Explanation of the Ichthys Symbol and Acronym
Robert D. Luginbill
The fish, Greek ichthys
a symbol for Christ which has been in use since the days of the early church. In
Greek, it is an acronym for Jesus Christ, the Son of
God, our Savior:
The origin of this acronym is something else again. It is not in the Bible. No
one really knows who first came up with the acronym ICHTHYS standing for the
Greek words meaning "Jesus Christ, Son of God, [our] Savior", but probably none
of the apostles ever heard of it. We have some representations of the fish in
the catacombs as a Christian symbol (see the link:
"The Origin of the Name
'Christian'"), but never with any clear indication that it
has the meaning above (the early work "The Shepherd of Hermes" also uses the
fish). The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church posits the 2nd Cent. A.D.
as the time when this acronym first came into common use, but opinions are
divided. Of one thing we may be fairly sure: early Christians - as we do or should do
- sought to share their faith in Jesus Christ. They did not try to hide the
gospel "under a bushel". The idea that Christianity was a "secret society" and
that members communicated by secret signs with the fish being one such has no
basis in historical fact. Indeed, all we know about
martyrdom in the early
Church (see the link) suggests exactly the opposite: believers of that day were willing to give
their lives for the truth in which they had placed their faith. They were not
ashamed of being Christians and they did not feel any compunction to hide the
You may also find the following links useful:
Christology: the Study
of Jesus Christ.
Soteriology: the Study of Salvation
The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.
Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing.
Churches of Revelation: A Historical Map for the Church Age