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The four living creatures The allocation of the symbols to the gospels

What are the four portraits of Jesus, and how can we get away from the mixed-up amalgam? A traditional visual aid has been to use the four living creatures found in Ezekiel’s vision of God (Ezek. 1.10). In the Cathedral and churches around where I live, these four symbols keep recurring, set in the stone of pulpits, highlighted in stained glass windows, depicted in frescoes, and carved on beautiful wooden ceiling bosses. Often they hold a gospel book, or have the name of one of the evangelists carved below: St Matthew has a human face, St Mark the head of a roaring lion, St Luke a patient-looking ox and St John a sharp-beaked eagle. When I was on study leave in the United States of America to write this book, once again I found them everywhere from the dining hall and chapel of the General Theological Seminary, New York, to the lectern at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and in stained glass from the Catholic Cathedral of Albany, capital of New York State, to churches in Vancouver, Canada. So why are they so widespread, and what do they mean?…

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