Christian religions have used symbols from ancient times to express their faith in God and Jesus Christ’s values. But with splits in Christianity, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches, it might be challenging to understand the many symbols. With symbols of Protestant Christianity not as widely known or understood, many wonder about the main Protestant symbols.
The Latin Cross, a Fish, the Anchor, the Alpha & Omega, and the Chi Rho are common symbols of protestant Christianity. Several other symbols, colors, and numbers are associated with Protestantism, most of which have something to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ and, in other cases, the events surrounding his life.
With many of these symbols under consideration, an understanding of their roles and meanings in Protestantism is essential for believers. Please keep reading to understand their importance or the biblical view of the symbols.
Do all Christian denominations have symbols?
Yes, all Christian denominations have symbols. For centuries, Christians have used iconography and symbols to depict their values, beliefs, faith, and concepts. As a result, religious scholars have always used symbols, rituals, and shared myths to characterize religions.
The most notable symbol for all Christians is the cross or crucifix, although most religions have symbols like Madonna, the Child, and the Fish. These symbols were crucial in early Christianity because they were signposts signaling their beliefs and showing their differences.
Notably, the symbols were not created or used at random. Often, the Christian symbols were derived from Biblical stories of significance to the believers. These symbols helped the believers to remember and recount the stories deemed essential to their faith.
9 symbols of Protestant Christianity
All Protestant churches have a cross placed at the sanctuary’s front center. As one of the most important symbols to these believers, the cross portrays the centrality of life and death and the resurrection of Christ. These actions are regarded as the highest forms through which he revealed himself to humankind.
One notable difference between the Protestant Cross and the Catholic or Orthodox Crosses is that the cross used by the Protestants is not a crucifix, meaning that it doesn’t feature a portrayal of the body of Christ on the cross. So, the Protestant cross is a plain cross meant to emphasize the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that His death on the cross implied the completion of his work and sacrifices to humankind.
Unlike Roman Catholics, Protestants don’t have or believe in the crucifix because of the belief that displaying Jesus’s body on the cross represents a violation of the God-given second commandment that is against creating (and worshipping) graven image. Protestants hold on to this belief, as is implied in Exodus 20:4, where God warns against making carved images in one’s likeness or in the likeness of that which is in heaven, on or beneath the earth, or in the water.
The anchor is the other significant symbol in Protestantism. It is a symbol of security in stormy life events. Additionally, the anchor expresses perseverance, stability, and hope for peace or calmer waters. The Protestant church’s use of the anchor as a symbol comes from the symbolic use of the word or symbol anchor in the New Testament book of Hebrews 6:19-20, where it is suggested that hope in Christ is akin to having an anchor that keeps one safe.
That said, the anchor is not a new Protestant symbol since it dates to the Roman Empire’s reign, during which Christian graves also feature engravings of the symbol of the anchor combined with the cross and the date/time.
ICHTHYS (Fish Symbol)
As mentioned above, Christians also recognize the fish symbol as one of the important symbols dating back to the birth of Christianity. When it first came to be, the early church believed that the fish symbol needed to be carved on stone, hence the depicted fish symbols on several Catacombs in Italy, but this is no longer the case with modern Christians.
The symbolism behind the Fish also comes from the fact that Fish is called ICHTHYS in Greek. Protestants use ICHYTHYS as an acronym and spell it as IXOYE – a non-transliterated version of the word in Greek. It’s suggested that they use the acronym because Greek letters are capitalized. So, IXOYE is an acronym for I to represent Greek Iota, X represents Greek chi, O represents theta, Y represents an upsilon, and E stands for sigma.
In addition to the fish symbol being almost as old as the church, Christians have often deemed the fish symbols as symbols or identifiers of the Christians themselves. In such cases, someone would draw half a fish on the sand; if someone else completed drawing the other half of the Fish, they also identified as Christians.
According to speculations by historians and scholars, the symbol of the Fish came about from Jesus’ instruction to Peter when he asked the disciple to follow him so that Jesus would make him a fisher of men rather than Fish, as is suggested in Matthew 4:19. There are a few other theories around the fish symbolism, with many associating it with baptism because Fish live in water.
Alpha & Omega
The other critical Protestant Images are the Alpha and Omega, Greek letters representing the Greek alphabet’s first and last letters. The symbolism of these letters is deeply rooted in Christ’s teachings and life events, as is implied in the Book of Revelation 1:8.
These symbols are essential to Protestant Christians because they believe that Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, described as a pure merism by scholars, meaning the beginning, the end, and everything in between. A similar meaning of the Alpha and Omega is implied in Isaiah 44:6, where God suggests He is the First and the Last.
