Saturday, April 30, 2011

I = Ichthus

You may know it as the Jesus fish. You have seen it on vehicles, on clothes, on jewelry, on business advertisements, and possibly many more places. Do you really know what it is, though?

ψάρια (ikhthýs) is a Greek word meaning "fish." You may know that fish are a prevalent thing in the Bible, both actual fish and fish used as a metaphor. Some say that the Greek word in capital letters is ΙΧΘΥΣ, which can also be used as an acronym meaning, "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior."

I found the following explanation here.
  • Iesous (Iasoos) is Jesus. The first letter is ‘iota’, Ιησους.
  • Xristos (Christos) is Christ. The first letter is ‘chi’, Χριστóς.
  • Theou (Theou) is God. The first letter is ‘theta’, Θεοῦ.
  • Yios (Huios) is Son. The first letter is ‘upsilon’, Υἱός.
  • Sotare (Sotare) is Savior. The first letter is sigma’, Σωτήρ.
Today many Christians display this symbol as a proclamation that they are followers of Christ. Additionally, some display it as reminders that Jesus calls us to be fishers of men, to share Christ with others.

I have read several places that this symbol was originated in the first and second centuries when Christians were being commonly persecuted, tortured, and put to death during the reign of Roman emperors that despised them, possibly starting with Nero, under whose reign both Peter and Paul are thought to have perished.

How did this symbol come to be? It is said that when two people met, one of them might casually draw an arc in the sand or dirt with their toe. If the other person was also a Christian, they would just as casually draw another arc with their toe, thus creating the fish symbol. If that was done, then both people know that they were safe to acknowledge that they were Christians and talk freely amongst themselves.

If you are curious to know more about the ichthus (or ichthys), I encourage you to research it. So many every day things have such interesting backgrounds about which we could learn so much if we want to!

Oh, and for a neat bonus, I discovered the ichthus wheel. When you combine the Greek letters of ΙΧΘΥΣ, they make a six-spoked wheel. Apparently, this symbol can sometimes be seen with the ichthus and the Greek letters.


  1. Very cool Dawnmarie! I love an informative post :)

  2. Really interesting stuff, thanks Dawnmarie! Its always great to see a car drive past with the fish sympbol on. Blessings, Mike

  3. While reading this, I remember when the fish symbol was on a lot of cars, then the atheists decided to get cute and put Darwin's name in the symbol, which later was followed by a bigger fish symbol eating the Darwin fish. LOL how my mind wanders.

    Blessings Sis, Great Post.

  4. This article made my top 10 articles of the week. Keep up the good work my friend.

  5. This is awesome Dawn. I've long made the correlation of Jesus to the Icthus fish, but never knew the history.

    Thanks for the enlightening read!

    The Signs Daily - Bible study that won't leave you behind!

  6. Interesting post. I recently had a student do a PowerPoint presentation on ancient Christian symbolism and she showed the class some photos she took during her travels. One of them was the ichthus wheel carved on some ancient ruins. Kind of cool how I came across your post shortly thereafter.


    Apologetics Guy