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Christian symbols and their meanings

 

The most important symbols of Christianity are known to many people through many years of tradition. Almost everyone knows that the cross is a church symbol, as it is attached to many church spiers, for example. But what exactly does the cross stand for in the Christian faith? What about lesser-known Christian signs like the vine, anchor, ship, or shepherd? Today not everyone knows that the rainbow is also a biblical symbol. This article will answer all of these questions and explain the background to you.

In the following, Christian symbols and their meanings are explained in short sections. In most cases, we also offer you matching Bible passages where you can read up on the origin of these signs for yourself. Discover the importance of important religious images here.

 

Table of Contents

 

→ Alpha & Omega

→ anchor

→ tree

→ Praying hands

→ fish

→ shepherd

→ lamb

→ chalice (with bread)

→ candle

→ cross

→ PX (Christ sign, Christ monogram)

→ rainbow

→ ship

→ sun

→ pigeon

→ water

→ vine

 

Alpha & Omega

 

Alpha and Omega are letters of the Greek alphabet. A, Alpha is the first letter and Ω, Omega is the last, so these two letters encompass the entire alphabet. This metaphor is also used in the Bible, God also encompasses the whole world from beginning to end and every human being from birth to death. Alpha and Omega are an important symbol in Christianity, because they stand for important attributes of God, his comprehensive and far-reaching greatness, as well as his omnipotence. God is the beginning and the end. He is the one who is God through all times - past, present and future.

God says in the Bible: "I am Alpha and Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation, 1,8)

"I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." (Revelation, 22:13)

When A and Ω appear in art, the two letters are often to be understood as metaphors for the eternal rule of God, which will have no end, or as a symbol for the Trinity - the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The signs for alpha and omega with this positive meaning, which reminds of God's omnipotence and greatness, are also popular motifs, for example for the candle decoration of a communion candle or a baptism candle.

 

anchor

 

An anchor is there to hold a ship and to secure it in port, it also provides security on the high seas and in storms. According to this image, the anchor in the Christian faith stands for the fact that God's love holds us and gives us strength, like a strong anchor.

The anchor is a Christian symbol of hope. A hope for bliss and thus the anchor is also a consolation giver. Furthermore, the cross-shaped shape of the anchor reminds of Jesus on the cross, which also stands for hope.

The following Bible verse sums up the hope that Christians rely on:

"So by two promises that do not waver - for it is impossible for God to lie with them - we should have a great consolation that we have taken refuge in holding fast to the hope offered" (Hebrews 6:18)

 

tree

 

A tree stands for life and the cycle of life, because trees grow new buds and leaves every year. In the Christian faith, the tree is also a symbol of life, blessings and peace. In the first book of Moses (Genesis), for example, the tree of life is told.

The tree is also often used in the Bible as a symbol for someone who relies on God:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose confidence is the Lord. It's like a tree, planted by the water, with its roots stretching out towards the stream. For although the heat comes, it is not afraid, but its leaves remain green; and he does not worry when a drought year comes, but bears fruit without ceasing. ”(Jeremiah 17: 8)

“It is like a tree, planted by the watercourses, / which bears its fruit in due time, and its leaves do not wither. And what he does, it will turn out well. ”(Psalm 1,3)

And Jesus Christ is also sometimes symbolically referred to in the Bible as a kind of tree, namely as a vine.

The motif of the tree, also called the tree of life, is also often used as a motif for crosses or as jewelry.

 

Praying hands

 

The image of two hands clasped in prayer, or hands clasped in prayer, symbolizes prayer to God. Praying hands are a symbol of the faithful's trust in Jesus Christ and in God. It stands for prayers also for intercessory prayers e.g. for family, friends or the deceased.

 

fish

 

The fish and the sign of the fish are one of the oldest symbols in Christianity. The fish represents Jesus. The oldest evidence of the use of the fish symbol among Christians comes from the beginning of the 2nd century. The Christians themselves are seen here as fish. The biblical basis for this can be found in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, where Jesus calls his first disciples to become fishermen of men: “And he said to them: Come, follow me! I want to make you fishers of men. ”(Matthew 4:19)

The fish as an acrostic

An acrostic, also known as a bar verse, is a special form of poetry. With this type of poem, the first letters of the individual verses also make sense when read one below the other. In early Christianity there was an acrostic where each letter of the Greek word "ΙΧΘΥΣ" (= fish) represents the first letter of a Christian title. The following words result from the word ΙΧΘΥΣ (ichthýs):

IΗΣΟΎΣ = (Iesoús) = Jesus

ΧΡΙΣΤΌΣ = (Kristós) = Christ (i.e. anointed)

ΘΕΟΎ = (Theoú) = God

ΥΙΌΣ = (Hyiós) = son

ΣΩΤΉΡ = (Sotér) = Redeemer

Lined up one after the other, the five words result in the sentence: "Jesus Christ God's Son and Savior." The fish thus also stands for a short form of a Christian creed.

