There are many incredible, fanciful tales of heroes, gods, magical creatures, and the like. The half-god, half-human hero Hercules is a prime example. Other popular fables include the exploits of the wizard Merlin along with King Arthur and his famous Knights of the Round Table. While all agree that these stories are purely myth, it is also generally agreed that many of these tales have some basis in reality (no matter how small). Indeed, when we follow “the development of myth it can be observed that over time history can be made into myth and myth can become more mythical…” It is not difficult to imagine how a true story could become inflated and corrupted as it is told and retold by many different cultures throughout the ages.
“Cherubim-like figures are found in ancient Near East iconography on everything from monumental architecture in temples and palaces to reliefs and seals.”
The same seems to be true for certain mythological creatures—in particular those which are animal/human hybrids such as the sphinx and griffin—though, it appears that the various portrayals of these creatures are closer to reality than one might expect. In any attempt to separate fact from fiction, we must consider the Biblical record which has repeatedly demonstrated itself as a reliable and trustworthy account of history. And one does not have to look too far into the Biblical text to discover a possible connection. That’s because in just the third chapter of Genesis we are introduced to those heavenly creatures called cherubim.
Interestingly, the Bible describes these angelic beings as having both animal and humanlike features (such as wings, human hands, and multiple faces including that of a man, lion, and eagle) and their primary function seems to be that of guardian or protector. With this important role it is obvious why images of cherubim were found everywhere in the Israelite Tabernacle and Temple. But images of these guardians are not exclusive to Israel: “Cherubim-like figures are found in ancient Near East iconography on everything from monumental architecture in temples and palaces to reliefs and seals.” Because their true image was eventually lost over time, the cherubim “are variously depicted as creatures that are composites of human and animals. In Sumer the figures are of winged humans; In Egypt, Syria, and Israel the figures are of winged humans or a composite of a lion and a human (sphinx); in Assyria and Babylon, a winged bull and a human; and in Greece, a bird and a human (griffin)”.
Despite their various appearances, their role as protectors and guardians remained the same. For images of such creatures have been found flanking the thrones of kings or placed at the entrances to temples. A prime example is “the golden throne…of King Tutankhamen [which] has arms made like winged lions and his burial chamber is surrounded on four sides by pairs of winged human figures”.
Based on these findings it seems likely that these mythological creatures are images based upon the very real angelic beings known as cherubim.
Ryan Hembree | Janaury 24, 2019 – 9:51 AM EST