Brief History of the Analogy of the Four Evangelists to the Four Living Creatures


LXX Studies

While on Prince Edward Island last week, I visited St. Dunstan’s Basilica (rebuilt 1916) in Charlottetown. On the front, it had the ancient symbols (drawn from the vision in Ezekiel 1) for the faces of the four evangelists carved in stone: Matthew = man, Luke = ox, Mark = lion, and John = eagle (the order from left to right on the building’s face).

The order of the four evangelists here is unusual to my knowledge, but the symbolism for each evangelist is ancient. Here is the well-known page from the Book of Kells (fol. 27v; ca. 800): Matthew = man, Mark = lion, John = eagle, and Luke = calf (from top left clockwise).

KellsFol027v4Evang

This symbolism can be traced as far back as Jerome’s preface to his Matthew Commentary:

The book of Ezekiel also proves that these four Gospels had been predicted much earlier. Its first vision is described…

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