Looking for Christian symbols and their meanings?
Christianity is the world’s largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers from all over the world. It follows and revolves around the life of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Son of God. The religion was founded in the 1st century in the Roman province of Judea.
As the most culturally diverse religion, Christianity also has differenct branches which includes the Roman Catholic, the Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox churches and other smaller sects.
There are several symbols that represent the Christian religion over the centuries. These markings, identifiers, and distinguishing signs have represented the Christian faith.
Christian Symbols And Their Meanings
If you want to learn more about how the Christian symbols came to be and their significance to the world’s largest religion, here are the most popular symbols of Christianity and their meanings.
Star of David Symbol
The Star of David is also called the Shield of David, or Magen David in Hebrew. It is a recognized symbol of Jewish identity and Judaism but it is also used as a Christian symbol.
This hexagram shape has been called the Star of David since the 17th century. According to some researchers, the hexagram represents the astrological chart at the time of either David’s birth or his anointment as king. This is why in astrological circles, hexagram is also called the “King’s Star”.
Throughout human history, the Star of David symbol has been used in various motifs. It was used as a decoration in medieval Christian churches centuries before its first known use in a Jewish synagogue.
In Christianity, this hexagram-shaped symbol is sometimes referred to as the “star of creation.”
The Star of David are sometimes found in stained-glass windows of some Christian churches. One of the oldest existing examples of this can be found in Winchester Cathedral in England. It has been featured in one of the canopies of the choir stalls since about 1308.
In other Christian sects, the Star of David symbol is representative of God reaching down to man and man reaching up to God, which is the union of Heaven and earth.
The hexagram symbol may also symbolize the Tribes of Israel and their friendship and affinity towards the Jewish people, as well as a symbol for the Big Dipper that points to the North Star, which is a symbol of Jesus Christ.
Baptismal Cross Symbol
For Christians, the cross is the ultimate symbol of Christianity. During baptism, the priest makes the sign of the cross over the child because of the Christian belief that the said sign invokes God’s protection.
The sign of the cross is paired with the oil at baptism, which is symbolic of bringing together the person or child being baptized and the Holy Spirit. Light, on the other hand, is symbolized in the form of a candle.
The baptismal cross consists of the Greek cross with the Greek letter X which is the first initial of the name “Christ.” This cross is a symbol of regeneration in many religions, including Christianity.
Although the baptismal cross is not a very commonly-used symbol, it is associated with baptism due to the said symbolic representation of regeneration.
The eight points or arms of the baptismal cross in Catholicism represent both the age of baptism in the Church, which is within eight days of birth, and the eight-day interval between Christ’s entry into Jerusalem and his resurrection. The number eight is also connected to the “eighth day” of the week or Christ’s resurrection.
Today, however, the eight-pointed cross is more commonly used as a symbol for Neo-Gnosticism. Gnostics borrowed the symbol to represent the eight Aeons, as well as resurrection.
The lamb is a harmless little animal that has become one of the most popularly used symbols in Christianity. It is present all throughout salvation history.
The lamb is the ultimate symbol of Christ, the “Lamb of God,” representing him as both suffering and victorious.
Although the lamb is best identified with Christ, this symbol has also been employed to denote the Christians who are often referred to as sheep tended to by the Good Shepherd who is Jesus Christ himself.
The lamb, or young sheep, is easily handled. This is why lambs were the animal used in ancient blood rites and offerings to gods. It’s no wonder the lamb became a favorite symbol of the early Church, evoked as a representation of Christ and the crucifixion.
Since the lamb is a sacrificial animal, the lamb may also symbolize purity, as well as innocence and gentleness. It is also representative of meekness, humility, and forgiveness.
As the ultimate symbol of Jesus Christ, the lamb is also defined as “the pure life and sustenance of Being.” It is symbolic of the final atonement for sins, which was manifested when Jesus died on the cross, as the “sacrificial lamb.”