The fish as a secret sign?

There is the thesis that by drawing a curved line in the sand, Christians could check whether the person opposite was also a Christian. If the person opposite completed the first curved line with a second, inverted line to a fish, then one had identified one another as Christians. However, to what extent the sign of the fish was actually considered a kind of secret sign among early Christians has not yet been sufficiently clarified.

The fish symbol today

Even today the fish is a widespread symbol among Christians. The symbol is enjoying renewed popularity today after having been little used for a few centuries. The fish is still regarded as a distinguishing mark of Christians. In a society in which being Christian is no longer a matter of course, some Christians consciously acknowledge their Christian faith with the fish symbol. For example, many wear the fish as a key ring, on bracelets, as a badge, on postcards, or use it as a motif for communion candles. Again and again you come across cars with a fish sticker. The fish symbol has a similar function today as it did 1,900 years ago: People profess Jesus Christ and show other Christians that they are following Jesus together. It stands for a commitment to belonging to the Christian faith, as well as to the Christian community and church.

 

Shepherd

 

Probably the most famous Bible passage in connection with the Christian symbol of the Shepherd, who represents Christ, is Psalm 23. This passage in the Bible symbolizes, very figuratively speaking, God's care for his children.

“A psalm of David. The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green valleys, he leads me to fresh water. He gives me strength. He shows me the right way for his name's sake. Even when I walk through the dark valley of death1, I am not afraid, because you are by my side. Your staff and staff protect and comfort me. You set a table for me in front of my enemies. You receive me as a guest and you anoint my head with oil.2 You shower me with blessings. Your kindness and grace accompany me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever ”(Psalm 23: 1-6)

Another striking passage from the Bible on the Christian symbol of the Shepherd is in the New Testament in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke. At this point Jesus tells a parable. Through the story of a shepherd who sets out to find his lost sheep, Christ's love for his sheep and his flock, i.e. his community, becomes visible.

"The Parable of the Lost Sheep" If a shepherd has a hundred sheep and one runs away and gets lost, what do you think he will do? Will he not leave the other ninety-nine and go into the mountains to find the lost sheep? And if he finds it, he'll be more pleased than the ninety-nine who didn't run away. Likewise, it is not my father's will that even one of these children should be lost. ”(Matthew 18: 12-13)

Shepherds play an important role in the biblical Christmas story because the angels brought them the good news that the Savior was born. Thus, shepherds are important nativity figures that should not be missing at Christmas.

 

lamb

 

In the Christian faith, the lamb is usually symbolic for Jesus Christ.

Classically, the lamb is a popular sacrificial animal in Judaism. Through the death of Jesus on the cross he became a lamb himself, a sacrificial animal, and thus took the sin of all people upon himself.

John the Baptist said of Jesus in the New Testament: "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). This Lamb is sung about in Revelation. “And they sang in a mighty chorus:“ Worthy is the lamb that has been slaughtered. It is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise "(Revelation 5:12)

Many Christians remember the Lamb in Sunday worship, for example when the priest says during Holy Mass: “See the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” It is about the Lord's Supper and about the wine and bread To take remembrance of Jesus Christ to us. Many painters and artists in the Middle Ages also used this symbolism of Jesus as a lamb in their depictions.

 

Chalice (with bread)

 

The symbol of a chalice, often in connection with bread, stands for the Eucharist, i.e. the Lord's Supper, which is celebrated in the Christian church. The chalice filled with wine stands for the blood of Jesus and the bread, or the host, for his body. The cup of communion also stands for the commemoration of the suffering of Jesus.

In the Bible, Jesus first celebrated the sacrament with his disciples as follows: “Then he took a goblet of wine and after thanking God for it he said,“ Take it and share it among you. For I will not drink any more wine until the kingdom of God has come. "Then he took bread and, after thanking God for it, broke it into pieces and handed it to the disciples, saying," This is my body, the is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. "(Luke 22: 15-19)

 

candle

 

In the Christian faith, the candle and its shining light represent the presence of God. In addition, the light is in contrast to the darkness and darkness. Light is also often used in the Bible as a sign of hope.

Candles and their light often play a major role in church services and in church. For example, christening candles or communion candles are lovingly selected and they should be beautiful companions on the further path of life. Such a candle symbolizes the light of life and the light that illuminates the way. As described in the Bible: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119,105)

You will also find a large selection of candles for many different occasions in our shop.

