26 September 2011

The 'ichthus' symbol

You may be wondering about the symbol you'll see on JHM websites - this pizza thing - what is it and why is it here?

(JHM websites include Cruising the gospel and Journeys of heart and mind.)

The clue is the Greek word 'Ichthus' which means 'fish' and was used by Jesus' early followers as a symbol on a house or a door. The same idea is still used today, you'll sometimes notice a car with a stylised fish sticker - it just means 'we follow Jesus'.
The ichthus icon
The ichthus icon

The round symbol is what you get if you write out the Greek letters for Ichthus but instead of side by side you write them all on top of one another. Here's a list of the letters, can you see each one in the 'pizza' shape?
  • Ι - Iota - the vertical bar
  • χ - Chi - the 'X' bars
  • θ - Theta - the outer circle and horizontal bar
  • Υ- Upsilon - three half bars
  • Σ - Sigma - two circle arcs and two half bars
What's more, these are the first letters of the Greek words 'Jesus Christ, God's Son, Saviour' - Ἰησοῦς Χριστός Θεοῦ Υἱός Σωτήρ (Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter).

Neat, isn't it! Were those ancient Greeks clever, or were they clever?

The logo image and the Greek characters in the Journeys of heart and mind banner are taken from a real example nearly 2000 years old from the city of Ephesus. The orange lines are chalk markings added to the incised pattern on the stone to make the shapes more visible.

Here's a link to an additional image, showing the stone in situ.

See also:
  • The Wikipedia article on Ichthus.

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