Re: Darwin in a Fish Decal

Anj Petto (ajpetto@MACC.WISC.EDU)
Tue, 16 May 1995 08:59:49 -0600

Dara was right about the modern interpretation of the FISH. The
transliteration Dara used was ALMOST correct. We would render it ICHTHUS
in English.

I - iota
X - chi
O - theta
Y - upsilon
E - Sigma

Dara's translation is right on.

I believe that the acronym came later. The symbol was supposed to be used
in the early Christian Era as a way of identifying places where Christians
would be meeting. The symbol went on and off again quickly and was just a
schematic "fish" drawn using two curving lines. Because of its transient
nature, and because Christianity was officially sanctioned in Rome in about
the 3d Century CE, little of this remains, except lore. I don't know of
any archeological evidence for the use of the fish on portals or other
entryeays; nor do I know of any archival material to document its use. It
is simply one of the historical facts young Christians learn about the
early days of the Church (somewhat akin, I think, to the story of George
Washington and his father's cherry tree??).

In any case, someone made the connection that the first letters of the word
for "fish" in Greek could be assigned to a meaningful phrase and they
adopted it. So, the question would be, who was sufficiently literate in
Greek in the first couple of centuries of the Christian Era to have thought
this up?


Andrew J. Petto, PhD
Coalition for Education in the Life Sciences
Center for Biology Education
675 WARF, University of Wisconsin
610 North Walnut Street
MADISON WI 53705-2397

Voice: 608.265-3497
Fax: 608.262-6801
Bitnet: ajpetto@wiscmacc