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Ichthys or Ichthus?

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Question:   Sir: What is the difference between "ICHTHYS" and "ICHTHUS"? I have seen two different spellings of this Greek translations of each of the letters that means "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior." Which is correct rendering or does it matter? I hope you can explain it as I await your answer. Thank you in advance for your help, as I have wondered about this for quite some time.   There is even a web-site using "ICHTHUS.com" from England. I wonder if they think theirs is more correct than yours? Oh well, its really no big deal but I do like to know what is accurate for my own satisfaction. Anyway, thank you once again. Hope to hear from you soon. Yours in Christ

Response:  First off, there are lots of sites out there in "cyber-space" that have some version of "ichthys" or "ichthus" in the title or URL. This site is the original, one and only ICHTHYS.COM. It is based in the U.S.A. and, though a "dot.com", has no commercial content (nothing is for sale, and nothing is advertised for compensation). I operate this ministry in a not-for-profit manner, but not as a non-profit organization, and no donations are solicited or accepted. People often wonder about this seemingly odd combination of commercial status without commerce and no profit without donations or tax advantages. The answer is simple enough: this is the best way for me to run this ministry without any external interference, and at the same time to offer the Word of God free and without obligation to all comers.

As to the spelling of ICHTHYS, the one used for my URL is "more correct" in that it adopts the now standardized transliteration of the Greek word for fish which is an acronym for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior" (see: explanation of the ichthys acronym): iota, chi, theta, upsilon, sigma. The problem is with the "upsilon", which in centuries past was sometimes transliterated as an English "u", but is better done as a "y". This is because upsilon really is the letter Y. The Romans, from whom we got our alphabet (yes it has earlier origins, but the immediate source is Rome), had the letter "u", but when they began transliterating Greek words into Latin in their thirst for Greek culture, they became aware that the Greek "u" sounded quite a bit different from the Roman "u" and so to preserve this distinction began to use in addition to their own "u" the Greek "u" (upsilon) in its Greek form = capital Y, the only form that existed until many centuries later when minuscules were developed. Today, when one reads Greek, most of the letters are in lower case (it makes it easier for us even though none of the Classical Greeks ever saw such a thing) and the lower case upsilon looks almost exactly like an English "u" (hence the modern confusion). Here are the lower and upper case forms in Greek font:

 υ   Υ

So, bottom line, either is correct after a fashion, but upsilon = "y" is really what scholars use in the vast majority of instances, this one included.

Thanks for your interest.

Yours in Christ,

Bob Luginbill


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