Cherubim are not Angels

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It is not possible to describe their singing; and they rejoice before the Lord at His footstool.

The Ethiopian Book of Enoch also mentions these three classes of angels as those that never sleep, but always watch the throne of God lxx. The following sentence of the Midrash is characteristic: "When a man sleeps, the body tells to the neshamah ["the soul"] what it has done during the day; the neshamah then reports it to the nefesh ["the spirit"], the nefesh to the angel, the angel to the cherub, and the cherub to the seraph, who then brings it before God [Lev.

When Pharaoh pursued Israel at the Red Sea, God took a cherub from the wheels of His throne and flew to the spot—for He inspects the heavenly worlds while sitting on a cherub.

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The cherub, however, is ["something not material"], and is carried by God, not vice versa Midr. Maimonides "Yad," Yesode ha-Torah, ii. In the Zohar, where also ten classes of angels are enumerated, the cherubim are not mentioned as a special class compare Zohar, Ex. Bo, 43a. As regards the representations of the cherubim in the Temple, Josephus holds that no one knows or can even guess what form they had "Ant.

Mangey, ii. The rabbinical sources evince an archeological rather than a theological interest in the cherubim. Onkelos, the proselyte beginning of the second century C. Onkelos' view is also given in the Targ. The last-named passage says that the cherubim which Ezekiel saw in his vision Ezek. It seems that the Talmud had noticed that Ezekiel's conception of the heavenly creatures differed from the traditional one. It is recorded as a miracle that when Israel was worshiping the Lord, the cherubim lovingly turned their faces toward each other B.

On these occasions the curtain was raised so that the Jews who had come on pilgrimage might convince themselves how much God loved them Yoma 54a. At the destruction of the Temple the heathen found the cherubim in this posture; and they mocked the Jews because of their obscene worship, thinking the cherubim to be the objects of it Yoma 54b.

Asher to Ex. The symbolical interpretation of the Alexandrians, mentioned above, is also found in rabbinical sources. Tadshe ed. Epstein, p. Another Midrash Num. Maimonides says "Moreh Nebukim," iii. There were no cherubim in the Temple of Herod; but according to some authorities, its walls were painted with figures of cherubim Yoma 54a. Primitive Hebrew tradition must have conceived of the cherubim as guardians of the Garden of Eden Gen. Back of this lies the primitive Semitic belief in beings of superhuman power and devoid of human feelings, whose duty it was to represent the gods, and as guardians of their sanctuaries to repel intruders.

Tijdschrift," , pp. From the brief and meager Biblical descriptions of the statues representing the cherubim, it is impossible to judge of their real form.

Don Stewart :: Who Are the Cherubim?

They were hardly sphinx-shaped; for all the representations of the winged sphinx have the wings bent backward rather than extended toward the sides. Whether the cherub was a union of man and some animal form, such as the hawk-headed man so frequently found on Egyptian monuments and also at Nineveh, or only a winged man, as the representation of the palace guardian at Khorsabad, is not certain. Such figures, however, are very common in Babylonian decorations; and winged men and animals are found in ancient sculptures throughout Syria.

Cheyne considers the cherubim of Hittite origin, the originality of the Hittites in the use of animal forms being well known. The Hittite griffin appears almost always not as a fierce beast of prey, but seated in calm dignity, like an irresistible guardian of holy things.


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The Phenicians, and probably the Canaanites, and through them the Israelites, attached greater importance to the cherub. These four living beings stood together, facing in four opposite directions, and between them were four great wheels, each wheel being double, so that it could roll forward or sideways. Thus this angelic chariot, in whatever of the four directions it moved, always presented the same aspect. And both angels and wheels were all studded with eyes. And over the heads of the cherubim, so that they touched it with the points of their outstretched wings, was an expanse of crystal, and on this crystal a sapphire throne, and on the throne one resembling a man, the likeness of the glory of Jehovah.

The Cherubim: Their Role on the Ark in the Holy of Holies

The mystical meaning of each detail of this vision will probably remain a matter of speculation, but the meaning of the four faces seems not difficult to grasp: man is the king of creation, the lion the king of beasts of the forest, the ox the king of the kine in the field, the eagle the king of the birds of the air. On this account the cherubim have of recent years been explained as mere symbols of the fulness of earthly life, which, like the earth itself, is the footstool of God.

