RE: Fish (was Re: Marks)

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Sat Sep 29 2007 - 05:24:01 CDT

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    John Hudson wrote:
    > 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.

    At least a constructive mail !

    Initially I did not expect that my simple reply to the "problem" of the next proposal for April 1st would appear to not be in fact just a joke, but some serious question about religious symbols.

    So now we have several proposals for more "christograms"...
    (However your association of the fish and letters Chi-Rho is still questionable: there has been several theories about the origin of the symbol, but I don't think that any reliable answer has been found about it.

    Depending on Christian beliefs, the symbol has lots of other possible origins, including several "paraboles" in the life of Jesus, but also some even older Paganic origin where the symbol was also represent the Mother Goddess, source of the creation (with a sexual relation with a female vulve that the fish symbol also represented).

    There's some evidence that the Fish symbol used in the first three centuries by Christians was not inspired by any Greek letters, and was not present in Greece where Christianity developed only later, without being threatened by persecution. On the opposite, the fish was used in Egypt, in the Middle-East within Semitic populations, and in Rome, before the official conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianism.

    Although the Bible was translated to Greek very early, it's highly improbable that Greek was widely used in the early clandestine development of christianism in the Roman Empire. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the association of the fish with the abbreviated Greek name of Jesus Christ (Chi-Rho or Iota-Chi) may have appeared only much later, but the fish symbol was much older.

    My opinion is that its Pananic origin is more probable, and was more compatible with the dominant Roman ruling in the regions where Christianism first developed; in addition the symbol is also related to other non-Christian symbolism in other areas, where the symbol was associated to a Creator God or Goddess, source of life, for example in old Indian religions or cultures. In all this symbolism the fish was represented in a extremely simplified way, just like the two basic curves that make the "<><" or the turned "()".

    Then my feeling is that the symbol initially represented the Creator, God, father of Jesus, but not directly Jesus-Christ or the Salvior, and was not related to Chi-Rho or Iota-Chi.

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