Symbols in Christianity
Christianity has always incorporated symbols - that is, visual representations and signs - into its practice, as valuable expressions of truth. The depiction of an important element of the faith, by means of an animal or color, for instance, can be powerful and encouraging. What words cannot say, sometimes symbols can. While Christians are known for being people of faith, the religion has produced some of the most beautiful art in history. Whether they be carved on first-century tombs or tattooed on twenty-first century bodies, symbols matter in the Christian religion.
Christians believe that God created human senses - sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell. Of course faith is of utmost importance in Christianity, but the physical abilities God gave people aren't unimportant. It is helpful to understand that the Christian worldview doesn't teach that immaterial and the material are in competition with each other or opposed to each other. in fact, faith experiences can be supported by a sensory experience such as when the Apostle Paul laid hands on people when he prayed for them (Acts 19:4-6).
Anchor imagery in the Bible
An anchor is a heavy, nautical weight, normally made of metal, used to connect a boat or ship to the bed of a body of water for the purpose of prevent the vessel from drifting due to wind or current. Used symbolically, an anchor reflects that which provides stability, and confidence, and certainty.
The Christian religion teaches that these characteristics (i.e. stability, confidence, and certainty) are found in Christ and can be known and experienced by those who follow him. As the world, and life in general, are like a tumultuous sea, made dangerous by the wind, Jesus is like an anchor for the soul.
The anchor is a very early Christian symbol that has been found in the Roman catacombs. It brings together the cross (#2 right) and the various nautical Christian symbols, like the fish (#1 right), a boat, and a dolphin. The reason why the anchor was used so early in the church may be because the imagery originated in the New Testament letter of Hebrews.
When used today, the anchor represents a Christian's hope in Christ.
The anchor is also the symbol of St. Clement of Rome, who tradition says was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea.Related Bible Verses
"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."
~ Hebrews 6:17
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- Patricia S. Klein, Worship without Words: The Signs and Symbols of Our Faith (2000).
- Carolle E. Whittenmore, ed., Symbols of the Church.
- W.E. Post, Saints, Signs, and Symbols.
- George Wells Ferguson, Signs & Symbols in Christian Art.
- Frederick Rest, Our Christian Symbols.