What is the meaning of IHS?

IHS is a Christogram, an abbreviation of the name of Jesus Christ. In Greek, I H S—iota eta sigma—are the first three letters in the name "Jesus" so it is a symbol for Jesus' name. Another Christogram, the X P (Chi Rho) symbol, uses the first two letters in the word "Christ" in Greek. These Christograms are found on altars, vestments, windows, and tombstones in many Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist churches. In early Christianity, IHS was a secret symbol used to help identify fellow Christians. In the 1400s, people started putting this symbol on their doorways to identify their dwelling as a Christian home. Now, this symbol permeates Christian art and worship.

Over the centuries, as Christianity spread to people who did not speak Greek, different meanings have been associated with the IHS Christogram. In Latin, many learned it meant Iesus Hominum Salvator, "Jesus Savior of Mankind." This translation is reasonable when considering that Jesus' name in Hebrew means "Yahweh/God Saves" (Matthew 1:21). Also in Latin, some were reminded of In Hoc Signo, short for the longer quote In hoc signo vinces, meaning "In this sign you will conquer" and purported to be a vision Emperor Constantine had that led to his conversion to Christianity. English speakers have often been taught it stands for "I have suffered" or "in His service." So the abbreviation can be used in many ways to remind people of Jesus, His saving work, and His claim of lordship over our lives.

Ultimately, "God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9–11). Jesus will be worshipped by all eventually, but only the one "who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13). It's not a name that will be exalted or a name that saves people from condemnation, but rather it's the person who goes by that name. We are to trust in and worship Jesus Himself and not idolize the letters of His name or trust in symbols we have created. However, when we use these symbols to point our attention back to Christ and the salvation He offers, it can be a beautiful and God-honoring practice.

Related Truth:

What are the names of Jesus Christ? What titles are ascribed to Jesus in the Bible?

What does it mean that Jesus has the name above all names?

What does it mean that there is power in the name of Jesus?

What does the Chi Rho symbol mean?

What is the meaning of the Christian fish symbol (ixthus / icthus)?

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