We, little fishes, after the image of our Ichthys, Jesus Christ, are born in the water. – Tertullian
Ichthys or Ichthus
Is defined as a symbol where two intersecting arcs extend beyond where they meet so as to resemble the profile of a fish, a symbol of Christianity. In Greek, the letters: I.C.H.T.H.Y.S. or I.C.H.T.H.U.S. actually spell out:
- Iota (I): Jesus
- Chi (CH): Christ
- Theta (TH): God’s
- Upsilon (Y): Son
- Sigma (S): Savior
Why the Ichthys is a Symbol of Jesus Christ
There are many references in the Bible to fish – here are four:
- Five Loaves 🥖 and Two Fish 🐟
- Apostles were made fishermen
- Fish caught up in the net
- Jonah swallowed up by the whale
Mark 6:41 And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all.
Matthew 4:19 And He said unto them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Explanation
In John 21:1-14, you can read how Jesus performs the miracle of the catching of the fish. We learn in this example that all things are possible with God.
You can read the short book of Jonah and understand what makes God’s love so grand and beautiful for us.
Origin of the Ichthys
Some say that before the Christians adopted the ichthys symbol, the fish was used by the pagans. They say the ichthys was the offspring of the ancient sea goddess, Atargatis, whom is also the “Great Mother” to the Celts.
The spiral goddess symbol was the natural life force of women; symbolizing both the womb and birth; or the womb and the dolphin; it also meant reincarnation.
In the years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christians were persecuted for their faith. Many who feared persecution would mark their doors with the ichthys as a way to communicate with other believers in Christ.
It is said that when Christians would approach strangers on the road, they’d draw one arch of the fish, and if the stranger drew the other arch, completing the fish; both knew they were in good company.
The ichthus is similar in shape to the first letter in the Greek alphabet, the alpha.
I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. -Jesus Revelations 22:13
So yes, even though the Ichthus may have been first used by the pagans, Christians made this fish symbol as we know it today – the symbol of Christ, the symbol of our faith.