The pre-Christian history of the fish symbol:

The fish symbol has been used for millennia worldwide as a religious symbol associated with the Pagan Great Mother Goddess. It is the outline of her genetalia. The fish symbol was often drawn by overlapping two very thin crescent moons. One represented the crescent shortly before the new moon; the other shortly after, when the moon is just visible. The Moon is the heavenly body that has long been associated with the Goddess, just as the sun is a symbol of the God.

The link between the Goddess and fish was found in various areas of the ancient world:


In China, Great Mother Kwan-yin often portrayed in the shape of a fish


In India, the Goddess Kali was called the "fish-eyed one"


In Egypt, Isis was called the Great Fish of Abyss


In Greece the Greek word "delphos" meant both fish and womb. The word is derived from the location of the ancient Oracle at Delphi who worshipped the original fish goddess, Themis. The later fish Goddess, Aphrodite Salacia, was worshipped by her followers on her sacred day, Friday. They ate fish and engaging in orgies. From her name comes the English word "salacious" which means lustful or obscene. Also from her name comes the name of our fourth month, April. In later centuries, the Christian church adsorbed this tradition by requiring the faithful to eat fish on Friday - a tradition that was only recently abandoned.


In ancient Rome Friday is called "dies veneris" or Day of Venus, the Pagan Goddess of Love.


Throughout the Mediterranean, mystery religions used fish, wine and bread for their sacramental meal.


In Scandinavia, the Great Goddess was named Freya; fish were eaten in her honor. The 6th day of the week was named "Friday" after her.


In the Middle East, the Great Goddess of Ephesus was portrayed as a woman with a fish amulet over her genitals.

The fish symbol "was so revered throughout the Roman empire that Christian authorities insisted on taking it over, with extensive revision of myths to deny its earlier female-genital meanings...Sometimes the Christ child was portrayed inside the vesica, which was superimposed on Mary's belly and obviously represented her womb, just as in the ancient symbolism of the Goddess." 4 Another author writes: "The fish headdress of the priests of Ea [a Sumero-Semitic God] later became the miter of the Christian bishops." 5

The symbol itself, the eating of fish on Friday and the association of the symbol with deity the symbol itself, the eating of fish on Friday and the association of the symbol with deity were all taken over by the early Church from Pagan sources. Only the sexual component was deleted.

Ichthys (Greek: χθύς, capitalized ΙΧΘΥΣ; also transliterated and Latinized as ichthys, icthus, ichthus or ichthus; ichthus), is the Ancient and Classical Greek word for "fish." In English it refers to a symbol consisting of two intersecting arcs, the ends of the right side extending beyond the meeting point so as to resemble the profile of a fish, said to have been used by early Christians as a secret symbol and now known colloquially as the "Jesus fish"." Greek χθύς is an acronym (or backronym) of ησος Χριστός, Θεο Υός, Σωτήρ "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Saviour."Ichthys is also the son of Atargatis.

Ichthus as a Christian symbol

Symbolic meaning

An early circular ichthys symbol, created by combining the Greek letters ΙΧΘΥΣ, Ephesus.

An early circular (Ichthys symbol), created by combining the Greek letters ΙΧΘΥΣ, Ephesus.

The use of the Ichthys symbol by early Christians appears to date from the end of the 1st century AD. Ichthus (ΙΧΘΥΣ, Greek for fish) is an acronym, a word formed from the first letters of several words. It compiles to "Jesus Christ God Son Saviour", in ancient Greek "ησος Χριστός, εο Υός, Σωτήρ"

  • Iota is the first letter of Iesous (Ιησους), Greek for Jesus.
  • Chi is the first letter of Christos (Χριστóς), Greek for "anointed".
  • Theta is the first letter of Theou (Θεο), genitive case of Θεóς "God".
  • Upsilon is the first letter of Huios (Υός), Greek for Son.
  • Sigma is the first letter of Soter (Σωτήρ
  • ), Greek for Saviour.

Historically, twentieth century use of the ichthys motif is an adaptation based on an Early Christian symbol which included a small cross for the eye or the Greek letters "ΙΧΘΥΣ".

An ancient adaptation of ichthus is a wheel which contains the letters ΙΧΘΥΣ superimposed such that the result resembles an eight-spoked wheel.

Fish in the Gospels

Fish are mentioned and given symbolic meaning several times in the Gospels. Several of Jesus' twelve disciples were fishermen. He commissions them with the words "I will make you fishers of men."At the feeding of the five thousand, a boy is brought to Jesus with "five small loaves and two fishes". The question is asked "But what are they, among so many?" Jesus multiplies the loaves and fish to feed the multitude.In the Gospel of Matthew, 13:47-50, Jesus compares God's decision on who will go to heaven or to hell ("the fiery furnace") at the end of this world to fishers sorting out their catch, keeping the good fish and throwing the bad fish away.

