1:17 Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.” 1 1:18 They left their nets immediately and followed him. 2 1:19 Going on a little farther, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother in their 3 boat mending nets. 1:20 Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
1 tn The Greek term ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpos) is used here in a generic sense, referring to both men and women, thus “people.”
sn The kind of fishing envisioned was net – not line – fishing (cf. v. 16; cf. also BDAG 55 s.v. ἀμφιβάλλω, ἀμφίβληστρον) which involved a circular net that had heavy weights around its perimeter. The occupation of fisherman was labor-intensive. The imagery of using a lure and a line (and waiting for the fish to strike) is thus foreign to this text. Rather, the imagery of a fisherman involved much strain, long hours, and often little results. Jesus’ point may have been one or more of the following: the strenuousness of evangelism, the work ethic that it required, persistence and dedication to the task (often in spite of minimal results), the infinite value of the new “catch” (viz., people), and perhaps an eschatological theme of snatching people from judgment (cf. W. L. Lane, Mark [NICNT], 67). If this last motif is in view, then catching people is the opposite of catching fish: The fish would be caught, killed, cooked, and eaten; people would be caught so as to remove them from eternal destruction and to give them new life.
2 sn The expression followed him pictures discipleship, which means that to learn from Jesus is to follow him as the guiding priority of one’s life.
3 tn Or “a boat.” The phrase ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ (en tw ploiw) can either refer to a generic boat, some boat (as it seems to do in Matt 4:21); or it can refer to “their” boat, implying possession. Mark assumes a certain preunderstanding on the part of his readers about the first four disciples and hence the translation “their boat” is justified (cf. also v. 20 in which the “hired men” indicates that Zebedee’s family owned the boats).