 

cross

 

Pre-Christian meaning

The oldest cross finds come from the Stone Age, which began 2.6 million years ago. Apparently they always served cultic and religious acts. The ankh symbol comes from ancient Egypt, a hieroglyph that stands for life force, life and rebirth and carries a half lemniscate, a loop curve, on its cross. One interpretation shows the crossbar as the vital Nile, the crossbar as the two fertile banks and the half-loop as the sun god, the giver of life.

We find a related idea in the Bronze Age between 2,200 and 800 BC. With the wheel cross as a sun symbol. The upper half shows the time of day from sunrise to sunset, the lower half the nighttime when the sun wanders through the underworld to rise again in the morning. At the same time, the four seasons are symbolized. The wheel cross is still used today in astrology and astronomy, just like the ankh sign is also used today as a symbol of power, for example as jewelry in the Gothic scene.

The Slavic cross with its four hands of God also comes from pre-Christian times.

The central symbol of Christianity

The cross is the most famous, best known and also the most important symbol in the Christian faith. The cross symbolizes the death of Jesus on the cross, the Christ, which is the name given to the whole of Christianity. However, the sign of the cross not only reminds of the crucifixion, i.e. the execution and suffering of Jesus, but it also stands for his resurrection from the dead. This happened three days after his death, with which he conquered sin and death.

That is why the cross as a symbol is also a sign of hope and redemption. In many places in the Bible the meaning of what Jesus accomplished on the cross and its effects on the believers and the world are explained, because it is a central element of the Christian faith. An example of this is the following Bible passage:

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it through his Son. ”(John 3: 16-17)

Many Christians also use the cross symbol as jewelry, pendants, stickers and in many other variants to confess their belonging to God and the Christian faith. The crossbeams on which Jesus was executed at that time are usually very stylized for jewelry or the like. In addition, many crosses can be found in almost every church in different designs.

As a Christian symbol, the cross did not appear until after the staurogram and Christ monogram Chi-Rho (XP) and in the fifth century it moved to the first place it still holds today. This delay is due to the fact that crucifixions were the order of the day in the early Christian times and thus the cross as a symbol was not yet really able to assert itself, even if it was of course an important symbol since Jesus Christ's death on the cross. To this day it is not only the most important symbol of Christianity - often also as a crucifix (cross with corpus) - but also represented in various forms in East and West. Both the Asian square cross, the swastika, which has a long tradition as a good luck charm and was even used in early Christianity, as well as the Celtic or Irish cross and the wheel cross were and are partly used by National Socialist, partly by racist and occult representatives for their purposes abused.

Cross motifs spread all over the world

Otherwise, a variety of cross shapes were created, whether the Pope's cross with three crossbars, the Byzantine cross of the Eastern Church, the Russian cross or the Lorraine cross, which with its two crossbars resembles the patriarchal cross. Crosses were used in heraldry, are still used today as trademarks and logos and have been a symbol of death in all cemeteries for centuries.

A selection from the enormous variety of beautiful Christian crosses, which are also very suitable as gifts, can also be found here in the shop under crosses.

 

PX (Christ sign, Christ monogram)

 

The combination of the two letters P and X are a frequently used sign of Christ.

When the two letters PX represent the Christ monogram, they are usually referred to as a lignum, i.e. H. shown as overlapping letters. It looks something like this: ☧.

P and X stand for the word Christ, more precisely for the first three letters of this word "CHR". Χριστός is Greek for Christ. It can be clearly seen here that the Greek "CH" looks like the Latin X and the Greek "R" looks like a Latin P. The PX symbol can also be read as PaX, then it means peace.Christ is a title that is already assigned to Jesus in the texts of the New Testament and means anointed one. The sign ☧ stands for Jesus Christ, the anointed.

The first Christians used these letters as secret symbols for Jesus and their belief in him, especially during the persecution of Christians. The identification mark reminds of the togetherness of the Christian community and that it holds together and maintains strength even in difficult hours.

Where does this mark come from?

This Christ monogram is also called the Constantine Cross and this name already indicates the origin of this sign. Constantine I was Emperor of the Western Roman Empire at the beginning of the 4th century. He has played an extraordinary role in the history and development of Christianity. Among other things, he convened the First Council of Christians and he was the first Roman emperor to be baptized.

Constantine is associated with the Christ monogram XP because he is said to have seen the sign ☧ in a vision and at the same time heard the sentence: "In this sign you will be victorious." Constantine was about to face a great battle and had the symbol drawn on the shields of his soldiers and on the standard. With the Christ monogram, his soldiers went into battle and won.

