Monday, January 08, 2007
I was asked just before Christmas, if I could draw a large angel for our church youth group, as they were performing a nativity play.
I always feel a little uneasy when drawing angels, mainly because, I'm not too sure what they look like! For the same reason, I also feel uncomfortable drawing anything relating to heaven. I hold to the view that these things are beyond human imagination, therefore, however we try to depict them, we are sure to fail miserably!
Man boasts that he can achieve whatever he can imagine, but God begins where mans imagination ends! There are many instances in the Bible where man, after seeing a heavenly vision, attempts to describe the indescribable! e.g. Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 10, Revelation etc. In Corinthians ch12:2, Paul 'beheld sights and heard unspeakable words which it would not be possible for man to declare'. In the same way that 'words failed' Paul, if the worlds greatest artist were to see those same visions, I believe that he too, would be unable to paint them onto canvas.
The Bible mentions different types of angelic beings, such as 'Cherubim', 'Seraphim', 'Thrones', 'Archangels', 'Angels', 'Principalities and powers. etc. The descriptions given, of both the cherubim in Ezekiel 10, and the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2, fall into the category of the indescribable! There are descriptions given, but they're not easily translated into coherent images.
The craftsmen of Moses' day however, didn't seem to have any problems depicting cherubs. They made two cherubim in solid gold for the 'Ark of the Covenant'. Presumably, Moses was given the visual information about cherubs, which he in turn passed on to the craftsmen. We also read in Ex 26:1 that skilled craftsmen wove images of cherubim into the design of the tabernacle curtain. According to Ezekiel, cherubs have four wings. I've only ever seen two winged cherubs on reconstructed models of the 'Ark of the Covenant'.
The word 'Seraphim' means 'burning ones' which suggests that they have the appearance of fire.
Adolphe Napoleon Didron, (1886), illustrated both cherubim and seraphim based on the literal descriptions given in Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 10. The end results however, were most unusual.
So, going back to angels. How should we draw them? What do they really look like? Most of the 'Angel imagery' that is accepted, is provided by the 'Old masters'. If we are to base our pictures on these images alone, then angels will remain as either 'fat babies with wings', or slightly effeminate looking men with long white robes, wings, and in some cases, a sword. So, how scriptural are these images?
Firstly, it's important to mention that, out of the list of angelic beings mentioned above, it's angels that interact with men, and they appear in human form. Notice also, that angels always appear in adult form, (not as fat babies!)
Most of the time they are male, although female ones seem to be mentioned in Zechariah 5:9.
In most Bible passages about angels, Wings are not mentioned! In Genesis chapters 18 & 19 for instance, the angels had no wings. At least not visible ones.
Seraphim, cherubim and thrones however, do have wings , but Seraphs only use two of their six wings to fly!
Angels are recorded as wearing white robes, which in some cases radiate dazzling light. (Matt 28:3), but, angels also appear in normal clothing, (Gen:18).
If Pauls comments about 'entertaining angels unawares' in Hebrews 13:1-2, is applicable today, then it would suggest that angels keep up-to-date with fashion too!
It seems that angels either appear as men, (so as not to cause alarm), or in their natural state, which is both awesome and terrifying. (Luke 24:5).
In Psalm 78:25, angels food is mentioned which suggests that angels may also eat!
If anyone has done a study of angels, (from the Bible), and would like to share their thoughts, particularly on the physical appearance of angels, please leave a comment.
Drawing the Devil