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.
A lamb is defenseless against any threat. It will likely pass on if you take it away from the flock. But there is a lot more to the lamb than just a cute animal or an expensive jacket (or a tasty dish!). It is not only easy to identify as a religious symbol, but it is also a popular motif that has been used in jewelry for more than two thousand years.
But how, exactly, did the lamb become such an ultimate symbol of Christ?
Lamb Symbol — History and Meaning
If you want to learn more about the Lamb symbol, read on to find out the meaning, history, and significance of this Christian symbol.
Lamb Symbol History
The sheep or lamb is an animal of ancient origin with its roots from around 8,000 BCE in Çatalhöyük in what is now Turkey.
The Sumerians had recorded the lamb in cuneiform. They had done this for the deities who represented or protected the flocks. The Sumerian people not only worshipped these gods, they also saw them as essential to the socio-economic growth of society.
The Egyptian god Khnum who was depicted with a ram’s head at the temples at Esna and Elephantine. He was one of the earliest deities believed to be the Nile River’s source, showing just how significant the lamb was to society.
In ancient times, lambs were used in sacrifices to deities. Both Greeks and Romans practiced animal sacrifice to their gods. The notion of animal sacrifice originated from this and it spread across cultures.
The lamb appears so many times in the Holy Bible.
The blood of a lamb was spread on the doorframes of the Israeli people so their homes would be passed over during the Ten Plagues of Egypt. This was the origin of the Passover.
The prophet Isaiah made a prophecy about the Lamb being led to the slaughter, referring to the crucifixion of Jesus, who was as defenseless as a lamb before the people. He was sacrificed as a lamb, liberating the world from sins and death. Here it’s shown how an animal so meek becomes a symbol of strength, conquering evil through the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life.
The Lamb Symbol
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.
Lamb Symbol Meaning
A lamb is a young sheep, but the word “lamb,” as defined in dictionaries, is also used to describe or address someone regarded with affection or pity. This is most commonly used to refer to a young child.
As the ultimate symbol of Jesus Christ, the lamb is 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.”