Fish (Ichthus) as an Early Christian Symbol

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

The fish symbol is an ancient one in Christianity, representing both Jesus and his followers. Jesus had told Peter, "I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). But the fish through an acrostic also became a symbol of Jesus himself. The ICHTHUS symbol helped Christians identify one another as believers.

Two fish and anchor in the catacomb of Domitilla
Two fish and anchor in the catacomb of Domitilla in Rome. It is the epitaph for one named Antonia. Notice the presence of another important early church symbol -- the anchor -- located between the two fish. Another.

Anchor, fish, and Chi-Rho symbols from the Catacombs of St. Sebastian. Another.

Bread and Fish, Cubicle of the Sheep, Catacomb of Saint Callixtus, Rome, Italy. Colored fresco. In another place this is identified as "Eucharistic fish" with the basket of bread and glass of red wine (Crypts of Lucina, cubiculum Y, beginning of the third century). Another.

Mosaics of Fish

Mosaic of Fish, unknown location.

Mosaic of fish in the floor of Westminster Cathedral, UK.

ICHTHUS acrostic (fish) from the catacombs
The Greek name for "fish" is Ichthus, or in Greek characters ΙΧΘΥC. This formed an acrostic, each letter standing for a word: "Jesus Christ God Son Savior" -- an early Christian confession of faith. Found in the catacombs.

Mosaic of two fish in floor of an ancient church found October 2005, discovered in the grounds of the Megiddo prison, near the Biblical site of Armageddon. The ruins are believed to date back to the third or fourth century and include references to Jesus and images of fish.

Mosaic of fish, unknown location

Iscrizione di Teodoro, con pesce. Dice: " Viviamo in Dio". Roma catacomba di Priscilla

Ichthus Symbol (sometimes spelled Icthus)

 

Іησους Χριστος Θεος Υίος Σωτηρ

 JESUS

CHRIST

GOD

SON

SAVIOR

Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua which means "The Lord saves" .

Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. Jesus was the Christ, or the Messiah, promised to Israel and to the world.

Jesus is God

Jesus is also the Son of God

Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world 

Matthew 1:20-21

Matthew 16:13-20

John 1:1-4

John 1:32-34

Romans 10:9-10

 

Copyright © 1985-2017, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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