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2001 Translation

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    Revelation 4:6-8: Cherubs, Animals, or Creatures?

    At Revelation 4:6-8, we read of four entities that are covered with eyes, each of which has a different type of face, and they stand at the four corners of God’s throne.

    In the Greek sources, these are zoa, which can be translated as animals or living creatures. It’s where we get the English word ‘zoo’ from.

    In the Aramaic sources, these are hey’ewa, which basically means an animal or a wild beast, but the root word means a living thing.

    However, you’ll find a very similar description of these animals in Ezekiel 1:5-10. Then, later in Ezekiel 10:20, the prophet says that ‘I came to realize that they were in fact cherubs.’

    There is an interesting difference between the descriptions of the cherubs in Ezekiel, and these very similar beings in Revelation. In Ezekiel, each one has four different faces, with a different one on each side of their heads. But in Revelation, each of the four cherubs have a single, but different, face.

    This makes us wonder if the difference is deliberate (which it may be), or if one of these passages has been corrupted.

    Since Ezekiel is the oldest text, it may be that the description there has been misunderstood, and perhaps originally was just like that in Revelation. Indeed, there are many problems with descriptions of positioning and measurements in Ezekiel, which is why we refused to translate much of Ezekiel’s description of the temple in his vision (particularly, the end of Ezekiel chapter 40, all of chapter 41, and the first part of chapter 42).

    There were obviously standard ways of describing physical things back then, which have been forgotten today. It’s possible that similar ways of describing the creatures were originally used in Ezekiel chapter 1, and this either leads us to completely misunderstand the text today, or later editors tried to ‘clarify’ the meaning and update the language to something more contemporary (for their time) and did so incorrectly.

    Obviously, we don’t know this for sure, but it is a possibility.