Can we talk about how funny it is that the popular social media trope of "Biblically Accurate Angels" are almost never Biblically accurate?
I absolutely love them. This isn't a diss at any artist, I really do love almost all of the illustrations people have done across many platforms. But there's definitely a distinct aesthetic style that's employed in the "Biblically Accurate Angels" trope, and it isn't.... wholly accurate.
The trend seems to be about rejecting popular images of angels in western art (winged women, chubby babies, white men with swords, etc), and instead basing images of angels on descriptions found in the prophetic books like Ezekiel and Isaiah.
What I want to say though, is that... often, those descriptions are VERY detailed, but people's artistic expressions rarely "accurately" convey the specific details and features described in these passages.
Which is interesting. And not necessarily "inaccurate," since many Biblical accounts of angels and composite heavenly creatures conflict in details. So you could argue that variation is expected within the genre.
However, I would love to see more illustrations where instead of just reading the Biblical account and gleaning a few details, people really dug in and committed to depicting those scenes and entities in a way that's faithful to the WHOLE of the description. Not just a few features like "has lots of eyes" or "has many wings over the body."
I also want to point out that the Biblical account doesn't exist in a vacuum. You can get a much more "accurate" picture of Biblical angels by.
Studying angelic texts in the context of Hebrew - the etymology of these beings is often linked to their shapes
Studying the Jewish commentary on these Jewish books
Studying other Jewish, but non-canonical, writings from the Post-Exilic period
Comparing the descriptions in the Bible to the archeological, artistic, and literary record in the ancient Levant and surrounding areas
The emergence of the "inaccurate" angel tropes we have in our cultural milieu today come from centuries of... interpreting only a few details about angels from translations of Hebrew texts.
If your reaction to that is that you want a MORE accurate picture of angels, you should dig deeper than just the surface levels of detail in the texts, because those details have a context and that context will help your concept/imagery get closer and closer to accuracy.
Because the Bible itself was also written over hundreds of years in a variety of cultural contexts and even languages (the Tanakh is written in various stages of Hebrew and some Aramaic) As a brief example:
If you only look at Isaiah, a Saraf is a heavenly being with 6 wings and a body that burns like amber/fire/lighting. But if you study the etymology, commentary, body of literature, and artistic depictions of serafim in the archeological record... You'd know they are snakes. Winged snakes. And if you studied Enoch, you would know that even later conceptions of them as humanoid often retain snake-like attributes, and that probably forms part of the implicit context for Isaiah.
Similarly. If you only read Ezekiel, a Cherub is a four headed being (man, ox, lion, eagle/vulture) with four wings, four arms, and one single leg with a large hoof, associated with being God's chariot bearers, their spirits linked to Ophanim, the turning many eyed wheels. However, again, if you study the etymology, the commentary, the contemporary literature, and the archeological record... cherubim are sphinxes, and don't always appear in the same configuration. Sometimes they have male heads, sometimes female. Sometimes they have animal heads - ram, eagle, lion, bull, even snake. They almost always have wings. But instead of humanoid bodies, they are usually quadropedal. And they're not ONLY associated with being divine chariot bearers, but also with thrones, gates/doors, tombs, and generally as guardians of civil, royal, and sacred spaces. Ezekiel himself even later describes cherubim as winged lions with both a lion and human head, so we KNOW that his concept of cherubim was centered in a time and culture when cherub meant sphinx.
So. What I'm saying is.
If you want to accurately depict the literal beings described in prophetic visions, you have a LOT more at your disposal than just "these are a few of the details in the text translation I read."
This is no one's fault - not everyone has time to research angels in bronze age art, not everyone reads Hebrew and Aramaic or even realizes we have millenia of commentary. Ultimately, we are all working from our current cultural context. But, I'm saying, the more you immerse yourself in the context of the TEXT, the more "accurate" your angel depictions will become TO the text.
Repeat - I LOVE the biblically accurate angels trope! I love to see them. They are factually more accurate than the fat winged babies. What I'm saying is, I would love to see MORE of this trend, I would love to see it deepen and instead of being about using Biblical details of angels as inspiration for new images of angels, using the whole context to get a clearer idea of what angels were to the original authors.
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