Fishers of men

17 Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.’

This may be an allusion to Jer.16:16:

Behold, I am sending for many fishers, says the LORD, and they shall catch them; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks.

The parallel between ‘fishers’ and ‘hunters’ in this verse would appear to mean that these ‘fishers’ are an instrument of judgment (cf. Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, 2). Jeremiah warns that Israel cannot hide her iniquity from God and will inevitably be punished (Jer.16:17-18). However, the preceding paragraph (14-15) speaks of God restoring the scattered people of Israel to the land, just as before he had brought them from Egypt. It may be, therefore, that Jesus associated the ‘fishers’ of Jeremiah’s prophecy with the gathering of the ‘elect’ from the nations of the world (cf. Mk.13:27). Alternatively, we may suppose that when he calls the disciples to be ‘fishers of men’, he has in mind the fact that the gospel of the kingdom is a message both of salvation and judgment for Israel.

If Jesus intended the allusion, the effect is to contextualize the call more clearly within the framework of the imminent eschatological transition and the restoration of Israel.