To Fish to Net Men – J.S. Bach, Cantata 93, at Trinity V


Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. Unknown artist. 6th century. Basilica di Sanappolinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy.

The message and teaching found in cantata 93 is difficult to agree with.

First, there is the gospel reading (Luke 5:1-11). What is purported to be a miracle is in reality a narrative of the absurd in the employ of doctrine, and it is problematic to accept the literal exposition of the great catch of fishes. However, if one takes it more that if one recognizes that another can give one more than one can give oneself—even at the risk of the loss of oneself—then there is some behavioural rationale for the fishermen to leave all they ‘have’ to follow Christ, and so ‘fish for men.’ But this has more than a whiff of an ignorant fanaticism eyeing political opportunity, and, not least, opportunism in the form of the promise of regular meals.

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