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This minute fish on a piece of pottery was found by a volunteer, in amongst the roof tiles, marble and pottery finds. Here on the shore of The Sea fo Galilee, that may not seem strange or remarkable, considering that many people have made their living from fishing over the centuries since the synagogue was abandoned. However, a fish symbol in an area known to have been occupied by early Christians is very significant indeed.

The Greek word for fish is “ichthys.” As early as the first century, Christians made an acrostic from this word: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, i.e. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. The fish has plenty of other theological overtones as well: Jesus fed the 5,000 with 2 fishes and 5 loaves and called his disciples, “fishers of men.”



Second-century theologian Tertullian said: “we, little fishes, after the image of our Ichthys, Jesus Christ, are born in the water.”

Greeks, Romans, and many other pagans used the fish symbol before Christians. Hence the fish, unlike the cross, attracted less suspicion, making it a perfect secret symbol for persecuted believers. When threatened by Romans in the first centuries after Christ, Christians used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes. According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they had found a friend.

The fish’s presence in Area B of our dig only makes the site more fascinating and intriguing for Biblical Archaeology students and others.

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A tiny fish symbol found in the ancient Synagogue