Mike Aquilina

Was His Barque Worse Than His Bait?

Wednesday September 26th 2007, 3:06 am

Archeologists at The Discover Channel are digging up new information on how ancient fishermen — like St. Peter — lured their catches. “Fire fishing” comes up in Plato and other ancient authors. Fascinating.

Fishermen around areas mentioned in the New Testament worked the night shift, suggests fishing gear found in a 7th century shipwreck off the coast of Dor, Israel, west of Galilee, where Jesus is said to have preached.

The standout item among the found gear is a fire basket, the first evidence for “fire fishing” in the ancient eastern Mediterranean. Early images and writings indicate fires were lit in such baskets, which were suspended in giant lantern devices from the end of fishing boats.

Light emitted from the fire both attracted and illuminated fish, as well as other sea creatures, like octopus, which men then speared or captured in nets.

Wait till the textual critics find out. We’ll find footnotes proposing all manner of alternative readings: “I have come to cast fire upon the sea…”