Fish symbol

For years I have heard that the Christian “fish” ornament stuck on cars has its origin in an ancient practice.

As it goes, It is said that two Christians would meet each other and draw one half of the fish, upper and lower respectively.

I have read many Church Fathers and have not found any reference to this supposed practice.

Can anyone substantiate this story with proof?

Thank you and God bless,

Here is the article from the Old Catholic Encyclopedia on the symbolism of the fish:

It doesn’t mention anything about the practice of drawing on the ground. I have heard that many times, too. I do not know any primary sources to confirm it off the top of my head, though.

I could not find a single citation to prove that the symbol was actually used during the persecutions. However there is proof that the symbol was in use during the early years of the Church.

From The Creed: The Apostolic Faith in Contemporary Theology by Berard L. Marthaler

By adding the title savior to the formula put into the mouth of the Ethiopian eunuch, (Acts 8:36-38) tge early Christians constructed a popular acrostic which is still seen in churches…Thet used the first letter of each of the Greek words for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” (Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter) and thus spelled the Greek word fot “fish”, (ICHTYS). Tertullian, the first Christian Latin author of consequence, writing about the year 200 says that the baptized “after the example of our ICTHUS,” are like little fishes (pisciculi) who are born in the water and cannot thrive apart from the water. The fish appears as a common symbol of Christ in literature, inscriptions, and art already in the second century. Because of its sacramental significance it is associated with the Eucharist as well as with Baptism. The fish is pictured as food in banquet scenes in Roman catacombs, and other eucharistic associations are found in funeral inscriptions— Christ, "fish of the living., p. 80.

No I have never found a source to substantiate such. It may be due its occurrence in fiction it was later passed on as “fact”.

However the fish (a real fish! or real fish sketch that with side fins and even wiskers - not the bumper sticker design!!!) was greatly used (such as on tombs, rings etc)

You already have one article there so I will add this:


“The fish. In Greek one says IXTHYS (ichtùs). Placed vertically, the letters of this word form an acrostic: Iesùs Christòs Theòu Uiòs Sotèr = Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour. Acrostic is Greek word which means the first letter of every line or paragraph. The fish is a widespread symbol of Christ, a motto and a compendium of the Christian faith.”

Here is one of my favorites from the Catecombs:

Look to the left side - second image to the bottom - you will see an anchor and two fish.

Note they look like fish …with fins and even whiskers!

Update -found it on the right too in all the photos there

THAT are early Christian fish!

Early Christian rings that used fish would use either real fish or the IXOYC

The meeting of two Christians during Nero’s persecution of Rome and drawing a fish, was a scene in Henryk Sienkiewicz’ book, Quo Vadis, written in 1895. I do not know if this was the author’s presumption or taken from popular lore of that era.

Thank you all for your replies. You pretty much confirmed what I suspected.

Vaya con Dios,

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