The fish was used in the Early Church to identify oneself as a Christian. Until the late 4th century Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire and punishable by death. So Christians had to be cautious and take protective measures to avoid detection by the authorities.
The acrostic ICHTHUS (ΙΧΘϒΣ) identifies Jesus Christ as God’s Son and as the Savior. Thus it is a Christological symbol. Ichthus is the Greek word for fish. Thus we see how it was used as a Christian symbol. Ichthus is the Greek word for fish.
- Ισούς (Iesous) = Jesus
- Χριστός (Christos) = Christ
- Θεού (Theou) = God’s
- ΥιόΣ (Huios) = Son
- Σωτήρ (Soter) = Savior
This fish symbol, also became a code of communication, especially for the first
Christians when persecuted during the Roman Empire. Although Common (Vulgar) Latin was the language, everyone, across the known Western world spoke (the English of the time). Many people, especially educated people, but also Middle Eastern people spoke and understood Greek (and that is why the sign above the Cross said “The King of the Jews” in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek).
The fish symbol can also be signified thus: