Jacob Mattison suggests that the fish symbol derives from the loaves-and-fishes story recounted in John 6. (I guess a loaf was too hard to draw.) He points out a couple of other New Testament mentions of fish: eating fish after the resurrection (John 21), and Jesus telling Peter to catch a fish to pay taxes (Matthew 17:24-27). He adds: "So I had thought that the fish symbol came from the fish stories (you should have seen the one that got away!) and the acronym came after." Could be. Finally, he mentions a fish symbol I'd forgotten: one with tentacles, labeled "Cthulhu."
Fran and Ed provide an interesting sidelight on fish, quoting Martin R. Vincent's New Testament Word Studies: apparently one of the words used to refer to fish actually refers to "anything that is eaten with bread." Vincent adds, "Fish became among the Greeks a chief dainty to gourmands, so that Demosthenes describes a glutton and spendthrift as one who is extravagant in fish."
(Last updated: 10 January 1999)