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A Fishy Tale: The Christian Fish

A Fishy Tale

How We Got the Christian Fish

Common Reasons Given for the Christian Fish

It is said that early Christians used the fish to distinguish their bretheren from others on the road. By drawing one half of the fish in the dirt with their finger or a stick the Christian could test if a stranger was friend or foe. If the party in question knew the "secret handshake" he would finish the other half of the Christian fish to identify himself as a fellow believer.

Some toss this aside as fable but it makes perfect sense to an early Church who was persecuted without cause and could never be too cautious. This idea has seemed to develop a modern day offshoot. It can be observed through email and discussion boards, it's the use of text characters to create a Christian fish like so: <><

Another common reason given for the use of the Christian fish is found in an acrostic for the word "fish" in Greek. An acrostic is another name for an acronym, a phrase derived from the letters of a word. The Greek word for fish, ichthys, provided early Christians an opportunity for creative wordplay to form the phrase "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior". See the diagram below for clarification.

A Deeper Look at the Symbolic Significance of the Christian Fish

While it is true that the fish was used in ancient pagan cultures to symbolize fertility [1], that is not how it is commonly recognized today. But like most Christian truths, the Christian fish has been twisted into every self serving purpose imaginable [2][3]. So while there are many cultures and religions who got to the fish first, that is not the focus of this study.

Why did this symbol first come into use by Christians, even well before the cross? There are several available answers. All of which hold a great deal of importance in their own right. Let's take a look.

Fishing In Analogy:

Matthew 4:

  1. And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

  2. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Matthew 13:

  1. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:

  2. Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.

Fish to provide sustenance for many through miracles (three seperate occasions)

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