Spread and variations

Since then the ☧ has been spreading as a sign for Jesus Christ. The symbol is also known in slightly different variants. For example, you sometimes see the ☧ with an additional crossbar. This sign then simultaneously indicates the cross on which Jesus died.

The first Christians used these letters as secret symbols for Jesus and their belief in him, especially during the persecution of Christians. The identification mark reminds of the togetherness of the Christian community and that it holds together and maintains strength even in difficult hours.

Until about the eighth century, this mongram was the predominant Christ mongram. From the eighth century onwards, another monogram for Christ, the IHS, developed.

 

Rainbow

 

In the Christian faith, the rainbow is a sign of God's faithfulness. In the Old Testament, God sent a deluge over the earth to almost completely wipe out his creation. However, Noah, his family and the animals survived in the protective ark. When the flood was over, God created the rainbow and gave the people his promise never to send such a flood on earth again. In the first book of the Bible (Genesis), in the Old Testament, this story is told.

“I give you the firm promise never again to destroy the earth and all living beings by a flood.” And God said: “I give you a sign as a guarantee for the eternal covenant that I make with you and all living beings: I set my bow in the clouds. He is the sign of my irrevocable covenant with the earth. Every time I send rain clouds over the earth, the rainbow will be seen in the clouds. Then I will think of my covenant with you and with all that lives. Never again will a flood destroy all life on earth. When the rainbow is in the clouds, I will look at it to remember the eternal covenant I made with all living beings on earth. "And God said to Noah:" Yes, this is the sign of my covenant, whom I conclude with all creatures on earth. «” (Genesis 9, 11-17)

 

ship

 

In the Christian faith, the ship symbolizes the church. It sails on the sea, which can be stormy and dangerous. The sea is a symbol of threats to God's church, such as sin. The mast on the ship is in the middle of the ship and is a sign of the cross of Christ. The cross stands for hope and gives comfort and strength.

Together the believers are on their way to a safe haven on this ship, which is supposed to represent eternity with God. The oars of the ship symbolize the apostles. The ArcheNoah also saved part of creation from the stormy flood in the Old Testament. Thus, the image of the ark serves as a model for the symbol of the nave of the church. Together with God, those who believe in him will surely find their way across the sea.

 

Sun

 

The sun is a sign of the source of light that illuminates all darkness. The sun symbol conveys hope in the Christian faith, since for Christians it is a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The rising sun is a beautiful symbolism for God as its light illuminates the way. This is a symbol that Jesus, the Risen One, shows the believers the right way.

In the Bible too, God is often referred to as a kind of source of light. "And this is the message that we heard from him and that we preach to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him." (1 John 1: 5)

 

Dove

 

The dove as a symbolic bird is older than Christianity itself, since the symbol of the dove was already used in pre-Christian antiquity to represent love or innocence, for example.

In Judaism - a number of references can be found in the Old Testament - the dove is on the one hand an animal of sacrifice (Leviticus 5:11), but also an animal which represents peace (Genesis 8, 8-11).

The dove is generally a symbol of peace and also a sign of hope, so they are also called the dove of peace. In the biblical context it symbolizes the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit.

The meaning of the dove in the Bible becomes clear through two prominent biblical passages.

 

1. The dove on Noah's ark

In Noah's time, when the flood struck the earth and few people and animals were saved by Noah's ark, the dove played a major role. Three times a dove was sent out from the ship to find out if it was time for Noah and his family to get off the ship.

The first time the pigeon was sent out, there was no place to settle because the water was still too high. So she returned to the ship and to Noah. After a week the pigeon was sent off a second time. “This time the bird returned to him towards evening with the fresh leaf of an olive tree in its beak. Now Noah knew that the water had drained away. He waited another week, then let the pigeon fly again. This time she did not come back to him. ”(Genesis 8, 11 & 12) Because of this, Noah and his family knew that they could leave the ship.

 

2. The dove at Jesus' baptism

The dove is most strikingly encountered in the New Testament in the story of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. Jesus became man and walked the earth. He was baptized by John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove from heaven. This descent of the Spirit on Jesus is very closely related to Israel's expectation of the Messiah, the Savior of Israel anointed by God. In receiving this spirit at his baptism, Jesus is confirmed by God as this awaited Messiah at the very beginning of his ministry.

