For as long as I can remember my mom had this wooden fish on the wall of our home. Since we were Christians, this seemed completely normal. I associated this carving with Jesus making us fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). In my mind, Jesus in the shape of a fish made sense. Jesus and fish go together.
We’ve all seen the fish symbol on countless cars. Anytime I see the little fish on a vehicle I know they are a Christian. It has become a universal symbol in modern American culture. The fish logo shows up on business advertising letting us know it’s a Christian owned company. Every color and version of a fish is used on bumper stickers, T-shirts, book marks, Bible covers, mugs, jewelry, and even tattoos.
The fish logo is easily identified with Christianity. But where did it come from? Why a fish?
First Century Christians were severely persecuted. Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire. Under Roman Emperor Nero, Christians were arrested, tortured, thrown to wild animals, and crucified. If you were a Christ Follower in the early days of the church, you were probably going to be killed. Many Christians went underground.
In order to reach out to to followers of Jesus Christ, a symbol was used. The fish symbol would be carved into doorways or on the road, to say that Christians were there. The fish was chosen because it could go unrecognized. Several pagan religions at the time used a fish symbol, so it wasn’t given a second look.
The Greek word for fish is ichthys or ichthus.
I – Iota or Iesous – Jesus
X – Chi or Christos – Christ
Θ – Theta or Theos – of God
Y – Upsilon or Yios – Son
Σ– Sigma or Soter – Savior
The Greek letters form an acrostic which translates to Jesus Christ Son of God, Savior.
During those oppressive years in Ancient Rome, if there was a meeting between two Christians, one person would draw an arc in the dirt. If the other person was truly a Christian, they would draw another arc, completing the fish logo.
In Ancient Ephesus the early Christians used a pizza looking symbol to share the same message, Jesus Christ son of God, Savior. These circular symbols can be found in what remains of Ephesus today. The same pizza-like symbols are in a few spots near The Forum in Rome. The pizza shape hid the Greek letters for fish.
Early Christians risked everything to share The Good News of Jesus Christ. Many gave their lives so that message could go around the globe. I am a Christian because of Jesus. He came to seek and save the lost, which is all of us.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10, NIV
The thought of those early Jesus Followers risking everything to live out their faith is inspiring. I wouldn’t know Jesus as my Savior without them. It started with Jesus and His completed work on the cross, and spread through the first disciples like Peter and Paul. Then it just kept going through poor people, rich people, enslaved people, and ordinary people. So many gave their lives to spread the message that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:16, NIV
In America I am free to practice my religion. This is not the case around the world. Christian persecution is happening in many places like China, India, and Iran. Christians are still being killed for their faith today. If you live in a country where you are free to worship Jesus without fear of death, thank God! If you are living in a persecuted country, God bless and protect you!
The next time you see a little metal fish on the back of a vehicle say a prayer for the persecuted church around the globe. They are our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
Love you all,
Thank you for sending your son, Jesus, to save us. Thank you for the faithfulness of the early church. Please protect and bless our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. Use each of us to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. Equip us Father, to do your will.