebrew Bible directly parallels
parable as a short narrative, and that parables are not illustrations of abstract concepts.
From this we may consider, that where a parable seems to refer to the rather abstract
concept of the kingdom, it actually may not be referring to that at all, but rather to the
concrete effects on the level of the listener's behavior, which would also comply by taking
the kingdom as a symbol. Furthermore, Jesus' use of parables someway stand in the
Hebrew tradition, but on itself is quite unique, whereas, although parables were not alien
in Greek ancient writings, the way Jesus used them finds no example there.
So, with his fellow-villagers we may wonder:
where did this man get all this from?