In the United States, you've probably seen it. Many Christians like to put a fish on their cars to show their faith.

What is the origin of this symbol?


The fish or "Ikthyus" is Greek, is a very ancient symbol. In addition to the obvious parallels with Jesus commissioning the disciples as "fishers of men," there was another reason for using the fish.

The phrase -

Jesus Christ God('s) Son Savior

is in Greek

Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ

ΊΧΘΥΣ (the first letter of each word, pronounced 'Ikthyus') also means fish.

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Before the 4th. cent. the name of the Lord, and of God were considered to be too sacred to be written down anywhere. So these names do not appear in the early Bibles. Instead "nomina sacra" were written. Whenever The Master was referenced in the Gospel it was usually written as IC with a bar over it to identify it as a metaphor. When the Gospel was read to the followers a non-sacred name was spoken in its place, such as (from the NT) Master (Jo 4:31), Rabbi (Jo 1:38), or Teacher (Jo 3:2). You will notice that in the NT no disciple ever calls the Master by His sacred name. Only those possessed by devils called Him by name Mt 8:28 (having unclean spirit Mr 5:2 - 14.)

The Fish was another metaphor which could be written or painted without being sacrilegious.

See Affable Geek answer also (above.)

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  • Note that IC with a titulus (overbar) over it isn't really a "metaphor", but an abbreviation: the first and the last letters of Jesus's name in greek are iota and sigma (this last one was in Late Antiquity and Byzantine times written as a C, the so-called lunate sigma). Even today you can see in Byzantine icons the letters ΙϹ ΧϹ, short for ΙΗϹΟΥϹ ΧΡΙϹΤΟϹ, Jesus Christ. – Wtrmute Mar 8 '17 at 13:00

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