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Symbols of the Four Evangelists

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

The Four Evangelists were very frequently represented in ancient art by symbols. The earliest of these representations can be seen in the Catacombs and upon the walls of the oldest existing churches. St. Jerome linked to the vision of Ezekiel to the Evangelists and assigned each Evangelist to a particular symbol. To St. Matthew was given the cherub or winged human face; to St. Mark the lion; to St. Luke the ox, and to St. John the eagle. There are reasons for these assignments.


The more human symbol is appropriate to the St. Matthew, the Evangelist who traces the human ancestry of Christ; the lion to St. Mark, whose gospel of Jesus Christ begins with “the voice of one crying in the wilderness;” the ox to St. Luke, who writes especially of the priesthood and of sacrifice, of which the ox is symbolical; and the eagle to St. John, whose inspiration soared to the loftiest heights, and enabled him to reach the paramount human perception of the dual nature of Jesus Christ.


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