Tuesday, 25 October 2011

What Do Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have in Common with an Ox, a Lion, an Eagle and a Man?

If you're familiar with the writings of the early church, you'll know that they associated the gospels of Jesus with four living creatures: an ox, a lion, an eagle and a man. Depending on who you read, you will associate the different animals with different gospels for different reasons, and who knows - perhaps there's meant to be a certain ambiguity to them, it keeps us human control freaks humble and on our toes.

James Jordan (no prizes for guessing that I side with him thus far) sees Matthew with the Ox, Mark with the Lion, Luke with the Eagle and John with the Man. The Ox being symbolic of Priesthood and Sanctuary, the Lion of King and Kingdom, the Eagle of Prophet and World and the Man of Messiah fulfilling the first three restoring us to fellowship with God.

(If you didn't know anything about what I have just written, don't worry, neither did I until about 5hrs ago! But if you're like me then this is interesting stuff.)

These four animals connect back into the Old Testament both to the visions at the beginning of Ezekiel (see also Rev.4:7) and to the layout of the camp of Israel in the Wilderness. Jordan writes:
Now, these are the four gospels. From ancient times it has been known that Matthew wrote first (despite all the nonsense of liberals during the last century). Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, in his out-of-print book The Fruit of Lips, presents some compelling arguments to show that each of the gospel writers was adding to the previous writer, and in fact that each gospel picks up where the preceding one left off in terms of theme. 
He goes on...
Matthew presents Christ as Ox/Moses. His book is full of speeches, for the ear is central. Jesus is law-giver. God is the Father and the God of heaven, and "kingdom of heaven" is Matthew’s term (pointing back to the symbolism of the Tabernacle). 
Mark presents Jesus as a man of action. Mark presents Jesus as Lion/David, performing great works, swiftly going here and there, for the hand is central. In Mark, Jesus always does things "immediately." Mark is shorter than Matthew not because Mark wrote first (what a silly argument!), but because Mark does not provide the great sermons. The field of action is the land.
Luke presents Jesus as the Eagle/Prophet, interacting with gentiles and women much more than the other two. In Luke, Jesus is always on the move, and half of his book is taken up with the Travel Narrative to Jerusalem, for the foot is central. The Spirit receives the great emphasis in Luke and Acts. The field of action is the world.  
Finally, John presents Jesus as Man, the Image of God. The phrase "son of man" used in the other gospels points to Jesus as second Adamic priest, king, and prophet. The phrase "son of God" used in John points to Jesus as the image of God, true humanity as well as true God. John’s Jesus tours the sanctuary, which represents heaven. Thus, John puts us in the Throneland.
To fully understand the bits I have quoted, read the complete (not too long) article here.

No comments: