The Fish (ichthys) and
the Messianic Seal
ICHTHYS, iχθύς is Greek and translates "fish". It is said that in the time of persecution, the first Christians used the fish as a secret symbol: If they were not sure if a particular unknown person was a fellow believer in Christ or not, they would draw an arc in the sand. If the unknown person would complete the symbol by drawing an intersecting arc, thus depicting a fish, they disclosed their identity of being a Christian.
The symbol of the fish had not been chosen by accident, yet it expressed two meanings. On one hand it referred to Mark 1:17, when Jesus required of Simon (who later became Peter) and his brother Andrew, who were both fishing at lake Galilee, to follow Him and said to them that He will be making them fishers of men. And on the other hand, the initials of the Greek word iχθύς formed their faith confession:
Ιησούς - Iesóus - Jesus
Χριστός - Christós - Christ [the "Anointed One", in Hebrew "Mashiach" (Messiah)]
Θεού - Theoú - God
Υιός - Hyiós - Son
Σωτήρ - Soter - Savior, Redeemer
- Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior
It was of an enormous advantage that Koiné, as the Ancient Greek is also called, was being spoken in the whole Mediterranean area. It was much more than a mere commercial language: almost everyone living in the countries bordering the Mediterranean mastered it. Today, you can compare it to English which is being spoken almost everywhere in the world by a big majority of people. This is why all believers in Christ back then understood the meaning of this symbol together with its confession.
So in the first centuries, the fish was their symbol. Only in 431 AD, the cross was introduced as the official Christian symbol.
deeply the Christian faith is rooted in Judaism. Here is a detailed article on our faith roots.
This pottery vessel dating back to the late first century, was found on Mount Zion in the 60s of the last century. At a closer look you can see the depiction of a Jewish Menorah (a seven armed lampstand) intertwined with this fish symbol, thus forming the Star of David in the middle - the Messianic Seal. In Ephesians 2:14 we read: "Christ himself is our peace. He has made Jews and non‑Jews into one group of people. He has destroyed the hatred that was like a wall between us" (NIRV). So this find clearly shows that believers back then were very aware of how