September 6, 2008

Ichthus - the simple meaning behind the unsual word.

Do you know what an Ichthus is? It's that "stick-man" fish symbol that many Christians put on the back of their car, or on their Bible. It's considered a Christian symbol, and when I was a kid I thought the meaning behind that symbol was related to passages in Scripture where Jesus tells His followers, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17) This week while I was doing some reading for my History of Christianity class, I came across the meaning of Ichthus and how it became a Christian sympbol.

Ichthys is the Greek word for fish. (Hence the illustration of a fish.) In early Church history, Christ Followers developed an alternate spelling for ichthys. They changed the spelling to Ichthus. This new spelling was an accrostic that stood for:

Greek....... English

I esus......... Jesus
CH rist....... Christ
TH eou....... of God
U ios........... Son
S oter......... Savior

The alternate spelling was pronounced just like the orginal spelling, so early Christ Follwers would use Ichthus as a password in conversation to determine whether or not they were talking to a fellow Christian.

Christ Followers living in today's culture do not have to hide their faith in order to preserve their life. We are blessed in this culture to be able to worship God freely. But the History of the Christian Faith is stained with the blood of the early Church martyrs who died willingly and joyfully for their faith in Christ. One early Church historian wrote so poetically and accurately: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

The next time you see an Ichthus on the back of someone's car, I urge you to reflect on it's origin, and thank God for those saints who gave themselves for the cause of Christ.

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