The fish, as a symbol in Christianity is nearly as old as the Christian faith itself. The sign is seen in the past on things like art and architecture and today it endures on things like bumper stickers and business cards as a sign of Christian faith.


Ichthus (ikh-thoos) or ichthysis the Greek word simply meaning "fish".

The Greek spellingfor ichthus is -- These are the first letters of the Greek words Iesous (Iota), Christos (Chi), Theou (Theta), Uios (Upsilon), and Sotor (Sigma). IXOYE.  ICHTUS works as an acrostic for:

I = Jesus, C = Christ, TH = God's,

U = Son, S = Savior

The fish is thought to have been chosen by the early Christians for several reasons: The fish would not be an obvious Christian symbol to persecutors; It is said that during the persecution of the early church,  a Christian meeting someone new would draw a single arc in the sand.


 If the other individual was a Christian, he or she would complete the drawing of a fish with a second arc.


 If the second person was not a Christian, the ambiguity of the half-symbol would not reveal the first person as a Christian.

During the reign of Emperor Nero (54 A.D.- 68 A.D.), and throughout the reign of subsequent emperors of the Roman Empire, Christians were commonly persecuted, tortured, and put to death because of their faith in Christ Jesus. When Rome nearly burned to the ground  in A.D. 64, Romans blamed their eccentric emperor for starting the fire so that he could build himself a larger palace. Nero used Christians as a scapegoat and blamed them for the great fire.  Nero sent his police to arrest Christians to bring them to trial.  Roman soldiers were stationed everywhere to keep order and to act as police. When a soldier spotted someone he suspected as Christian, he would arrest them and bring them in for interrogation. Or, if someone accused another person of being a Christian,  that person was arrested.  The test to determine if a person was a Christian?  Each individual, man, woman or child was given the opportunity to worship the emperor (in the form of a statue) or the Roman gods. If they refused to worship Nero or the Roman gods, they were then tortured to obtain the names of other Christians and Christian leaders. The church quickly went into hiding, often in the extensive catacombs beneath Rome.  Church services were no longer held in homes.  Instead, they were held in burial chambers in the catacombs or old storage rooms.  To conceal the meetings, signs were developed to help point the way to meeting places.

The fish symbol, cross and other symbols were was often used to point to the direction of  a Christian meeting.  For example, when Christians were meeting in the catacombs a fish symbol would be chalked on the wall's of the catacombs and the church members instructed to, "follow the way the nose of the fish points, or the way the tail points"  to the meeting place.

Christians would also draw an ichthus on the wall of their home or business, in the dirt, mud or sand.  The symbol was placed there to let another Christian's know that they too was a fellow believer of Christ and that it was safe to talk about their faith without the fear of being turned in.  Unfortunately, thousands of Christians were still rounded up in Nero's persecution.  They met their deaths in the arena as sport for the Romans.  The devil was working hard to stamp out Christianity.  The interesting part is, instead of killing Christianity it made it grow.  The early church had a saying, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."  The witness of Christians heroically and peacefully accepting  the worst possible torture and death intrigued non Christians to learn about Christ!   Christianity is an enigma that defies reason.  The more the devil persecutes the church, the faster it grows.  To learn more about early Christian history and persecution read Foxes book of martyrs.  While you are learning, keep in mind that history repeats itself.

Refecting Christ's Light



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