|The four gospels surround the
lamb of god.
When a medieval craftsman lovingly carved a representation of the four gospels for the cover of this book, he was using symbols that had been sacred for thousands of years before the birth of Christ.
The four gospels – Luke, Mark, John, and Mathew – are commonly represented as a Bull, a Lion, an Eagle and a Man. These are the four fixed signs of the Zodiac – Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. Scorpio these days is usually depicted as a scorpion, but the eagle is also associated with that sign.
According to Christian tradition, the four evangelists are represented as animals because of two references in the Bible. The first is Ezekiel’s vision in the Old Testament (the King James version). Ezekiel, while a slave in Babylon, saw a vision of God in a chariot being pulled by four creatures.
|The Four Evangelists from the
Aachen Gospel c.820
“As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies. And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went.”
It’s not insignificant that he was in Babylon. This is where historians trace the origins of astrology as we know it. When Ezekiel was there, the 12 signs of the Zodiac were already known and astrology was in use. Furthermore, these fixed signs were considered to be symbols of kingly power. Statues of the winged Assyrian lion and bull were at the entrances to palaces. (Assyria was the empire which preceded Babylon in the same territory.) These creatures were a composite of the four fixed signs – the wings of an eagle, the body of a lion or bull, and the head of a human.
|An Assyrian winged bull.|
“Immediately I was in the Spirit. Behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and one sitting on the throne that looked like a jasper stone and a sardius. There was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald to look at.
“Around the throne were twenty-four thrones. On the thrones were twenty-four elders sitting, dressed in white garments, with crowns of gold on their heads. Out of the throne proceed lightnings, sounds, and thunders. There were seven lamps of fire burning before his throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne was something like a sea of glass, similar to crystal.
“In the midst of the throne, and around the throne were four living creatures full of eyes before and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within. They have no rest, day and night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come!”
Those four ancient Near Eastern symbols of power become four symbols of the Christian god’s might.