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Evangelists

The four writers of the Gospels are called the Evangelists. Each tells his own version of the life of Christ.

The miniature portraits of Matthew, Mark and Luke show them writing. John looks straight ahead at the reader, holding his scroll. Mark and John are shown as young men because they symbolise the divine immortal Christ. Matthew and Luke are older and bearded, Byzantine-style, because they represent Christ's mortal nature.

In Anglo-Saxon times people liked and expected symbolism in art. Their view was: 'why convey one meaning when it was possible to convey several?' Contemporary commentators such as Bede tell how the Evangelists were interpreted. Each Gospel had a different character and was represented by a different symbol.

Matthew was the man, representing the human Christ: God, made man. Mark was the lion, symbolising the triumphant Christ of the Resurrection, the God of Eternal Life. Luke was the calf, the sacrificial victim of the Crucifixion. John was the eagle, who flew directly to the throne of God for inspiration. He symbolises Christ's Second Coming.

 

Matthew evangelist miniature, the Lindisfarne Gospels
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Mark evangelist miniature, the Lindisfarne Gospels
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Luke evangelist miniature, the Lindisfarne Gospels
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John evangelist miniature, the Lindisfarne Gospels
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