Four Evangelists and their Symbols

Recognized as the traditional authors of the four canonical Gospels, there were four Evangelists named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They penned the words of the Gospels, which offered accounts of life, sayings, and the teachings of Jesus. In this article, you will learn more about the Evangelists, as well as the symbols that represented the men.

The Gospels were a proclamation that the Messiah had come and the kingdom of God was at hand. The text was penned in Koine Greek , the method of communication in the eastern Mediterranean at the time of Christ. Artistic depictions of the men writing their Gospels often showed them with a symbol. Sometimes, the symbols of an angel, winged lion, winged ox and eagle were solely used to refer to the men.

Matthew was often depicted with an angel that he looked at over his shoulder as he wrote. Matthew was one of the 12 Apostles, who is known for writing the first Gospel in 85 AD. The text was penned after the fall of Jerusalem. It is believed that Matthew wrote the first Gospel in Antioch, Syria, where he speaks to Jewish Christians. He often uses quotes from the Old Testament as evidence that Christ is the Messiah and that his life is responsible for fulfilling a great of prophecies found in Hebrew scripture.

Matthew’s Gospel starts by recounting the family tree of Jesus, who is a descendant of David and Abraham with mention of his foster father, St. Joseph.


While writing, Mark is shown with a reclining winged lion by his side. He is known for writing the shortest out of all the Gospels. His Gospel is typically seen as the earliest , written around 65 to 70 AD. However, some people believe that it was the second written. The text is thought written in Rome and believed to speak to the Christians, who were suffering persecution at the time. The author of the text is believed to have been an associate of St. Peter or John Mark, who traveled with St. Paul and St. Barnabas.

It is thought that the lion is often the symbol of Mark because of a reference found at the start of his Gospel. Very similar to Christ’s Resurrection after three days in a tomb, the Gospel mentioned a lion that was supposed to sleep with its eyes open. The cubs belonging to the lion were thought born dead until the lion roared three days later.


As Luke writes the third Gospel in depictions, an ox is calmly chewing on the “cud of rumination”. It is believed to date back between 80 and 90 AD. The author of the Gospel, as well as its sequel (the Acts of the Apostles, which is the fifth book of the New Testament) is thought written by a non-Jewish Christian. Luke is sometimes portrayed as a painting , composing the image of the Virgin Mary because legend has it that he once painted her portrait.
The start of the Gospel presents the Jewish priest Zechariah, who is soon to become the father of John the Baptist. He is offering a sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem, and because the ox is a symbol often associated with this practice, it is used to reference Luke. The Gospel of Luke is the only one that utilizes parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.


John the Divine is depicted as a man in his youth that has a soaring eagle in his presence. It is important to note that St. John (one of the 12 Apostles) did not write the Gospel of John. It is thought that a disciple of John at Ephesus, John the Elder, may have penned the Gospel. In the prologue of the Gospel, Christ was linked to God, as well as the Logos of Greek philosophy. The text is thought to date back to between 95 and 100 AD , written in Asia Minor. The text mentions the ministry of Christ taking place in Judea for the majority of its existence. Other features of the text include Passover and Christ’s teaching in Galilee.