Tau Cross Symbol
The tau cross is a T-shaped cross, commonly depicted with expanded three ends. It is called a “tau cross” because it resembles the shape of the Greek letter tau in an upper-case form, which looks similar to the Latin letter T.
The tau cross is the emblem used by the Franciscan Order, founded by Saint Francis of Assisi, hence this symbol is also called the Franciscan cross.
The tau cross is a very ancient symbol, also known by various names such as the crux commissa, the anticipatory cross, the advent cross, Franciscan cross, and St. Anthony’s cross. It is also called the crutch cross because of its resemblance to the crutch (walking aid).
While the New Testament of the Holy Bible is represented by the Latin cross, the tau cross symbolizes the Old Testament.
The tau cross symbol denotes immortality and life in general. When used in marking on Ash Wednesday, however, the cross serves as a reminder of one’s mortality (hence, ash) and penance for their sins.
The tau cross is also the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, signifying the fulfillment of the revealed Word of God.
The Ichthys or ichthus is a symbol comprised of two arcs crossing, with the ends of the right side reaching past the meeting point to resemble the profile of a fish.
Ichthys, the Greek word for “fish,” is the term made into an abbreviation for “Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter.” This phrase translates to “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”
The Ichthys symbol was employed by early Christians as a secret symbol. Today it is referred to by some as the “Jesus fish” or the “sign of the fish.”
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus used the fish to describe “the sign of Jonah.” This symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ, upon which the whole Christian faith is based.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus again used the symbolism of fish to commission his 12 Apostles by saying, “I will make you fishers of men.”
It has been speculated that the ichthys symbol may refer to the astrological age of Pisces, which was marked by the birth of Jesus. Hence, this symbol may have been employed to denote the starting of a new age.
Chi Rho Symbol
Chi Rho, pronounced as “KEE-roe,” is an old Christian symbol—a Christian monogram or Christogram formed by combining the first two letters of the Greek word Christos, which means “Christ.”
The Chi Rho symbol was employed by early Christians to symbolize both Jesus Christ and Christianity. It is attributed to Constantine I, the Roman Emperor who used it as a military symbol.
This symbol exists today in numerous variations. It has also lead to the modern practice of using the letter X in “Xmas,” the abbreviation for “Christmas.”
The Chi Rho is a monogram of Christ, sometimes referred to as the Christogram, Chrismon, or Labarum.
The Chi Rho symbol is a combination of two Greek letters to create a symbol that is similar to the English letter P overlaid with the letter X. These Greek letters chi and rho are at the beginning of ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ or “Christos,” which translates to “Christ” in English.
Although the dove symbol has been used in paganism, it is recognized better as a Christian sign.
The image of a dove with an olive branch in its beak comes from the book of Genesis, in the story of Noah.
At the end of the deluge, Noah sends a dove to see if the waters have receded. The bird comes back with an olive branch, signifying that the land is now dry.
The dove is seen as a predestined symbol by which John the Baptist would recognize the Messiah. When Jesus was baptized, he went up straight out of the water and the heavens were opened unto him, then the Spirit of God descended like a dove lighting upon him.
The symbol of dove with an olive branch has been used as a symbol of peace since the early times of Christianity, originating from Noah’s dove after the great deluge.
The Anchor Symbol
The anchor symbolizes moving forward from a place or a certain period in life by embarking on a new journey the way a ship sets sail when its anchor is lifted from the water.
This symbol represents brave decisions and new adventures or new voyages – things we hope for and look forward to.
As a Christian symbol, the anchor does not only represent hope but strength as well because an anchor holds a ship in place as it braves the storm.
And since it also resembles the cross, the anchor was used to mark houses as safe for early Christians looking for a place of refuge, becoming a Christian symbol of safety and security.
The anchor symbol is indicative of how Christians should not sway when persecuted. It has come to symbolize salvation and steadfastness or being firmly anchored in our beliefs, in the same manner that Christians were while under Roman persecution.