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In Greek, the word for "fish" (ichthys, in its closest English approximation, from which we get the English word ichthyology, for the scientific study of fish) is composed of letters that can be used to form an acronym for the first letters of the Greek words for "Jesus Christ Son of God Savior". Thus, the fish symbol served as a non-verbal, covert way for early Christians to identify themselves to fellow believers (since the Greek language was widely used and understood at that time), but in a manner that would not attract the attention of authorities, who might perceive (although wrongly) the growth of Christianity as a threat to their earthly government, and who might then persecute Christians as a result. The fish symbol was especially appropriate, since it also evoked for believers recollection of Jesus telling His first disciples that He would make them "fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19).
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