The Ichthus You Never Knew: The Christian Wheel

Most Christians know of the Fish symbol. In Greek IXOYE (Ichthus) is the word for  “fish.” For ancient Christians, though, it held deeper symbolism.

Iota is the first letter of the name Jesus in the Greek alphabet.

X, or Chi, is the first letter for “Christ.”

O, the letter Theta, is the first letter for the Greek term for God.

Y, or Upsilon, represents “Son,” and

E, or Sigma, is for Savior.

Together they form a creed-like phrase: Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior.

For many years following the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the early Christians faced severe and sustained persecution. As a way of identifying themselves to one another upon meeting in a public place, one person would draw an arc on the ground in the dust. If the other was a follower of Jesus, they would complete the drawing with another arc forming the symbol of the fish. Now that you see how the fish sign connects to the word, “Ichthus,” consider yet another layer of mystery.

A few years ago, Mike and Louise Borden, a couple from a small Oklahoma town, took a pilgrimage with their church tracing the journeys of Paul. On this trip they went to Ephesus, in Turkey, and as they walked along the marble road leading into the ancient city, they noticed a large circle carved into one of the marble paving stones.  After inquiring, they learned this symbol was known as the Christian Wheel and that some historians believe the Christian Wheel preceded the fish symbol as the secret sign to followers of Christ. The wheel contains the letters IXOYE superimposed so that the result looks like an eight-spoked wheel.

The couple’s passion is finding simple, non-threatening ways to share Jesus with people who may not yet know him and helping others to do the same. They had the idea of creating a coin inscribed with the Christian Wheel such that people could easily share the coin and along with it, the story of Jesus. On the reverse side of the coin they inscribed the Chi Rho symbol, the sign Constantine reported seeing in the sky and the words given him, “In hoc signo vinces,” which translated means, “In this sign you will conquer.” The Emperor Constantine is included on the coin because in 312 A.D. he issued the Edict of Milan, which made Christianity a legal religion in the realm, thus ending the severe persecution of the early Christians. From Greek letters to Latin inscriptions to ancient rulers to the very Son of God, the coin is laden with story telling possibilities, as well as a daily reminder of the carpenter from Galilee.

It’s fascinating and ironic that a once ancient symbol used secretly between believers is now becoming a not so secret means of sharing Christ with those who don’t know him.

If you would like to learn more or perhaps get a supply of the coins for your own efforts at sharing Christ, check out his website here. Purchase the coins or other supplies on Seedbed here.

From ancient times to the present day, the followers of Jesus have found all sorts of ways and means to share him with others. Are you aware of any of these perhaps lesser known ways this has happened throughout history or in the present day? Please share with us in the comments.

Mike and Louise Borden depicted here in the amphitheatre (holds 25,000 people) as you enter the city of Ephesus. This is the harbor walkway coming into Ephesus, and the probable site of the riot of the merchants where the apostle Paul was arrested.

4 COMMENTS

  1. This is great to know! I have the Icthus tattooed on the inside of each of my arms, and I got them for the very purpose of sharing the gospel; I was already acquainted with it’s story, but the Christian Wheel is fascinating! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  2. Wow, way to go Borden’s. Thank you for your questioning, your insight, and then turning that insight into an action that can be shared with others. Carrying a coin in ones pocket, then being able to share both sides of the coin with others is a great idea for faith sharing.

  3. Very good article!

    I have been studing this geometric design for more than 20 years. I first studied it in the Win,Win Model and the I’m Okay,You’re Okay Model. I came to realize that the geometric design in these two models and the Christian Wheel are God’s Universal blueprint, templete, compass for the creation of every behavior in the Universe. The Universe (God) is a behavioral system. There is a Genetic Structure to God’s Universal Being! The Geometric Design within the Christian Wheel of Wholeness is that Genetic Structure. I refer to the geometric design in the Christian Wheel as The Wholeness Model. I’m writing a book to explain the significance of this geometric design. The book is The Model of Universal Wholeness and the 9 States of Reality — A Behavioral Model For Understanding God’s Behavior and Humanities Behavior. The Wholeness Wheel is also a teaching tool. There is much hidden meaning within this wheel. A person can be taught how to see the geometric designs, mathematical structures, physics, cosmology, psychology, chemestry, biology, and the religious (spirituality) dimensions within the Wheel of Wholeness.

    The Christian Wheel or Wholeness Wheel is the Grand-Unification of Everything! And it is a teaching tool for healing humanities broken behavior(s).

  4. That slab of marble you are standing on is from the Byzantine period (5th century AD), so it doesn’t demonstrate that the symbol was used by early Christians under the Roman Empire (1st, 2nd, 3rd centuries). It also looks quite a bit like Roman and Byzantine game boards that are found carved on streets all over the Roman world.

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