Jesus the Son of Fish

20 Sep

(Jesus fish)

“[T]he son of him whose name was as the name of a fish would lead them [the Israelites] into the land.” (Genesis Rabba 97:3.)

There’s a big push in astrotheology to place the emergence of Christianity on astrological beliefs. This, at first glance, seems pretty absurd to me since it assumes that Jews were the only ones who placed any value on reading the stars. Passover is quite obviously based on “astrology” (more accurately, the seasons/when to begin harvesting) but there’s no other evidence that Jews were actively seeking answers in looking at the movement of the stars. It actually seems to have been prohibited in some fashion (Deut. 4:19, 17:3) but that seems to only serve to create heretics.

As far as I can tell, the crux (heh) of this sort of Christ Myth hypothesis is that the time period that Christianity began was when the Age of Pisces was beginning, with the Pisces sign making some sort of cross or traveling across the sky or due to precession. Of course, precession occurs over the course of thousands of years and wouldn’t happen over just one century or on a particular day. I’m not even sure the ancients knew about precession.

Again, there’s no evidence that Jews or early Christians were paying attention to any of this stuff. Not even the Gnostics penned anything related to astrotheology. Granted, we don’t have all of their writings, but something as fundamental to the beginnings of Christianity being completely absent from the Gnostic writings that we do have seems highly unlikely. Moreover, somehow “the establishment” had successfully removed all traces of this evidence from the historical record. Again, seems highly unlikely since these traces would or should have been saturating the Gnostics’ craziness.

So why did Christians associate Jesus with the sign of a fish? It’s prima facie obvious that Christians were reading the OT. So that should be the first place we look.

Jesus, as I’ve written here in this blog multiple times, is derived from the Latin Iesus (the letter “J” didn’t exist until around the 8th century CE), which is derived from the Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iesous), which is a transliteration — or Greek pronunciation — of the Aramaic יְשֻׁעַ‎‎ or Yeshua, that is, Joshua. Jesus and Joshua are the same exact name.

The first person in Jewish history to have the name “Joshua” was the successor of Moses, and incidentally, is the person who all messiah claimants attempt to emulate: Joshua the son of Nun.

Numbers 13.16:

And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun “Joshua”

But, Joshua wasn’t the son of an actual nun. He was the son of a guy named Nun, or נוּן (NWN). Since names with no meaning is a relatively modern construction, Nun must mean something. As the quote I posted from the Talmud at the beginning of this post implies, “Nun” is Aramaic for fish. And so it looks like “fish” was associated with the name Jesus for hundreds of years before Christianity came about.

So it doesn’t seem as though we have to look into astrotheology to generate a hypothesis for why Christians would use the fish symbol. The fish was already associated with Jesus.

If I take a quick stab at this using some Bayesianism, what are my three variables? The prior probability, the success rate, and the false positive rate. Or in this case, it’s really four variables: The prior probability of both the hypothesis and the alternative (to keep it simple — i.e. false dichotomy —  fish symbolism is from astrotheology or fish symbolism is due to Numbers 13), how strongly fish symbolism would be present in Christianity assuming the truth of astrotheology, and how strongly fish symbolism would be in Christianity assuming a link with Joshua’s parentage.

The prior probability obviously favors Christians getting their symbolism from the OT since this is the more “mundane” explanation. Assuming astrotheology is true, I would guess that it’s more necessary for Christians to have fish symbolism somewhere than assuming symbolism from the OT but not too much. So a Bayes’ Factor would slightly favor astrotheology but not by much since assuming astrotheology I would expect to have much more fish symbolism in Christianity, especially among the Gnostics or even in Paul’s writings. But this isn’t enough to rest a conclusion on, since that would be a base rate fallacy.

In general, then, I would say that the fish symbol is very weak evidence for astrotheology, while the posterior probability still vastly favors a non-astrotheology reason for the emergence of Christianity. Astrotheological mythicists would have to present much more high success rate/low false positive rate (while being careful to avoid being unfalsifiable) evidence for their hypothesis.

1 Comment

Posted by on September 20, 2012 in Bayes, historical jesus


One response to “Jesus the Son of Fish

  1. Jay Kay

    October 7, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    What I've always wondered is why the LXX changes the proper name Num into Nave? And this post prompted me to look it up. Here's the answer apparently:"In the Fathers, the book is often called 'Jesus Nave'. The name dates from the time of Origen, who translated the Hebrew 'son of Nun' by uìòs Nauê and insisted upon the Nave as a type of a ship; hence in the name Jesus Nave many of the Fathers see the type of Jesus, the Ship wherein the world is saved."

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