But these faces are more naturally understood to signify that these angelic beings possessed the intelligent wisdom of man, the lithe strength of the lion, the ponderous weight of the ox, the soaring sublimity of the eagle. Early Christianity transferred this Old Testament vision to a New Testament sphere and gradually used these cherubic figures to designate the four Evangelists — a thought of rare grandeur and singular felicity , yet only a sensus accommodatus. Ezechiel's Prophecy against the Prince of Tyre contains a description of the almost more than earthly glory of that ancient city.

Tyre is spoken of as an angel fallen from glory. Of the King of Tyre it is said: Thou, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. In Eden , the garden of God wert thou, all precious stones were thy covering. Thou wert a cherub with wings outstretched in protection, thou wert on the holy mountain of God , thou didst walk amongst fiery stones.

Thou wert innocent in thy ways form the day on which thou wert created until iniquity was found in thee Indirectly we can gather from this passage that Cherubim were conceived to be in a state of perfection, wisdom, sinlessness, nearness to God on His Holy Mountain and of preternatural glory and happiness. Unfortunately, the words paraphrased as "with wings outstretched in protection" are difficult to translate: the Hebrew term may mean "cherub of anointing, who covers", therefore a royal, anointed being, overshadowing others with its wings to shelter them. If this be so, we must add royalty and beneficence to the characteristics of cherubim.

In theology Notwithstanding the present common opinion of advanced Protestant scholars, that cherubim are only symbolic representations of abstract ideas , the Catholic Church undoubtedly holds that there are actually existing spiritual beings corresponding to the name. That Old Testament writers used the word cherubim to designate angels , not merely to express ideas , can be best gathered from Genesis , where God sets cherubim at the entrance of Paradise.

This sentence would bear no sense at all if cherubim did not stand for ministerial beings, differing from man, carrying out the behest of God. Likewise, it is difficult to read Ezechiel and to persuade oneself that the Prophet does not presuppose the actual existence of real personal beings under the name of Cherubim; in chaps. The living beings zoa so often mentioned in St.

John's Apocalypse can only be taken as parallel to those in Ezechiel, and their personal existence in St. John's mind cannot be doubted. The frequent sentence also: "who sittest upon the Cherubim" 1 Samuel ; 2 Samuel ; 2 Kings 19 ; Isaiah , 16 ; Psalms and , though no doubt referring to Jehovah's actual dwelling in the Holy of Holies, yet is better understood as referring to the heavenly throne-bearers of God.

So the Christian Church from the first accepted the personality of the cherubim and early adopted Philo's interpretation of the name. Though counted amongst the angels during the first centuries of Christianity , the cherubim and seraphim were not mentioned in the lists of the angelic hierarchy.

At first but seven choirs of angels were reckoned, i. Thus St. II, xxx, and Origen , Peri archon , I, v. But soon it was realized that the Apostle's list was not intended to be a complete one, and the Old Testament angelic beings mentioned by Ezechiel and Isaias, the cherubim and seraphim , and others were added, so that we have eight, nine, or ten, or even eleven ranks in the hierarchy. The cherubim and seraphim were sometimes thought to be but other names for thrones and virtues Gregory of Nyssa , Against Eunomius I ; Augustine in Ps.

Cyril of Jerusalem and by St. Chrysostom about , and which Pope Gregory the Great , once aprocrisarius or nuncio at Constantinople, made familiar to the West. Pope Gregory divided the nine angelic orders into three choirs, the highest choir being: thrones, cherubim, and seraphim.

Angels, Cherubim, Seraphim, etc.

Of the cherubim he says Hom. This explanation of St. Gregory is ultimately derived from Philo's similar statement, and was already combined with the Old Testament function of the cherubim by St. Augustine in his sublime comment on Ps. Though we realize that cherubim are exalted heavenly powers and virtues; yet if thou wilt, thou too shalt be one of the cherubim. APA citation. Arendzen, J.

In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. MLA citation. Arendzen, John. New York: Robert Appleton Company,