Today's randomly drawn tarot card is The World. In the upper left-hand corner of this card is a man's face. In the upper right-hand corner of this card is an eagle. In the lower left-hand corner is an ox. In the lower right-hand corner is a lion.
I wonder what non-Christian tarot readers make of these images. They are in fact references to symbols for the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
These four images are referenced is Revelation, the final book of the Bible: "And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle."
The New American Bible offers this footnote: "Lion, calf, human being, eagle: these symbolize, respectively, what is noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in creation … Since the second century, these four creatures have been used as symbols of the evangelists Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John, respectively."
Wikipedia offers this:
· Matthew the Evangelist, the author of the first gospel account, is symbolized by a winged man, or angel. Matthew's gospel starts with Joseph's genealogy from Abraham; it represents Jesus' Incarnation, and so Christ's human nature. This signifies that Christians should use their reason for salvation.
· Mark the Evangelist, the author of the second gospel account, is symbolized by a winged lion – a figure of courage and monarchy. The lion also represents Jesus' resurrection (because lions were believed to sleep with open eyes, a comparison with Christ in the tomb), and Christ as king. This signifies that Christians should be courageous on the path of salvation.
· Luke the Evangelist, the author of the third gospel account (and the Acts of the Apostles), is symbolized by a winged ox or bull – a figure of sacrifice, service and strength. Luke's account begins with the duties of Zacharias in the temple; it represents Jesus' sacrifice in His Passion and Crucifixion, as well as Christ being High priest (this also represents Mary's obedience). The ox signifies that Christians should be prepared to sacrifice themselves in following Christ.
· John the Evangelist, the author of the fourth gospel account, is symbolized by an eagle – a figure of the sky, and believed by Christian scholars to be able to look straight into the sun. John starts with an eternal overview of Jesus the Logos and goes on to describe many things with a "higher" christology than the other three (synoptic) gospels; it represents Jesus' Ascension, and Christ's divine nature. This symbolizes that Christians should look on eternity without flinching as they journey towards their goal of union with God.