Christopher Howse

The beating of heavenly wings

How did the cherubim, solemn figures of beaten gold in the Holy of Holies of the Hebrew Temple, become chubby toddlers (such as the pair in Raphael’s Sistine Madonna), popular on greetings cards?

It was surprising in the first place that their graven images should be set up at all, with eyes cast down and wings spread out, shielding the cover of the Ark of the Covenant, where the very glory of the Lord, the shekinah, descended with dangerous power.

For Philo of Alexandria, a Platonist interpreter of Jewish...

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