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Good on the Inside and Outside of You

Sea of Galilee


Published: 11 June 2019 (GMT+10)

In Matthew 4:18–21, we read where Peter was working on the Sea of Galilee (Lake of Gennesaret)1 with his fishing business partners when Jesus called him for the Gospel. Also, James and John were mending their fishing nets. After the Resurrection of Jesus and before the blessing of the Holy Spirit, the disciples commenced fishing again. Jesus appeared to them and they ate fish together (John 21:10–14). What was this fish that was so popular that they could make a business from catching?

Post-Fall food source

Those were probably tilapia, a variety of the cichlid created kind corresponding to the family Cichlidae. Tilapia were one of the three main types of commercial fish caught in the Sea of Galilee, and one is known as the ‘Galilean Comb’ or ‘St Peter’s fish’ (or mango tilapia, Sarotherodon galilaeus).

Tilapia have many names and are found in numerous places. They are whitefish with a mild taste, are plentiful and nutritious,2 and grow quickly in the right environment. Because of these and other reasons, farming tilapia is increasing.3 After the Fall, God provided us with food that was popular in Bible times and is an important resource today.

Good on the Outside of You

In a medical television program, a burn victim was brought into the hospital.4 Various treatments were discussed, but the prognosis of severe scarring was bleak. However, one of the doctors mentioned tilapia research he had heard about. This episode was similar to actual events where Maria Ines Candido da Silva, a waitress in the northeast Brazil city of Russas, received severe burns when a gas cooker exploded.

How are severe burns usually treated? The healing protein collagen is usually transferred to the victim’s skin from human (sometimes using grafts from the patient’s own skin, and sometimes from pig tissues). Unfortunately, the necessary materials are not always readily available.

Researchers at the José Frota Institute in Brazil needed alternative sources for the necessary proteins, so they studied tilapia skins.5 These act like a bandage that attaches to the skin, holding the collagen proteins to the wound.

When told that the experimental treatment should be less painful, Maria decided to try the new procedure. The results were amazing.6

Not Just for People

Mango tilapia

After the Thomas Fire in southern California, veterinarians took action to treat two bears and a young cougar. Have you ever dealt with an injured animal? The pet dog or cat, for example, often forgets that bond it has with its owner because of the pain and it may get very defensive despite the carer’s good intentions. It probably has to be wrapped in a blanket so you can rush it to the animal hospital. Big animals are not candidates for being wrapped up, so they must be sedated for treatment.

Unfortunately, they cannot withstand frequent sedation. The vets knew about the effective treatment in Brazil and wanted to try it on the animals. But how could they get those fish skins, since trade restrictions interfered? They bought fresh tilapia at the local fish market, skinned them (ate the good stuff), and set up the treatment.7 The results were better than expected.8 As someone who gets upset about animal suffering, I was thrilled by these reports. After all, Christians are stewards of God’s creation and should allay the pain of animals when we can.

Provisions of our Creator

God has provided us with many things in nature for food, clothing, medicines, and more. He also gave us minds to use, such as when people are inspired to copy nature through biomimetics. We see how a common fish that was eaten in Galilee can also provide healing benefits that were not realized for many years. The possibilities for treatment of severe burns are encouraging, and further clinical trials are likely. We must thank and praise God for the many provisions given to us, even in this fallen world.

References and notes

  1. The Sea of Galilee has several names in the Bible and elsewhere (Hebrew yam Kinneret יָם כִּנֶּרֶת,) Although it has Sea in its name, it is actually a freshwater lake, the lowest on Earth, and the second lowest lake after the ultra-salty Dead Sea. Return to text.
  2. Seafood Health Facts, seafoodhealthfacts.org, accessed 9 Nov 2018. Return to text.
  3. Tilapia Fish Farming, roysfarm.com, accessed 9 Nov 2018. Return to text.
  4. The Good Doctor, “Not Fake”, season 1 episode 6, 30 Oct 2017. Return to text.
  5. Ramsey, L., Doctors are trying an unorthodox approach to treat burn victims—using fish, businessinsider.com, 27 May 2017. Return to text.
  6. Coelho, J.T., Burns victim injured in horrific explosion has FISH SKIN wrapped over her wounds in pioneering new treatment, thesun.ie, 14 Dec 2016. Return to text.
  7. Zachos, E., Fish Skin Bandages Help Burned Bears and Cougar Heal, news.nationalgeographic.com, 25 Jan 2018. Return to text.
  8. Tilapia-skin bandages heal burns on black bears caught in California's Thomas Fire, Peter O'Dowd learns more from Jamie Peyton, wbur.org, accessed 3 Nov 2018. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Inspiration from Creation
by Professor Stuart Burgess & Dominic Statham
US $14.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Kathy K.
I’ve never heard of this. How absolutely interesting! Is this the only fish skin that can be used for this medical procedure? And an interesting bit about some varieties that brood their young in their mouth. And yet again about the miracle honey! Great article!!
Doug L.
Cichlid fish must be very interesting. This is the second time I've heard about them. Dr Arthur Jones, a UK creationist biologist gave a “Fish, Fossils, and Evolution” talk to the Edinburgh Creation Group (it’s on youtube.) He specialized in these fish and mentioned that the fish in Matthew 17 which had the coin in its mouth was most probably a tilapia. They frequently have things in their mouths because some varieties brood their young in their mouths and when the young get big enough, the mother will fill her mouth with objects such as pebbles (or a handy coin) to keep them out.
Jonathan Sarfati
I cited Dr Jones’ important work in The Genesis Account, and he was also a contributor to In Six Days (see his chapter).
Michael B.
I came across a paper discussing how tilapia change the protein expression in their gills to accommodate different concentrations of salt; this could be an interesting follow-on to this versatile fish.
I know that links aren't allowed here but if you would like to see the formal paper it is titled “Quantitative Molecular Phenotyping of Gill Remodeling in a Cichlid Fish Responding to Salinity Stress” [Ed.: Mol Cell Proteomics 12>(12):3962–75, Dec 2013 | doi: 10.1074/mcp.M113.029827.]
Your Brother in Christ,
Jonathan Sarfati
This further answers the question of how both freshwater and saltwater fish survived the Flood.
John C.
As a food fish, tilapia ranks low. Those sold in the U.S., primarily of the species Tilapia aurea, have a pretty, clean appearance, but are a bland, virtually tasteless fish requiring sauces or seasonings to give them some character. But they are very easy to raise in large quantities, which is why they are so extensively marketed.
John B.
If we look close enough we can see God’s hand in everything ! That “Tree Of Knowledge Of Good And Evil” that Eve brought into all of our lives is still, to this day providing knowledge. It is wonderful when the Holy Spirit uses a Christian like Cowboy Bob Sorensen to put that together with our savior. God is Good!!!
Henri D.
Fascinating! Thank you for this article. Who'd have thought? Practical, operational science strikes again, a blessing from the Creator Himself. Oh the eternal, all-encompassing and perfect wisdom of our Lord! He allows that humanity should experience the effects of their own sin, but He also provides the means by which to mitigate it, without compromising His own decree that we shall earn our bread by the sweat of our brows.
Luke M.
Fascinating, up there with the (now expensive to buy) Malukah ‘miracle’ honey also said to hold amazing health/healing benefits/properties. God is more than good to his creation.
Jonathan Sarfati
Are you sure this isn’t mānuka honey from New Zealand, made from nectar exclusively from the flowers of the mānuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium)? This has extra-high levels of the antibacterial compound methylglyoxal, made from the dihydroxyacetone from manuka nectar.

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