When I’m not using my Bible study software, the actually-printed-with-ink-on-paper Bible that I most frequently use is the Ignatius Bible – the mercifully shortened name for Ignatius Press’ Revised Standard Version – Second Catholic Edition.
The cover features icons that most Catholics will recognize, since they also adorn the cover of the Book of Gospels used in the Catholic liturgy. However, many people, including some Catholics, might not understand what these icons represent.
The quick explanation is that the cover shows Christ the Teacher surrounded by the Four Evangelists (i.e., the writers of the four gospels). Here’s a more detailed explanation of what they represent:
- Christ the Teacher – the large icon in the center depicts Jesus blessing the viewer with his right hand and holding a Bible in his left. The Bible shows His words from John 8:12: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This icon is commonly called “Christ the Teacher,” although it is also called “Christ Pantocrator” meaning “Christ, Ruler of All.” Also in the artwork are the abbreviated Greek words for Christ (abbreviations are indicated by the horizontal lines above the letters; Iota and Sigma (which look like IC) represent the first and last letter of the name Jesus in Greek; Chi Sigma (XC), the first and last letters of the title Christ).
Tradition has long associated the “four living creatures” mentioned in Rev. 4:7 with the four Gospels in the Bible:
- St. Matthew (upper left) – the winged “living creature with the face of a man” is the symbol for Matthew, since his Gospel narrative traces Jesus’ human genealogy.
- St. Mark (upper right) – the “living creature like a lion” is associated with Mark, whose Gospel begins with “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Mark 1:3), suggesting the roar of a lion.
- St. Luke (lower left) – the “living creature like an ox” is the emblem of Luke, since his account of Christ’s life emphasizes the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
- St. John (lower right) – the “living creature like a flying eagle” symbolizes John, whose high-soaring narrative takes us to lofty heights in understanding Christ’s nature.