Casting nets – let’s try our luck over there.
Sorting fish – too small; wrong kind; wow, nice big one.
Delivering fish – let’s get these out of the sun before they go off.
Repairing nets – agh, that hole we fixed has opened up again.
Simon and Andrew and James and John are fishermen. They work hard, and they work long hours, and they have strong calloused hands, and they know their way around on the water. They are fishermen, which is also to say that they have little power or prestige in their culture. One New Testament scholar describes the status of first century fishermen in these terms:
While the fishermen have some economic resources, their social ranking is very low. In Cicero’s ranking of occupations, owners of cultivated land appear first and fishermen last. Athenaeus indicates that fishermen and fishmongers are on a par with moneylenders and are socially despised as greedy thieves. Fishermen and fishmongers have a socially inferior and economically precarious existence under Roman control.
The work of fishermen is in some ways vital to their society, for without fish a significant part of the local diet and a source of nourishment is lost. But perhaps it will come as no surprise to us that those who did such vital work were not valued in themselves. In our own time and culture we outsource a great deal of basic and vital work overseas – and those workers or labourers receive levels of pay we would never consider acceptable for our own family members or friends. Continue reading