Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Evangelists: Oxen, and Men, and Eagles and Lions! OH MY!

Before office furniture, writers used floating podiums as desks and mythical beasts as chairs.

Today is the Feast Day of St. Luke. He is depicted in art with or even "as" an ox. What's up with that?

The Four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) each have a special symbol associated with them; a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle respectively. Why are each of the writers given a "mascot"?

In the Book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel tells of a special vision of the four living creatures (Ez 1:1-14) which were angelic thus bearing God's word (which is what an evANGEList does. See what I did? I made the word "angel" huge to stress a point).

We will see these angelic beings again in the Book of Revelation (Rev 4:5-11) as they are the ones who cry out the words similar to the "Sanctus" at Mass: "Holy, Holy, Holy"!

For a good review and study of the evangelist's symbols, click here. You can get lost for days in this!

You will see in the studies, that the symbols weren't always assigned to the evangelist as we know them today. It was St. Jerome who made that decision. Jerome arranged the Gospels in the order we have them today: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. He simply assigned the creatures as they were presented to the evangelists as they are presented.

Later, some theologians and others would ascribe attributes to the writer and the symbol. The "ox" is mentioned in the opening of Luke's Gospel, for instance. It was used in the sacrifice of the temple priest so Luke gets to be the ox therefore. Others have noted Luke's Gospel is for those who work and his Jesus' parables are about laborers. Oxen are beasts of burden. So there's that, too.

The other Gospel writers have been treated the same.

St. John the Evangelist, for your information, is not associated with the University of Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagle is just coincidental.