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Symbols of Religion

The word comes from the Greek ‘symbolon’, which means token or means of identification (Encyclopedia). Symbols play a big role in most of the religions. Every religion has its own set of symbols. These symbols point to another level of existence, they represent so much more than what can ever be said in words. Religious symbols are representations of something ‘spiritual’ by something physical. Symbols are an indication for something that is represented. Most of the time is that what is symbolized, something mysterious. Symbols are often recognizable, but the full and deeper meaning is not. When a symbol is clear, it’s often called a ‘sign’.

Symbols can be found as an image or a word and can, amongst others, be presented in the following forms: legend , myth , metaphor or analogy (Encyclopedia). One symbol can have different meanings and can also have different levels. The first level is the literally view; seeing the symbols as being the reality. Second, the symbol can be taken allegorical, what means as much as an ‘easy representation of that what is actually meant’. The moral level is that what the symbol values and interprets. And the last level is that a symbol can be looked at anagogical; what is really meant and what is the higher deeper meaning of it (Encyclopedia).

There are many symbols that can be found in all the different religion. It just goes too far to sum them all up. What will be explained are the main symbols of the five main religions, completed with some ‘famous’ other symbols that can be found either in other religions and mainstream life. Christian Symbols Christian symbols which are centuries old are the Chi Ro cross and the Ichtus fish. The Ichtus symbolizes Jesus Christ (Steffler, 2002, p. 94). It means Ichthus Xristos Theos (h)Uios Soter; Jesus Christ God Son Savior. The Chi Ro is a monogram that also symbolizes Jesus.

Chi and Rho are the first two letters (?? ) of “Christ” in Greek ??????? (Christos). Other symbols for Jesus were made also, like the dove, lamb, grape vine and bread (Steffler, 2002, p. 26). One of the main symbols in Christianity is the cross. As mentioned with the Chi Ro cross, the cross represents Jesus. It also is a symbol for the suffering and the sacrifice the Jesus made; his life for the salvation and forgiveness of human sin (Steffler, 2002, p. 28). We find symbols for Jesus and Mary in two forms of a heart. The heart represents the spiritual and physical centre of a human.

A heart with three nails in it and a crown of thorns around it symbolizes Jesus’ suffering. A heart with a sword and a crown of roses symbolizes the suffering of the Virgin Mary (Steffler, 2002, p. 111). The dove is a symbol for peace and reconciliation (Stefler, 2002, p. 40-41). Noah lets a dove go to search for land, after the big flood of 40 days. The dove returns with a palm twig in its beak, which makes the dove is also a symbol of hope. It also represents the Holy Ghost, which descended upon Jesus when he was baptized in the river (Mathew 3:16). The apple stands for the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge (Genesis 2:9 and 2:17).

In paradise, Eve was seduced by a snake to eat from the apple and she seduced Adam to take a bite too. The eating of an apple would represent the worshipping of a creature instead of the creator. People should worship the creator, not that what was created (Cooper, 1987, p. 14). This makes the snake a symbol for evil and wrong doings. Jewish Symbols The Menorah is the oldest symbol of the Jewish religion. The menorah is a seven-branched candle, normally used in Jewish temples (Chaikin, 1990, p. 53-54). The menorah is said to be “a light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). The Star of David, or the Magen David, is mainly associated with Judaism.

It is a six pointed star, constructed of two triangles. It represents the shield of King David (Chaikin, 1990, p. 54-57). At the doorposts of Jewish homes we find the Mezuzah, a small case parchment inside. It is not a ‘good luck charm’, but a reminder of God’s presence (Chaikin, 1990, p. 59-60). In Deuteronomy we find: “And you shall write [the words that I command you today] on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:9, 11:19). Islamic Symbols In Islam, the use of pictures or symbols is strictly forbidden. Muslims are not allowed to worship anything other than Allah and Allah does not have any form.

Therefore, there are no real Islamic symbols found in the world. The word Allah, written in calligraphic Arabic is therefore not really a symbol, but it can be seen as one. This stands of course for the one and only God in the Muslim world (ReligionFacts Website). The best-known Islamic symbol is the star with the crescent moon. We find it back on some flags of Islamic countries like Turkey and Pakistan. It was not an Islamic symbol at first, it was adopted from the polytheistic religions during the spread of the Islam. It used to be also just a symbol for the Ottoman Empire, not for the whole Islamic world (ReligionFacts Website).

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