Although it is a fairly new religion compared to other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism, Christianity leads the world today with 2.4 billion people following it (2012 data).
You might know about some saints or might have heard a Bible story here and there, but how well do you know about the symbolism within the world’s most popular religion? For those who would like to know more about them, here are the most prominent Christian symbols and their meanings.
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The Christian Cross
Without a doubt, the most well-known symbol in the Christian world is the cross. This is a T-shaped symbol comprised of two straight lines crossing each other.
The Christian cross was not a popular symbol until after the 5th century AD. Before the 5th century, there were not that many depictions of the crucifixion scene.
The cross started to become a prominent symbol when Helena, Constantine the Great’s mother, supposedly found the true cross on which Jesus was crucified. This is what set things in motion for the cross to be the most important and common symbol for the religion.
It is believed that the cross represents the victory of Christ over sin and death through his own sacrifice of life.
According to the belief, Jesus was crucified and then resurrected. It is said that Jesus willingly let this happen, dying in order to save mankind and do away with all of the mortal sins that were committed and will be committed by mankind.
The fact that Jesus, the lord and savior, was put to death on the cross made it the most prominent symbol for Christians around the world.
The Crown of Thorns
After the cross, the crown of thorns is probably the most revered and well-known symbol in Christian faith. It is a crown made of thorns, the crown Jesus wore before and during his crucifixion.
The thorns represent the sins of mankind which Jesus took on.
Jesus died bearing the sins of the world in order to give mankind a chance at redemption. The crown of thorns is often used to symbolize the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the king of Christianity.
Ichthys/Ichthus – The Jesus Fish
The Ichthys/Ichthus, also known as the Jesus fish, is another prominent Christian symbol used widely throughout the world.
If you are ever on the road, you might have seen the Jesus fish bumper sticker on an automobile.
In the early days, the Jesus fish symbol was used to identify practitioners and followers of Christ. Simply put, it was a way of people saying “I am a Christian,” much like people wear crosses to express their belief today.
That being said, the situation was a little different in the early days. The symbol was not known by people outside the Christian faith. It was actually developed in order to help Christians secretly identify one another during times of persecution.
It was a way of letting other Christians know that a person was Christian without alerting the persecutors.
On an interesting side note, the Greek word for fish, ichthus, forms the acronym for “Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr” meaning “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Savior”.
The fact that it often appeared in Jesus’ sermons and ministries is another reason why the Jesus fish symbol is considered a prominent Christian symbol.
Fish was also a staple food during biblical times and were often mentioned in the gospels as being one of the only foods to sustain people during times of hardship.
One of the most commonly known mentions is when Christ multiplied fish to feed the hungry.
The Christian Dove
As a less-known symbol for Christianity, the dove is known for representing the holy spirit or holy ghost, specifically in relation to the holy trinity, father, son, and holy spirit. According to the belief, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove when he was baptized in the Jordan River.
Here is the relevant verse in the bible:
“The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’.” (Luke 3:22, NIV).
On a side note, the dove is also often seen as a peaceful symbol of Christianity, as shown in Genesis 8 when a dove came to Noah with an olive branch in its beak after the great flood, showing the end of God’s judgment and the beginning of the new covenant with mankind.
The Trinity Rings (Borromean)
Three interlocking rings often called the Borromean rings are also another one of Christian symbols. The trinity rings represent the holy trinity.
The fact that the rings are both separate and locked together at once is a reference to the holy trinity. According to Christian belief, the father, the son, and the holy spirit form the holy trinity, with each being totally separate things, but also the exact same thing.
Trinitas is a noun in Latin and it means “three are one.” In other words, God is made up of 3 distinctly separate yet totally same parts who exist in co-eternal communion.
Bread and Wine
Bread and wine are Christian symbols used to represent Jesus’ supper or communion. It is a familiar practice among Christian churches, especially Catholic ones, to feed practitioners bread and wine during communion in a way to represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Bread also represents life as it sustains life.
Bread also symbolizes the body of Christ, as Jesus gave it to his disciples. Wine represents the God’s covenant in blood, which was poured out during the crucifixion as the compensation for the sins of mankind. The aim of eating bread and drinking wine during communion is to remember Jesus’ sacrifice.
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