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Article Info:
published: 3/17/04
updated: 8/14/14

Butterfly as a Christian Symbol



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).


Butterfly imagery in Christianity

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event, and doctrine, in the Christian religion. The Apostle Paul says that if Christ didn't rise from the dead then Christianity is meaningless and believers are to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:14). But if Christ did rise from the dead, then the Christian religion is true.

Because the resurrection is of such great importance, there is little wonder why Christians throughout the centuries have incorporated symbols of the event into their faith and life.

In the Church, the butterfly has long been a symbol of the resurrection of Christ as well as the resurrection of believers. The reason why is because the caterpillar disappears into a cocoon, which is like the tomb Christ lay in after the crucifixion, appearing dead. Later, it emerges from "death," having transformed into something more beautiful and powerful than it was.

The butterfly symbol is seen especially around Easter, the Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Christ. But the butterfly is also a symbol of every Christian's hope of resurrection from the dead, so it is sometimes displayed at the memorials and funerals of believers as well.

Related Bible Verses

"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."

~ 1 Corinthians 15:42-44

"For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed."

~ 1 Corinthians 15:52b

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References
  1. Color illustration by Walter E. Gast.
  2. Patricia S. Klein, Worship without Words: The Signs and Symbols of Our Faith (2000).
  3. Carolle E. Whittenmore, ed., Symbols of the Church.
  4. George Wells Ferguson, Signs & Symbols in Christian Art.
  5. Frederick Rest, Our Christian Symbols.


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