Monday, August 6, 2012

Symbolism... Literaly

Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 1:13 

Symbolism runs rampant through the Bible. Almost anything you can think of in the Bible has a double meaning or is attached to a type, figure or foil. But these are literary symbols, not literal ones. Many symbols run throughout our culture, a cross, a crescent, a croc (yes, brands are represented by symbols); but how often do we think about the symbols we wear and what they represent? I am going to run down some of the most popular and/or misunderstood symbols in our culture, and what they really stand for; and what our culture has redefined them as.
            I'll start off with a pretty easy one; the ikthus; or Christian fish (there are many possible spellings. I am going to use the one that most accurately represents the original Greek spelling). The Greek spelling is ICQUS (sorry, but it looks like some browsers do not support the Greek font, it is spelled iota, kappa, theta, upsilon, sigma). Some people say that Icqus (which just means fish) can be broken down and the letters would spell Iesus Cristos Qeos Uios Sotor. The translation is ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior’. The letters have also been combined into a wheel. The Ikthus tradition states that it was a method of discreetly confirming your Christian faith to another believer in times of intense persecution (think Nero). Its use as a secret symbol faded with the establishment of Christianity under Constantine. This tradition is widely accepted in both Christian and Secular circles.1
            How about one of the most popular symbols in our present culture; the Peace symbol? The Peace symbol is actually called ‘Nero’s cross’ and is the most misunderstood symbol in existence. Nero’s Cross represents the vision of the Roman Emperor Nero, who, if you don’t know, martyred, brutally murdering, slaughtering, torturing thousands and thousands of Christians. I really don't want to go into detail, but if you want to grasp a small portion of his depravity read 'Foxe's Book of Martyrs" a book I think all Christians should read at least a part of. He believed that the only way to assure peace in his kingdom was to destroy Christianity. So, the ‘peace’ that this symbol actually represents is a world without Christians.2 This is the Christian's version of the Jew's Swastika.
            This next one is incredibly convoluted. If you Google "stars as a Christian symbol," you will find several things: you will find that the star of David (a six pointed star) is a traditional Jewish symbol and means Judaism. Great! However, if you surround it with a circle it becomes a popular wicca/witchcraft symbol.2 The five pointed star is a little more convoluted. Many people have a five pointed star on the tops of their Christmas Trees; therefore some claim that it is a Christian symbol representing the traveling of the Magi and therefore Christ’s birth. However (again) the five pointed star (when left unfilled) becomes a pentagram or pentangle, both associated with extremely Satanic rituals.
            So now that I have explained the history of these symbols you probably have several thoughts running through your head right now. One of which might be; “Don’t you judge me! That is not why I wear my peace sign head band/T-shirt/bracelet!” (That was not directed at anyone in particular). I am not judging you. I am giving you some information I have picked up so you can judge yourself and how you are presenting Christ to those around you. I don’t know where you are in your walk with Christ (or if you have even started your walk). I don’t know who you associate with, who you are trying to witness to and how strong the fellow believers in your life are. I do know that you do. I also know that every action we have has an effect on those around us.
            In Romans 14 Paul talks about how those who are strong in their faith need to help those who are weak. In one example (vv. 5-6) he references the Sabbath. Are certain days more sacred then others? According to the Bible; no. However, we set aside the Sabbath in order to worship God and to keep others from stumbling. Similarly, is one set of lines more sacred than another? By the same token, no. But certain sets of lines have a history behind them, creating an undesirable light to be cast on our witness, how we present ourselves and how we serve others. In verse 13 Paul says “Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” I know several people who are severely offended by some of these symbols. Does that mean that I shouldn’t wear them because I will offend them? No. Does that mean that I shouldn’t wear them because it will place a stumbling block in their walk (or potential walk) with Christ? An emphatic yes. I also know several people who are unaware, or don’t mind, the history behind these symbols. Does that mean that I should judge them as less ‘holy’ then I am? Absolutely not. (But you should look into what you wear/do, as a seemingly innocent expression or motif can mean some of the most depraved things the human mind can come up with).
            We each need to focus on our own sins (log and speck). Things like clothing, tattoos, piercings, junk food, etc. are between the person using those items and God. That person knows his/her own heart, and if he is right with God about his actions. Do I think that some of these symbols, or some of the actions above might severely impede our potential witness to an unsaved individual and how we serve the community of believers? Yes, but again, that is between him/her; and God.

     Leaping Lizard

1 (PLEASE NOTE THIS IS A NOT A SITE WHOSE MISSION WE AGREE WITH! Religious is an anti-Christ organization.)
2 (a little over the top but excellent information.)

Image by Leaping Lizard


  1. See my blog about the peace sign "On the trail of the witch's foot"

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      There are many convincing arguments to both sides of the debate on the origins of the 'peace' sign. But the main point of this article wasn't so much the origins of the symbols and what they actually represent, but keeping our Brothers and Sisters in Christ from stumbling in this area. If I may quote myself;

      "I know several people who are severely offended by some of these symbols. Does that mean that I shouldn't wear them because I will offend them? No. Does that mean that I shouldn't wear them because it will place a stumbling block in their walk (or potential walk) with Christ? An emphatic yes."

      So, while the actual meaning of a symbol has some say in whether or not I would wear an item (a peace sign for example), but the final decision comes from the fact that there are people who I frequently come in contact with whose walk with Christ would be damaged wearing such an item.

      All the Best,
      Leaping Lizard