“Symvolo” Christian Fish Symbol

In this whole session of “Symvolo” I will post about Symbols (Symvolo) that are used in the Church.
Let’s see what we mean when we say symbol. As most of you have probably guessed, the word symbol comes from the Greek word σύμβολον from the root words

συν-, meaning “together,” and βολή, “a throw”.

Thus, symbol has the approximate meaning of “to throw together”. So two things are brought together, first something that is real and second something that represents that which is real.

The Ancient Christians abounds with the use of symbols. These symbols are those realities which have the power and competence of manifesting God to men, signs which carry us beyond ourselves and themselves into the genuine union and knowledge of things eternal and divine. Symbols and signs of the Church serve as important and powerful tools for educating newly converted Christians. Sign which made Peter think about Gentiles, Sign which protected the believers during persecution, Sign which made Emperor Constantine a believer.

Signs from/of God have always been a part of Christian live.


Fish Symbol, I-ch-th-y-s

The fish’s first known use as a Christian religious symbol was sometime within the first three centuries AD. Christians began using the Greek word for “fish” as an anagram/acronym for “Jesus Christ God’s Son, Savior”.The fish outline is a logical symbol for the early Christian church to adopt. Not only was fish a common food of the day, it was also used by Jesus during His ministry.

Mark 1:17                   “Come after Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

Matthew 12:40          “Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Matthew 14:17          “And they said to Him, ‘We have here only five loaves and two fish.’”

Luke 5:6                     “And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.”

Luke 24:42                 “So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.”

John 21:6                   “And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.”

loaves and fish

In the years following the ascension of the resurrected Jesus to heaven, the Christian church grew rapidly. Christians soon found themselves to be the subjects of persecution by both the Romans and the Jews. In many nations, it became dangerous to be known as a Christian.

Thus, when two strangers met and thought maybe they were fellow believers, one of them would draw, on the ground, the upper half of the fish symbol.

1ST Half

drawing 2nd half fish

Recognizing the symbol, the stranger would add a second curved line and complete the drawing of a fish. It is a very simple shape to draw – just two curved strokes. It could be drawn quickly, and erased just as quickly if there was no sign of recognition on the part of the stranger.

A excavation of 3 ancient christian symbols Fish, Anchor and Chi rho

We do not know whether the story above is true but we do know that the fish’s first known use as a Christian religious symbol was sometime within the first three centuries AD. Possibly around the 16th century Christians began using the Greek word ichthys for “fish”. Ichthys is the most commonly used word in the New Testament for fish.

A Church roof with Fish design

Ichthys consists of five letters from the Greek alphabet: I-ch-th-y-s. When these five letters are used as initials for five words, we obtain this Christian Declaration: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter. This is an acrostic for ‘Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.’

IXQUS —– Ichthys —– Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior

I           Iota                 the first letter in the Greek word Iesous                   Jesus

X          Chi                   the first letter in the Greek word Christos                Christ

Q         Theta               the first letter in the Greek word Theos                    Of God

U          Upsilon           the first letter in the Greek word Yios (Huois)          Son

S          Sigma              the first letter in the Greek word Soter                      Savior

Greek meaning                                   Iesous Christos Theos Yios Soter

English transliteration                        Jesus Christ Of God Son Savior

Alpha symbol

The Greek symbol for Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, looks very much like the fish symbol.

Rev 22:13 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

to be continued …………………..

Rijo Geevarghese


Posted on January 13, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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