WALKING THROUGH THE 25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
The Christmas season gives rise to varied depictions of angelic beings. Unfortunately, none can adequately convey the awesome power of these magnificent creatures.
When the Bible pulls back the curtain allowing us to see into the spiritual dimension, we get a glimpse of the awesome magnificence of the beings we glibly call angels.
“As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning. And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning.”
One group of mighty beings described in the Bible are cherubim, plural for cherub. Their movements are instantaneous, darting with lightning speed in their service to Almighty God (Ezek. 1:19-21).
Ezekiel describes cherubim as formidable beings radiating intense brightness, moving with incredible speed and generating what appear to be flashes of lightening.
With bodies similar to man, but with four faces oriented in opposing directions, two sets of wings, hands and calf-like feet, how is it they came to be recognized as baby-like creatures sporting dimply bodies and stubby wings? (Ezek. 1:5-13).
The first mention of cherubim occurs shortly after Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden when God stationed them with flaming sword at the entrance to guard the Tree of Life.
In early Christian art, however, cherubim were often portrayed as bodiless heads with wings—their spiritual nature reflected by the incorporeal absence of a body. With heads representing their intellect and ability to communicate with God, wings identified them with the divine or celestial.
Italian artists of the Quattrocento are primarily responsible for visual depictions we commonly associate with angels. In the 1400’s, Raphael borrowed and adapted a motif from Greek and Roman mythos applying it to the sacred in his widely-known rendition of cherubs in “The Sistine Madonna.”
Starting with the early Renaissance through the Baroque period and up to the present, artistic depictions of cherubs are erroneously interchanged with this motif known as putto. Taken from the Latin meaning little man, putti (pl.) are mischievous baby-like winged creatures associated with profane activities or erotic love in classical themes. This motif became so entrenched, that by the Baroque era, the only way to differentiate between cherubim and putti was the context of the art.
Hence, though universally accepted as a medium for creative expression, art isn’t necessarily the best way to convey biblical truth! As finite creatures, our ability to conceptualize angels is limited.
Cherubim are immensely powerful beings intimately connected to God who function as His ministering servants in accomplishing His direct will.
Whether recognized as such in artistic depictions, people of faith can rely on the veracity of the Bible for the foundation for our understanding.
This Christmas, don’t allow the familiar depictions of angels to undermine their vital role both in the Christmas story and the outworking of God’s plan for history. Use God’s Word to build your faith; and then rejoice that you can share the truth about angels!
1) Walking to church (c. 1853). By George Henry Durrie (1820–1863) [PD-US, PD-Art], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
2) Cherubim. By Unknown engraver (Google Books) [PD-US, PD- Art], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
3) Putto on building in Ptuj, Slovenia. By David Jones [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
4) The Guardian of Paradise (c. 1889). By Franz von Stuck (1863–1928), [PD-US, PD-Art], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
5) Cherubs, (Soffitto prima sala, Gallerie dell’Accademia). Photo by José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
6) Contemplative Putti (Detail: The Sistine Madonna, c. 1512). By Rafael Sanzio de Urbino (1483–1520). [PD-US, PD-Art], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. With 40 plus years of ministry experience, Rev. McCracken is known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author via Contact Form under ABOUT. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.