After John baptized Jesus, he said: "[...]" I saw the Holy Spirit come down from heaven like a dove and sit on him. I did not know him, but God, who commissioned me to baptize with water, said to me: `` The one on whom you see the Holy Spirit descending and settling is the one you are looking for. It is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. 'I have now seen this and therefore I testify that this man is the Son of God. "(John 1: 32-34)

 

3. The dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit

The dove has become the most prominent symbol of the Holy Spirit, especially because of the narrative of the baptism of Jesus. In art, in some situations, the dove is repeatedly portrayed as the representative of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Even if the text of the Bible does not speak of a dove in these situations, art often depicts a dove at the proclamation of the conception of Jesus to Mary, at the death of Jesus on the cross and at the ascension of Christ.

When trying to depict the Trinity (Trinity) in art, a dove can be found as a symbol for the Holy Spirit in very many depictions. Often the composition of such a painting looks like that God the Father is represented as King, the Son stands next to him, often with the cross in his hand and a dove hovers over the two or between them to symbolize the Holy Spirit.

Nowadays, doves are also very popular as a Christian symbol in everyday life, for example as necklaces with dove pendants.

 

water

 

The water in general, as well as in the Christian context, can have several meanings as a symbol. Three distinctive symbols of water, which are also strongly anchored in the Bible and in the Christian faith, are listed here.

 

1. Baptism

In Christianity, baptism is a central point in a Christian's life. So the water is an important symbol, especially for baptism. It stands for purification, purity and the beginning of all life. Baptism unites Christians. Just as Jesus was baptized with water by John the Baptist at that time (John 1:29), so too, those who believe in Jesus Christ are baptized in his name. Traditionally, so-called baptismal crosses are given away at baptism as a lasting reminder of this day.

There are several scriptures that explain baptism and its importance. At baptism the water is a symbol for washing clean, washing away sin and old life.

“And so you are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. For all of you who have been baptized into Christ now belong to Christ. Now there are no longer Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free, men or women. Because you are all the same - you are one in Jesus Christ. "(Galatians 3: 25-28)

“Therefore go to all peoples and make disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to keep all the commandments I have given you. And I assure you: I am always with you until the end of time. "(Matthew 28: 19-20)

 

2. Source of water

Water is also a symbol of new life. It is Jesus himself who gives those who believe in him fresh water so that they never have to be thirsty again.

“But whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I give him becomes in him a never-ending spring that flows ceaselessly into eternal life. ”(John 4:14)

 

3. Threat

In both the Old and New Testaments, storms at sea and high waves are often a threat to people. For example, one day Jesus got into a violent storm with his disciples and their Bott. And Jesus “[...] got up and threatened the wind and said to the sea: Silence! Fall silent! And the wind died down and there was a great silence. And he said to them, What are you so afraid of? Do you still have no faith? And they were very afraid and said to one another: Who is he, that wind and sea obey him? "(Mark 4,39-41)

 

4. Faith steps

Taking a step in faith is sometimes described with the metaphorical phrase “take a step on the water”. The origin here lies in a biblical story. One day Jesus went up a mountain to pray. In the meantime, however, the disciples got into distress in their boat and had to fight against storms and strong waves.

“At about three in the morning Jesus came to them across the water. When the disciples saw him, they cried out in horror, because they thought he was a ghost. But Jesus immediately spoke to her: "It is good," he said. "It's me! Do not be afraid. "Then Peter called to him:" Lord, if you really are, command me to come to you on the water. "" Then come, "said Jesus. And Peter got out of the boat and crossed the water to meet Jesus. But when he looked around and saw the high waves, he got scared and began to sink. "Lord, save me!" He shouted. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and held him tight. "You don't have much faith," said Jesus. "Why did you doubt?" When they finally got back into the boat, the wind died down. The disciples adored him. "You really are the Son of God!" They cried. "(Matthew 14: 25-33)

This story shows that through Jesus Himself one can overcome great threats and even walk on water. As long as Peter looked at Jesus in history, he could walk on the water, but when he looked at the waves and became afraid, he went under. Water is therefore also a symbol of faith and trust in God. As long as you keep your trust in God and look to him, you can overcome anything.

 

Vine

 

In the New Testament, the vine is introduced as a symbol of Christ. Jesus says in the Gospel of John:

“I am the vine; you are the vines. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bring much fruit. Because apart from me you cannot do anything "(John 15,5)

The Christian symbol of the vine thus stands for the bond between Jesus and the believers. Those who, figuratively speaking, “stay with him” will bring much fruit. The branches thrive on the vine, without the connection to it they cannot continue to grow. This metaphor shows that trusting Jesus and staying with Him pays off, because Christians can continue to grow and also strengthen their faith.

The image of the vine can also be used as a symbol for the wine used in the sacrament. The vine is also a popular motif for decorative crosses, such as bronze crosses.