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Title: Of wings and wheels
Author: Wood, Alice
ISNI:       0000 0000 6316 2542
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2007
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What are the biblical cherubim? In the Hebrew Bible, the physical appearance and cultic role of the cherubim are never explicitly elucidated. Largely, the authors assume their audience is familiar with the form and function of these heavenly beings. Yet the portrayal of the cherubim varies from text to text and, sometimes, we are given conflicting information. Previous studies of the cherubim have placed too great an emphasis on archaeological and etymological data. This thesis presents a new synthetic study which prioritises the evidence supplied by the biblical texts. Biblical exegesis, using literary and historical-critical methods, forms the large part of the investigation (chapter 2). The findings arising from the exegetical discussion provide the basis upon which comparison with etymological and archaeological data is made (chapters 3 and 4). It is argued that, with the exception of the book of Ezekiel, the biblical texts are quite consistent in their portrayal of the cherubim. Cherubim are intimately connected with the manifestation of Yahweh and have an apotropaic function in relation to sacred space. They are envisaged with one face and one set of wings. Ps 18:11 = 2 Sam 22:11 suggests that they are quadrupedal. The traditions in the final form of Ezekiel 1-11 mark a shift in the conception of the biblical cherubim. Physically, the cherubim are transmogrified and become enigmatic beasts with four faces and four wings. Their function also changes. Depicted elsewhere as menacing guardians, in Ezekiel they become agents of praise. The results suggest that traditions envisaging the cherubim as tutelary winged quadrupeds were supplanted by traditions that conceived of them as more enigmatic, obeisant beings. In the portrayal of the cherubim in Ezekiel and Chronicles, we can detect signs of a conceptual shift that prefigures the description of the cherubim in post-biblical texts, such as The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and the Enochic texts.
Supervisor: Reimer, David. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: cherubim ; Hebrew Bible ; Divinity ; Theology