During the rule of the Roman Empire, Alpha and Omega symbols were engraved on the graves of deceased Christians because they reflected the hopes Christians had that Christ would come back to the earth where He would defeat evil before welcoming all believers to everlasting life.
The Greek letters ChiRho are also crucial to the Protestant church. This Greek-letter symbol mimics the capitalized letters P and X in English, but P is Rho in Greek, while X stands for Chi in Greek. A display of this symbol often shows an overlap of the letters P and X as recorded by the Church Historian, Eusebius (260-339)/
In Greek, Chi and Rho are the first two letters in the Greek word representing Christ. Christ is spelled XPIΣTOΣ. The Chi Rho symbol was also used between 272 and 337 by the Roman Empire during Emperor Constantine’s Rule, where, as a borrowed symbol, it was used in Christianity. It is believed that the emperor initiated using this symbol after he had a vision of Jesus Christ before the 312AD battle of the Milvian Bridge. After the battle, Christians started incorporating this symbol on gravestones, churches, and coins, among other objects.
All Christians believe in the Holy Spirit and the Trinity, depicted by the Christian Dove. Christians believe the dove portrays the Holy Spirit, who descended on Jesus Christ as a dove during His baptism at the river Jordan – Luke 3:22).
The dove also represents peace and calm. In Genesis 8, it is suggested that after the flood, Noah received a branch from a dove, which meant the end of God’s judgment and the end of the floods. The dove also symbolizes the start of a new covenant between God and man.
According to all Christians, the other symbol of the Trinity is the Borromean Rings. While the concept behind these rings was developed mathematically, the symbol’s three interlocking circles or rings portray the divine Trinity. All Christians also believe that the whole ring falls apart whenever one of the other rings is removed.
The importance of the Trinity (the Latin word Trinitas or Three Are One) is implied several times in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 13:14, Matthew 3:16-17, John 14:16-17, John 17:11/21, and Acts 2:32-33.
The other recognized symbol of the Trinity is the Triquetra, common with the Celts.
Light (of the World)
Protestants, like all other Christians, believe in the importance of the Light symbol used in the scripture. Light represents God, as is suggested in 1 John 1:5, John 8:12, and Psalm 27:1.
Protestant Christians believe that light illustrates God’s presence, as is implied in Exodus 3:2 when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Additionally, the eternal flame lit in the Temple in Jerusalem also represented the presence of God. And in Psalms 119:105, it is suggested that light symbolizes God’s guidance and direction.
Bread and Wine
Protestants believe that Bread and Wine symbolize The Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper. John 6:35 implies that Bread symbolizes life because it is the source of nourishment for sustaining life. At the same time, Bread may also represent Christ’s physical body, as suggested in Luke 22:19, which also forms the foundation of the Holy Communion. On the other hand, wine stood for the covenants of God made in blood and poured as payment for all humankind’s sins – this is implied in Luke 22:20.
So, Protestant believers partake in the Holy communion in remembrance of the sacrifices made by Christ through his life, death, and his resurrection.
Do Christianity symbols signify faith?
The standard symbols used or observed in Christianity signify their faith in God and Jesus Christ. All symbols, from the oldest symbols like the Fish in the Catacombs to the cross, represent Christians’ faith in God and being saved and loved by God and/or his son.
The cross, for instance, is one of the most common and significant symbols for all Christianity as it commemorates Christ’s death on the cross and Christian Faith.
Does the Bible recognize Christianity symbols?
Yes, the Bible recognizes symbols, which are, in turn, interpreted by Christians. Some of the symbols in the Bible recognized include:
Dove during Christ’s baptism – Luke 3:22
Holy Communion’s Bread and Wine – Luke 22:19-20.
Holy Trinity – 2 Corinthians 13:14
Alpha and Omega – Revelation 18
These are just some examples. However, it is worth noting that some Christians don’t support the use of Symbols to worship or believe in God, specifically for the individuals who follow the suggested teachings suggested in Exodus 20:4. They also claim that the second commandment forbade the worship of man-made things – 1 John 2:16. While some people follow these teachings and believe that the symbols are sinful, it is implied in Hebrews 8:13 that Jesus Christ came to earth to fulfill the old testament law. It is implied that Christ made the first covenants obsolete by creating new covenants. This is the argument that some Christians use to oppose symbols.
But then, in Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus suggests that He didn’t come to abolish the old laws but to fulfill them. Therefore, it makes sense that there are dissenting sides to the idea of Christian symbols, but it’s worth noting that for most Christians, the symbols represent faith in Christ, and there is nothing wrong with having them. It’s implied that Jesus’ coming was meant to emphasize the eternity of God’s worth and the importance of faith.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.