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Jesus Hand Gesture Meaning: What does Jesus’ hand sign signify?

If you have scrolled through social media photos recently, you have probably seen someone making some kind of symbol with their hand – perhaps a sideways peace sign or two hands forming the shape of a heart. You may have noticed someone holding up a “rock on” gesture or an “I love you” sign at a concert. Athletes will also display various hand gestures towards the crowd after they have made some exceptional play. Yet, our generation is not the first to use hand signals to convey a message.

Have you ever noticed that images of Jesus also often depict Him flashing a unique hand signal? What is the hand gesture of Jesus that is often visible in works of art? What does the unique position of the fingers on Jesus’ hand in paintings, statues, and carvings represent?

Historians claim that the ancient Greek and Roman orators used a special code of hand gestures during their speeches known as chironomia, and these non-verbal signals were adopted by classical artists to convey a unique message. The Bible even alludes to the use of hand gestures as a form of secret communication in Proverbs 6:13.

Today, it seems that everyone from celebrities to sports figures, to teens, and even Jesus in modern art is expressing some kind of message with a hand gesture. What is the meaning of this hand gesture of Jesus? Well, let us find out..

Jesus ‘IC XC’ Hand gesture Meaning: The Significance of the Jesus Christ’s icxc Hand Signal

Jesus Hand gesture Meaning: Jesus 'icxc' Hand Signal

For centuries, artists have been deliberately positioning the hands and fingers of the figures in their paintings and sculptures to communicate a unique or deeper message. Historians claim that these hand-gestures were common and well-known, and therefore they were easily recognizable in works of art. So, what is the message the artist is sending through the hand gesture being made by Jesus?

The most common hand gesture of Jesus represented in paintings or other iconographic forms of art is actually an ancient form of sign language. You may have seen Jesus holding up his right hand with the index finger pointing upward, the ring finger and thumb touching, and the middle finger and pinky slightly curved.

There are countless sculptures and paintings which show Jesus holding his hand in this same manner with His index finger is raised to form the Greek letter I, the middle finger is slightly curved to form the letter C, next the ring finger and the thumb are crossed to create the letter X, and then the pinky finger is also slightly curved to form a second letter C. In some cases, the pinky and the ring finger appear to be crossed to form the letter X with the ring finger also curved to create the second letter C. Thus, the letters IC XC are an abbreviation for the Greek spelling of the name Jesus Christ (Ἰησοῦς Χριστός).

This abbreviation is known as a Christogram, and if you happen to be part of the Catholic or Orthodox faith, you may have observed a priest or cleric making this same gesture when offering a blessing in the name of Jesus. In John 14:13, Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The Bible also proclaims that, “there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Thus, the artistic depictions of Jesus showing Him making this hand gesture are a reference to the significance of His name as the name above all other names.

The gesture is an identifying marker showing that the image in the painting or sculpture is Jesus. There are some works of art that show a saint making the same gesture, but in those instances, it is meant to symbolize the person proclaiming the name of Jesus as a blessing upon others.

Jesus ‘Thumb and two fingers up’ Hand Gesture Meaning: A sign of Holy trinity?

Through the centuries, some religious leaders have used the above-mentioned IC XC hand gesture to teach doctrinal truths about the nature and character of Jesus. First, the three fingers that are used to spell the I and X for the name Jesus also represent the three Persons of the Trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known.”

Also, the position of the ring finger, which touches the thumb to form the letter X symbolizes the intersection of diving and human natures in the Incarnation of Jesus. The Bible confirms that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…” and Hebrews 2:17 tells us, “For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”

These two doctrinal truths of the Trinity and the Incarnation have also been connected to another common hand gesture of Jesus used in classical works of art. That is the “Thumb and two fingers up” hand sign.

Jesus' 'thumb and two fingers up' Hand Gesture meaning: A sign of Holy trinity?

In many art works of Jesus, the first three fingers of the hand are raised (the thumb, index, and middle fingers) and the last two (the ring finger and the pinky) are pointing down or folded into the hand as in Leonardo da Vinci’s depiction of Jesus as the Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) painted in the year 1519.

In these images, the three raised fingers represent the three Persons of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit. The two fingers pointing down depict the divine and human natures coming down to dwell with us through the incarnation of Jesus. John 1:14 tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Final words:

God does warn us in the Ten Commandments to “not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (Deuteronomy 5:8-9). Therefore, we should never assume that an image or icon of Christ has any divine power to bless us.

Acts 17:29 says, “we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.” According to Colossians 2:17, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Therefore, artistic images of Jesus merely attempt to convey a deeper message about His nature and character as the Messiah, the Son of God.

We should never worship the image, or bow down to the image, or pray to the image, or expect the image to bless us – only the Person of Jesus deserves our praise, worship, and adoration. He alone can bless us. Philippians 2:9-11 declares, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Dr. Richard Sams is a top Biblical and Religious educator, who holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (Evangelism and Church Growth emphasis) from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He has two masters’ degrees (Master of Divinity and Master of the Arts of Religion) from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg and also serves on the Pastoral Leadership Advisory Board of Liberty University. Moreover, Richard Sams has been serving as a pastor (Pastoral Ministry) at Calhoun Baptist Church in Calhoun, KY, from the past Nineteen years. He loves practically imparting biblical truths to the next generation, while occasionally conduct spiritual challenges on his facebook page