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January 6, 2010

Miraculous Sheatfish of the Jordan River

Jordan River Catfish

In the Jordan River, where the baptism of Christ took place, there exist a large species of fish of approximately three feet in length known as Sheatfish (Gr. Γουλιανοί) or Siluridae, a member of the Catfish family. These fish are characterized especially by their large head and six barbels which resemble cat's whiskers. They can be found in many rivers and lakes, however the Sheatfish in the Jordan bare one distinguishing characteristic that appears to have a supernatural origin.

On the head of the Sheatfish in the Jordan, if one removes the skin and observes the bone on the head, one can see a peculiar image measuring about a span. The image in the middle is in the shape of a man, on the left and right of the man there is a separation with the image of angels with wings, above the head of the man appears to be a dove with open wings, and on the two sides of the dove there appear flames coming down.

In other words, Orthodox faithful have proclaimed this strange occurrence a miracle because it depicts the baptism of Christ, and this phenomenon appears in no other fish of the same species anywhere in the world. This is exactly how the baptism of Christ is traditionally depicted in Orthodox iconography. Because the Jordan River flows into Lake Gennesaret, these fish appear there as well. Interestingly, because these fish are not kosher, Jewish fisherman do not handle or eat them but when caught they are thrown back into the Jordan.

Pious Christians consider it a great blessing to receive the skull of these Sheatfish from the Jordan River. It is a custom among them to color in with paint the image on the skull so as to make the image more clearly visible.

For another miracle of the Jordan River associated with Theophany, see here.