It's All Greek To Me

    The New Testament was originally written in Greek.  As a result, that language and its alphabet have influenced Christian term and iconography

(in fact, the term "alphabet" comes from the first two Greek letters "alpha" and "beta.")  Here are a few examples.


The Lord Jesus Christ called himself  "the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end" (Rev. 1:8; 21:6)

  These letters appear often on the crux of display crosses in churches.  Some believe it stands for "Indeed, he suffered."  Others believe it stands for "In hoc signo vinces," Latin for "In this sign conquer," referring to the vision the Roman Emperor Constantine saw at the Melvian Bridge.  But these are not Latin letters.  They are the first three letters in the name "Jesus" in Greek.  It's an abbreviation, just as "Chas" is a shortened form of "Charles."

    The name "Jesus" comes from "Iesus," the Greek form of the Hebrew name "Joshua."  The name was first given by Moses to one of the spies exploring the Holy Land.  His name was originally Hosea (which means "He saves"), but Moses changed his name to Joshua (which means "Jehovah saves") (Num. 13:8, 16).  In the New Testament, we can see this in Hebrews 4:8.  The KJV rendess the name "Jesus" though the context clearly refers to "Joshua" and that is the name used in modern translations.  Also the same difference is seen in Colossians 4:11 concerning a fellow Christian named Joshua.  Names in Biblical times were chosen because of their meaning.  When the angel told  Joseph what to name the Christ Chils, the verse could be literally rendered "Thou shalt call His Name Jesus (Jehovah saves) for He shall save His Peoole from their sins (Matt. 1:21)

   When I was a boy, I believed only atheists used "ex-mas" because they wanted to cross Christ out of Christmas!.  But I was wrong.  Again, this is a Greek letter "chi," the first letter in the title "Christ."  The term "Christ" is often used like a last name, but it is really a title "Christos" and means "anointed."  It's the Greek translation of "Messiah," the Hebrew term for "anointed" (Jn. 1:41; 4:25).

  I had seen this icon (Greek for "image") on Bibles and clerical garb but wasn't sure what it stood for.  What did "P" and "X" have to do with Jesus anyway?  But again these are the Greek letters "Chi" and "Rho," the first two letters in the name "Christ."

    This is an ancient symbol that recently came back in vogue during the Jesus People movement of the 1960's.  Christians in early times feared persecution and used various symbols to identify each other.  When approaching someone new, a Christian would trace a curved lin in the sand.  A fellow Christian would know how to complete the symbol, making the sign of the fish.  Why was the fish chosen?  The Greek word for fish is "Ichthus" which in Greek can be made into an anagram of "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior."



Return to Table of Contents

Return to A List of Topics