Re: Fish (was Re: Marks)

From: John Hudson (
Date: Fri Sep 28 2007 - 23:36:31 CDT

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    Philippe Verdy wrote:

    > I was referring to it because the Christian cross was not much used to
    > represent Christianity before the official conversion of the Roman empire,
    > and the Fish was used instead with approximately the same meaning as a
    > distinctive religious attachment.

    As an emblem of religious affiliation, perhaps the fish and cross have 'approximately the
    same meaning', but the fish symbol is actually a direct equivalent to the Chi-Rho
    monogram. Both are based on the the first letters of the Jesus Christ's name in Greek:

            Ἰ[ησοῦς] Χ[ριστός] -> ΙΧ[θυς] = fish

            ΧΡ[ιστός] -> ☧

    Both are personal signifiers for the Saviour -- Christograms -- while the cross is a
    signigier of the act of salvation.

    There is another Christogram, for which I am preparing an encoding proposal because it
    very definitely appears in text and is, in fact, derived from a special Greek ligature.
    This is the 'staurogram', which is derived from a form of tau-rho ligature.* It first
    appears in text, apparently reserved for use in the words σταυρός (cross) and σταυρόω
    (crucify), and then as an independent symbol. Since the form of the ligature (similar to
    the Egyptian ankh sign) resembles a man on a cross, it may be said to merge the signs of
    Saviour and salvation found in the Chi-Rho and fish and in the cross, respectively, by
    representing the Saviour as the Crucified One. There is good evidence that the staurogram
    precedes the Chi-Rho and is, in fact, the earliest Christogram.**

    John Hudson

    * A Coptic-specific staurogram has already been encoded, but I think a case can be made
    for an independently encoded general symbol, on the grounds that a plain text distinction
    is desirable for the Coptic character as it appears in the context of Coptic text.

    ** See _The earliest Christian artifacts: manuscripts and Christian origins_ by Larry W.
    Hurtado (Eerdmans, 2006)

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