The Cross and the Crucifix

Through the centuries there have been many powerful symbols used of Christianity. One of the earliest is the fish and that’s appropriate because there are many references to fish and fishing in the Gospels. Jesus told his apostles to lay down their nets and follow him and he would make them “fishers of men,” (Matthew 4:18, 19). But there is another, better, reason. The Greek word for fish, ichthus, (pronounced “ik-thoos”) is an acronym for Christians:

I is the first letter in the name “Jesus” (I in Greek is the same as J in English)

Ch is the Greek letter “Chi,” the first letter in “Christ”

Th is the Greek letter “Theta,” the first letter in “Theos,” “God”

U is the first letter in the Greek word for “son”

S is the first letter in the Greek word for “savior.”

When you put them altogether, it spells “Ichthus” (“Fish”) which stands for “Jesus Christ, God’s Son and Savior.” Some writers have even speculated it was a kind of sign/counter-sign for early Christians as they traveled during times of persecution. When you entered a new city and were trying to find other Christians, you would casually draw the lower half of the fish symbol in the dust. If the other person was a brother, he would draw the upper half completing the symbol. I’m not sure that is true but it is a wonderful story isn’t it?

Other Christian symbols were the lamb, the Good Shepherd with the lamb on his shoulders (Luke 15), the “Chi-Rho” symbol (It looks like an X with a P – the Greek letter R – superimposed on it. These are the first two Greek letters for “Christ.”), the Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet signifying Jesus is the beginning and the end. See Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13), the anchor (Hebrews 6:18, 19), and even the pelican (legend says when a pelican can’t find food for its young, it wounds itself and feeds them on her blood).

Of course the most famous symbol of all is the cross but there are two variations: the cross and the crucifix. The difference is a crucifix portrays Jesus hanging on it and this symbol plays a powerful role in Catholicism, however I believe the cross is the better symbol because on a crucifix, Jesus never gets off the cross. We worship a Risen Savior who triumphed over death and that is why we celebrate and that is why we have hope of eternal life!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *