Have you ever seen the Christian symbol of the fish? Until a few days ago, I had no idea how this symbol had anything to do with Christians! I was reading my history and was learning about the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. During those times, the Christians made their own burial graves beneath the ground, called catacombs, where they would put the bodies of their friends and relatives. These catacombs also contain some of the earliest Christian art which illustrated their faith in Christ. One of the frequently found symbols on the walls of these catacombs is the fish. They used this symbol as a confession of their faith in Jesus Christ because the Greek word for fish is ichthus.
Iesous Christos, Theou Uios, Soter
Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior
Ingeniously, they used that word as an acrostic to proclaim the deity of Christ! I found this so intriguing, that I researched just a bit more about it online. I read that there may be a couple more reasons why the early Christians might have used the fish symbol:
1) Jesus chose fishermen to be some of His disciples and declared them to be "fishers of men," as all of His followers are to be.
2) The fish would not be an obvious Christian symbol to persecutors.
It is said that during the persecution of the early church, when a Christian met someone new, he would draw a single arc in the dirt or sand. If the other person was also a Christian, he would complete the arc, forming the shape of a fish. If he did not complete the symbol, the Christian would know he was not a believer.
This early symbol of the Christian faith endures today (though not as reverently) on bumper stickers, T-shirts, businesses, etc. as a sign of Christian faith.
Today, since it a well known Christian symbol, the fish is often seen with "Jesus" written on the inside or includes a cross. Unfortunately, there have been some spoofs made on this symbol, such as the "Darwin fish," which has legs.
Maybe you already knew this, but it excited me to learn the roots of this neat Christian symbol! And now that I know its history and meaning, it is much more meaningful to me. It is also a reminder of the amazing faith and endurance of the early Christians!
And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. (Mark 1:16-18)