In the Gospel of John, 21:11, it is related that the disciples fished all night but caught nothing. Jesus instructed them to cast the nets on the other side of the boat, and they drew in 153 fish. It has been observed that, like many other numbers given in the Bible, this number is associated with a mystic property, in this case the vertical ratio of the vesica piscis.A less commonly cited use of fish in Christ's life may be found in the words of Matthew 17:24-27, in which, upon being asked if his Teacher does not pay the temple (two-drachma) tax, Simon Peter answers, "Yes." Christ tells Peter to go to the water and cast a line. He says that a coin sufficient for the tax will be found in the fish's mouth. Peter does as told, and does find the coin.

The early Christian church

Societies of Christians in Hellenistic Greece and Roman Greece, prior to the Edict of Milan, protected their congregations by keeping their meetings secret. In order to point the way to ever-changing meeting places, they developed a symbol which adherents would readily recognize, and which they could scratch on rocks, walls and the like, in advance of a meeting. At the time, a similar symbol was used by Greeks to mark the location of a funeral, so using the ichthys also gave an apparent legitimate reason for Christians to gather[citation needed]. Another story suggests that the Ichthys was used as a sort of secret handshake: one person would draw with a staff, or even a leg a single curve, (half of the Ichthys) in the sand, and another person could confirm their identity as a Christian by completing the symbol[citation needed]. Alternatively, one would draw the symbol, and another person would confirm their faith by drawing an eye on it[citation needed].

Funerary stele with the inscription ΙΧΘΥΣ ΖΩΝΤΩΝ ("fish of the living"), early 3rd century, National Roman Museum

Funerary stele with the inscription ΙΧΘΥΣ ΖΩΝΤΩΝ ("fish of the living"), early 3rd century, National Roman Museum

There are several other hypotheses as to why the fish was chosen. Some sources indicate that the earliest literary references came from the recommendation of Clement of Alexandria to his readers (Paedagogus, III, xi) to engrave their seals with the dove or fish. However, it can be inferred from Roman monumental sources such as the Capella Greca and the Sacrament Chapels of the catacomb of St. Callistus that the fish symbol was known to Christians much earlier. This Christian symbol might well have been intended to oppose or protest the pagan apotheosis of the Roman emperor during the reign of Domitian (AD 81 - AD 96). Coins found in Alexandria referred to him as Theou Huios (Son of God). In fact, even earlier, since the death and deification of Julius Caesar, Augustus (Octavian) already styled himself as divi filius, son of the divine (Julius), and struck coins to that effect. This practice was also carried on by some of the later emperors. Another probable explanation is that it is a reference to the scripture in which Jesus miraculously feeds 5,000 people with fish and bread (Mark 6:30-44, Matthew 14:15-21, Luke 9:12-17, and John 6:4-13). The Ichthys may also relate to Jesus or his disciples as "fishers of men" (e.g., Mark 1:17). Tertullian, in his treatise On Baptism, makes a pun on the word, writing that "we, little fishes, after the example of our ΙΧΘΥΣ Jesus Christ, are born in water" (1).

Some theories about the Historicity of Jesus suggest that Christianity adopted certain beliefs and practices as a syncretism of certain mystery religions such as Mithraism, and that this may be the origin of the Ichthys in Christian circles.

Revival and adaptations of the symbol

The Fish Mission

The 20th century popular revival of the Ichthys symbol dates from 1965. At this time the Evangelical Union at Sydney University, a branch of the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students, confronted by the disenchantment of students brought on by the Vietnam War and a perceived anti-Christian sentiment within the university, held a mission to students. The committee in charge of the promotions of the activity looked for a symbol which was distinctly Christian and which might excite curiosity by its apparent novelty and decided upon this ancient sign, which was drawn simply with two arcs, and no inscription.Traditionally, up-coming events at the university were advertised in chalk on the bitumen paths. The campaign for the Fish Mission began by drawing the Ichthus symbol on pavements all around the university. [2] Silk-screen prints in bright colours on a white background were stuck with flour glue to the rises of walkway stairs throughout the campus. The unexplained early campaign provoked much speculation and interest. Querulous cartoons appeared in the student newspaper Honi Soit. As the advertising campaign progressed, more information was revealed.Following the success of the Fish Mission publicity campaign, the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students used the symbol more widely on campuses around Australia. From Christian Unions of students it quickly spread to the churches.

Ichthys in popular culture

The "Jesus Fish" has become an icon of modern Christianity. Today, it can be seen as a decal or emblem on the rear of automobiles as a sign to the world that the owner is a Christian. It is incorporated into business logos or in business advertisements and listings in telephone books. It is also seen on clothing. Versions of this include an Ichthys with "Jesus" or "ΙΧΘΥΣ" in the center, or simply the Ichthys outline by itself. This badge may also be seen in e-mail signatures with the symbols


Iesous (Jesus) Christos (Christ) Theou (God) Uiou (Son) Soter (Savior).



Jesus Christ, of God , the Son, the Savior


Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Savior."


REF : Wikipedia