Given the historical debate over the Christian symbols of the evangelists, they lend themselves quite easily to a Bible study, and overview of the gospels. In addition, the birth narrative in Matthew provides an excellent opportunity to study the wider narrative of scripture.
Read Matthew 1. Then read the following passages:
I Kings 1.32-37
These passages represent the people listed in Jesus' geneaology.
What do these characters have in common? In what ways are they different? Why might the author of Matthew have chosen to list these people by name rather than skipping generations?
The Winged Man offers an excellent door into preaching Matthew 1, which is not often preached. It provides a way to focus on the humanity of Jesus.
Unlike the other symbols, the symbol of the winged man lends itself easily to use during advent or at Christmas. It could also be an interesting symbol to mention briefly any time you preach on any of the Old Testament characters mentioned in the passage.
Jerome and Irenaeus agree in connecting this symbol to the Gospel according to Matthew, since Matthew begins with a lengthy birth narrative outlining the lineage of Jesus.
Augustine, on the other hand, disagrees, saying that the Gospel according to Mark is a better fit for the winged man since it focuses on the humanity of Jesus to the exclusion of Luke's focus on priestly concerns and Matthew's kingly language.
Regardless of Augustine's opposition, the Gospel of Matthew has come to be the dominant interpretation of this symbol.
Similar to the winged eagle, the winged man can be difficult to distinguish from other symbols, particularly angels. As such, the best indicator that the winged man is intended to symbolize the Gospel according to Matthew is the presence of the other three symbols. Anywhere the other three are present, look for the winged man.
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