Have you ever questioned the account in Matthew 17:24-27 about the occasion Jesus sent Peter to go fishing in the Sea of Gallee. Peter was told to throw in a line and take the first fish he caught, open its mouth and to use the silver coin he found there to go and pay the tax for both Jesus and himself. Do you have a problem with that story? Think about it. Isn’t this story a bit too hard to swallow? (The pun is intentional). It reads like a fairy story. It is hard to believe that things happened the way they were described. It’s another one of those Bible stories that stretches the realm of credibility. Yet we are supposed to accept as fact even though every brain cell screams “No, it’s not true! It couldn’t have happened like that !”
Fact: There is a certain species of Cichlidae fish that is interesting to say the least. It is a fresh water fish found in its natural habitat in three places in the world – Lake Victoria in Uganda, the upper reaches of the Nile River above the second cataract and the Sea of Galilee. What is most interesting about this fish is that the female of the species is a mouth breeding fish. The male fertilises the eggs in the mouth of the female, the eggs are carried in the female’s mouth and when the time comes for the young to spawn, they do it right there in mum’s mouth. The young grow and develop in their mother’s mouth. They leave their mother’s mouth to swim around in the water close to their mother. If danger comes they retreat back to mum’s mouth.
The female of this particular species of Cichlid is also a bottom feeder. She scours the bottom of the lake or river in search of food. She picks up food from the bottom and sifts from it the nutrients to feed her and her fingerlings. Researchers have discovered another odd trait in this fish. When her young have left home (read: mum’s mouth) she will scoop up detritus from the lake bottom and just hold it in her mouth. I guess you could say she suffers from empty mouth syndrome. It appears to be a replacement behaviour the female indulges in when she no longer has babies in her mouth. The female of this species have been found with all sorts of detritus in their mouths. Objects have been found In the mouths of female Cichlidae like Coke bottle tops, pieces of plastic and yes even coins.
What I have just told you are the facts. What is of interest to me is that a fish which behaves exactly as this one does, is found in the Sea of Galilee. The very body of water which provides the backdrop for the story that Matthew relates in his Gospel. Now you have to admit it is quite remarkable that a fish exists in the Sea of Galilee that behaves exactly as I have described which matches the account written over 2020 years ago where Peter is told to take the coin out of the mouth of the fish to pay their taxes. Unbelievable? I don’t think so. Peter may have known about the habits of this fish being a fisherman. He may well have experienced finding coins in the mouths of such fish. But you can bet that Jesus knew about the habits of this female cichlidfish. After all he created it.
This rather incredible story is scientific proof which allows us to push back the borders of disbelief to dare to believe that the accounts found in the Bible are not fictional at all. To help you on your journey to dare to believe I will share some more of these fact based Bible stories in the following Nuggets.