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#41 - Explanation of the Christian fish symbol

by Robert Nguyen Cramer

This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.


Question/insight #41: "Everywhere I go I see cars with that little fish symbol on them. I see this symbol on religious sites also. I know it has something to do with saying you believe in God, but where did this practice originate and what does it mean when you display this emblem."

Response #41:

The fish's first known use as a Christian and/or Jewish religious symbol was sometime within the first three centuries AD. Possibly around the 15th century, Christians began using the Greek word for "fish" as an anagram/acronym for "Jesus Christ God's Son, Savior." The Greek word for fish is ichthus, spelled in Greek as i-ch-th-u-s (iota-chi-theta-upsilon-sigma), as shown below.

In The Riddle of the 'Labarum' and the Origin of Christian Symbols, (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1966, pages 28, 37-39), George Pitt-Rivers writes:

Most of Pitt-River's above skeptical assertions and extensive details are neither corroborated, denied, or even cited by any other resources readily available to me. Typical of other sources, Harper’s Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985) simply states:


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Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer
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