Summary: The symbol of a fish - <>< - was a code message to tell a stranger that the person who drew it was a Christian.
ICHTHYS - THE CHRISTIAN FISH SYMBOL
I’ve got a picture here - <><. Do you know what it is? Yes, it’s a symbol of a fish. But it’s more than that, it’s a Christian symbol going back to the time of the first years of the Christian church. In the first century Christians were a persecuted minority and they had to worship and witness in secret. When a stranger met someone on the road he would draw the top part of the fish symbol in the dust. If the other person drew the lower part, both knew that they were in good company – they were both believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But why did they use the fish symbol? The Greek word for fish is Ichthys. The letters of the Greek word form an acrostic – that’s where the first letter of a group of words form a new word: ‘I’ starts the Greek word Iesous, ‘CH’ for Christos, ‘TH’ for God, ‘Y’ for Yeos, and ‘S’ for Soter, which in English means ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’.
There are some Christians today who wear a badge of the symbol of a fish to tell others that they are Christians. Well, that’s fine, but it’s even more important that our lives should be a living-witness that we are believers, and like the Christian fish symbol, mean that we love and follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and our Saviour. We must try to bring others to know Him (Mark 1:17,18). So do remember the sign of the fish <><.