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.
While many Christians hang a cross necklace or rosary inside their cars, the fish sticker on the car is said to be a more conscious symbol of a witnessing Christian. This is so because the sticker is on the outside of the car for everyone to see.
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.”
Ichthys Symbol – History And Meaning
If you want to learn more about the Ichthys symbol, read on to find out the meaning, history, and significance of this Christian symbol.
History of Ichthys Symbol
The ichthys has historical characteristics that attributed to the spread and unity of Christianity ages before it was the popular Christian fish symbol that we commonly see today.
The Ichthys symbol first appeared in Christian art and literature in the 2nd century AD. By the late 2nd century, the use of the symbol among Christians had become common, spreading widely in the 3rd and 4th centuries.
In the early Church, the ichthys symbol was deemed most sacred. Early Christians recognized churches and fellow believers through this symbol during the time they were being persecuted by the Roman Empire in the first 300 years after Christ.
Simply put, the ichthys symbol was used in place of the cross, to avoid drawing immediate and almost always fatal attention from the Romans.
Christians used the fish symbol to distinguish friends from foes, as well as to mark meeting places or church services and tombs. If a Christian encountered a stranger on the road, he would draw an arc of the basic fish outline on the ground. If the stranger drew the other arc, both would know they were both believers. This is said to be the origin of the modern practice of using the ichthys symbol for business cards and bumper stickers.
The Ichthys symbol has also become a reference to the Holy Eucharist, in connection with the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.
The Ichthys Symbol
The ichthys or Christian fish symbol, or simply Jesus fish, looks like a very simple hand-drawn fish. It sometimes comes with a cross for the eye and/or the name “Jesus” in its middle.
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.
Ichthys Symbol Meaning
We commonly see this fish symbol in the simple form below:
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 thus represents the torment early Christians were subjected to before Christianity was legalized by Emperor Constantine in 321 AD.