Symbols Of The Gospel Writers

Did you ever wonder where the symbols of the four Gospel writers come from?  They are derived from one vision of Saint Ezekiel and another vision that Saint John had ...

Their faces were like this:
each of the four had the face of a man,
but on the right side was the face of a lion,
and on the left side the face of an ox,
and finally each had the face of an eagle.
   Ezekiel 1:10

The first creature resembled a lion,
the second was like a calf [ox],
the third had a face like that of a human being,
and the fourth looked like an eagle in flight.
Revelation 4:7

Some early Church theologians (for example: Saints Irenaeus, Augustine, and Jerome) began to connect the four Gospel writers with the four creatures mentioned in the biblical books of Ezekiel and Revelation.  The idea caught on and many early Church artists began to illustrate these images as a way to represent Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.





Ezekiel's Vision

How to Remember Each Symbol
Matthew – Man (with wings): The beginning of this Gospel illustrates the humanity of Jesus through His list of ancestors (Matthew 1:1-17).
Mark – Lion: This Gospel begins with John the Baptist “crying out in the desert” … sort of like a lion (Mark 1:2-4).
Luke – Ox: One of the first passages of this Gospel takes place in the Temple; the place where oxen were sometimes offered as sacrifices (Luke 1:8-9 & 1 Kings 8:63).
John – Eagle: John’s Gospel has a different presentation compared to the other three Gospels; some declare that it somewhat soars (like an eagle) above the others in a theological sense.