Q: #253. Why do Christians put a fish on their cars?
A: The fish that Christians put on their cars (and other things like business cards, stationary, ads, etc…) is called an “ICHTHUS.” This comes from the Greek word for fish: ΙΧΘΥΣ. The letters in the word “ICHTHUS” were broken apart to come up with 5 Greek words: I = Iēsous, CH = Christos, TH = Theou, U = Uios, S = Sōtēr. These Greek words form the phrase: Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior.
This fish symbol is believed to have first originated as early as the 1st or 2nd century. Tradition says that this fish was used to identify a person as a Christian during times of persecution by the Romans and Jews. In order to prevent unnecessary persecution, a Christian would not verbally communicate he was a Christian, but instead would draw this symbol in the dirt, sand, on a wall, etc… to silently communicate to others he was a Christian. It is believed that another thing they did was if a Christian was not sure another person was a Christian, the Christian would draw half of the fish, and the other person was supposed to complete the other half to show each other they were both Christians.
Eventually, the persecution of Christians lessened greatly and the fish symbol disappeared. In the 1970’s, however, the fish symbol re-emerged as a symbol for Christians, apparently beginning in Australia (one part of all the crazy stuff that happened in the 70’s [peace movement, hippies, bell-bottoms] that I grew up in 🙂 ).
This fish is often called the “Jesus Fish” today. Its origins likely came from the times when Jesus used “fish” to perform a miracle in His earthly ministry: (Mt 14:15-21)(Mt 17:27)(Mk 6:35-44)(Lk 5:4-11)(Lk 9:12-17)(Jn 6:8-13)(Jn 21:4-11).