Symbols of the four: —
A man with a pen in his hand, and a scroll before him, looking over
his left shoulder at an angel. This Gospel was the first, and the angel
represents the Being who dictated it.
Matthew a man, because he begins his gospel with the descent
of Jesus from the man David.
A man seated writing, and by his side a couchant winged lion. Mark
begins his gospel with the sojourn of Jesus in the wilderness, amidst
wild beasts, and the temptation of Satan, “the roaring lion.” (See
A man with a pen, looking in deep thought over a scroll, and near
him a cow or ox chewing the cud. The latter part refers to the eclectic
character of St. Luke's Gospel.
A young man of great delicacy, with an eagle in the background to
denote sublimity. The more ancient symbols were—for Matthew, a
for Mark, a lion;
for Luke, an ox;
for John, a flying eagle,
in allusion to the four living
creatures before the throne of God, described in the Book of
Revelation: “The first ... was like a lion, and the second ... like a
calf, and the third ... had a face as a man, and the fourth ... was
like a flying eagle” (iv. 7). Irenæ'us says: “The lion signifies the
royalty of Christ; the calf His sacerdotal office; the man's face His
incarnation; and the eagle the grace of the Holy Ghost.”.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894