Eagle as a Christian Symbol



Symbols in Christianity

Christianity has always incorporated symbols - that is, visual representations and signs - into its practice, as valuable expressions of truth. The depiction of an important element of the faith, by means of an animal or color, for instance, can be powerful and encouraging. What words cannot say, sometimes symbols can. While Christians are known for being people of faith, the religion has produced some of the most beautiful art in history. Whether they be carved on first-century tombs or tattooed on twenty-first century bodies, symbols matter in the Christian religion.

Christians believe that God created human senses - sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell. Of course faith is of utmost importance in Christianity, but the physical abilities God gave people aren't unimportant. It is helpful to understand that the Christian worldview doesn't teach that immaterial and the material are in competition with each other or opposed to each other. in fact, faith experiences can be supported by a sensory experience such as when the Apostle Paul laid hands on people when he prayed for them (Acts 19:4-6).




Eagle imagery in Christianity

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event, and doctrine, in the Christian religion. The Apostle Paul says that if Christ didn't rise from the dead then Christianity is meaningless and believers are to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:14). But if Christ did rise from the dead, then the Christian religion is true. Because the resurrection is of such great importance, there is little wonder why Christians throughout the centuries have incorporated symbols of the event into their faith and life.

Because it soars upward, the eagle is a symbol of the resurrection or ascension of Christ. By extension, the eagle symbolizes baptized Christians, who have symbolically died and risen with Christ.

Especially when the eagle has a halo (as in the image above), it is the symbol of John the Evangelist. The eagle represents John because of his lofty and "soaring" gospel (it is much more theological in nature than the other three).

Related Bible Verses

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

~ Isaiah 40:31

"Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle."

~ Ezekiel 1:10


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References
  1. Color illustration by Walter E. Gast.
  2. Patricia S. Klein, Worship without Words: The Signs and Symbols of Our Faith (2000).
  3. Carolle E. Whittenmore, ed., Symbols of the Church.
  4. W.E. Post, Saints, Signs, and Symbols.
  5. George Wells Ferguson, Signs & Symbols in Christian Art.
  6. Frederick Rest, Our Christian Symbols.