Meaning of the Anchor Symbol in Christianity

Christian anchored cross symbol tattoo
Christian anchored cross symbol tattoo
The Christian anchored cross symbol

The anchor actually had symbolic meaning in early Christianity.  Although I was never aware of this for years as a Christian, I heard another believer mention this for the first time.  Although the cross and fish are common symbols in Christianity, apparently, so was the anchor.  Let’s look into the anchor in Christianity and what it means.

Anchor as a Christian Symbol

Did you know that the anchor used as a symbol in early Christianity?

Christian anchor cross
The anchor was originally a symbol for hope in early Christianity

In fact, in the 1st century Church, the symbol to represent Christians was the anchor rather than the cross.  The anchor represented security and steadfastness.  In Jesus we are able to hold fast during the storms and to be anchored from blowing away or drifting.

Christian believers’ tombs at the end of the 1st century and into the 2nd and 3rd centuries, had images of anchors on them, along with messages of hope.  The anchor is found in Roman catacombs as well as in Christian art.

The anchor become symbolic during times of heavy persecution by the Romans in the early Christian church.  Jesus is our anchor.  In fact, in Hebrews it says:

Hebrews 6:19 “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

For a long time, I had no idea that the anchor played a role in Christianity.  Usually, you see the symbol of the cross and the fish as the main symbols of Christianity, but not the anchor.  It was very interesting to learn the history behind the anchor.

In Archology of the Cross and Crucifix, it’s stated

“When the early Christians did represent the sign of the cross on their monuments, nearly all sepulchral in character, they felt obliged to disguise it in some artistic and symbolical way. One of the oldest of the symbols of the cross is the anchor. Originally a symbol of hope in general, the anchor takes on in this way a much higher meaning: that of hope based on the Cross of Christ. The similarity of the anchor to the cross made the former an admirable Christian symbol.”

(Orazio Marucchi, “Archaeology of the Cross and Crucifix,” Catholic Encyclopedia (1908), Vol. 4)

Anchored Cross in Christianity

Christian anchored cross symbol
Christian anchored cross symbol

Sometimes the image of the cross would be blended into the anchor, with the two top bars and the body representing the cross.  This was referred to as the anchored cross.  Clement of Alexandria approved of the anchor as a symbol since it was found in the Scripture (Hebrews 6:19).

Missionaries of the United Methodist Church in modern times wear the anchored cross.  It is meant to remind them that they are anchored to Christ and to their community.  See Why do United Methodist missionaries wear an anchor cross?

Other Common Questions

What does the anchor mean spiritually?

In ancient times the anchor represented security.  The Christians adopted the anchor to represent hope and also security in Christ.

What does the Bible say about an anchor?

The anchor is mentioned in the New Testament in the book of Hebrews, chapter 6, verse 19.  It reads,

Hebrews 6:19 “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

Why is Jesus an anchor?

Jesus is the anchor for our souls.  He represents our hope in eternal life as Christians.  He also anchors us through the storms and waves of life.

What does Hebrews 6:19 mean?

Hebrews 6:19 is talking about the hope that God has given us, the fulfillment of the covenant promise to Abraham, giving him many descendants.  That covenant is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  He enters the Holy of Holies before God on our behalf, as our High Priest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *