THE CELTIC ICHTHUS CROSS TATTOO
An original concept by Bruce Hopler
Why the Celtic Cross
• Saint Patrick was born a Briton (occupied by Rome) in the late 4th century. His father was wealthy and he lived a good life. When he was 16 years old the barbarians from Ireland attacked his town, where his father was killed, his sister disappeared and Patrick was sold into slavery and treated very harshly. After six years and a series of miracles, he was able to escape and go home. Years later, after becoming a priest, he dreamed an angel approached him with letters from the barbarians, begging him to come back. He knew this was a sign from God to Ireland and minister to barbarians that had once treated him so badly, and to show them the love and grace of Christ. During this time in history the typical way to share the gospel, according to the Romans, after conquering them, civilize them with culture and education, and then “Christianize” them. Patrick took a radically different approach. He lived among them, got to know them through befriending, engaging in conversation, ministry, prayer and worship, introducing the idea of sharing God’s love through relationship. Patrick was not looking for just converts; he wanted people to fall in love with Jesus and to discover they were more complete with Him. He starting where they were at and led them to a transforming relationship with Christ. The results were slow at first, but by the time he died (March 17th) an all out revival had broken out and hundreds of churches were established.
• Saint Patrick has always been an inspiration for me. As I pastor in the post-Christian era, I recognize the need to understand culture, begin with where the people are at and help lead them to the story of God. I want to make disciples, and like Saint Patrick, use a holistic approach. The Celtic way of evangelism is the only way, in my opinion the way we will reach the emergent culture to Christ. Of course, the fact that I was born on Saint Patrick’s Day doesn’t hurt either.
Why the Ichthus
• During the early church the persecution of Christians was intensely high. To even speak of your faith was cause of torture and death. Emperor Nero, for example used to burn Christian at the stake to light his garden at night. Yet they never backed down from their faith. Today’s culture many Christians don’t talk about Jesus if it is not considered cool.
• The symbol was developed as a way of the early Christians to identify each other. They would draw it on their front door or on the street in front of their house.
• Ichthus (ΙΧΘΥΣ) is the Greek word for fish. It is also used as a Christian acronym of Greek words: I=Jesus, X (pronounced “Ch”) =Christ, Θ (pronounced “th”) = Theou/God's, Y (pronounced “U”)=Uios/Son, Σ (pronounced “S”)=Soter/Savior. Thus, IChThUS means "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, but it is also spells out the Greek word "Ichthus" which means "fish". Hence they fish symbols on bumper stickers today. In the city of Ephesus they made their own rendition of the Ichthus. They put all the Greek letters on top of each other and the sign appears. I X O Y E.
Why use the Ephesus rendition of it
• The book of Ephesians is the most general letter of the epistles, and unlike the other epistles, it was not written to address specific problems. Instead, it was written to be shared amongst the house churches and serves as a good guide for all churches, even today.
• Revelations chapter two tells us that they were not only incredibly faithful people under persecution, but Christ was their first love. By the time John wrote revelations though, they were beginning to lose their first love. The Ephesus ichthus reminds me to never forget my first love.
• Clearest evidence existing today. When I was visiting Ephesus Turkey, I was surprised to find such a well-preserved city. Many of it’s original structures still stand today. Even though this was a pagan city, the Ephesus Ichthus’s were found all through out the city, left behind by the ancient persecuted Christians. Walking through those ancient ruins had a profound impact in my life.