Recently I had to tell someone how to pronounce "cherub", which is a word they had never encountered. Then I had to explain what a cherub was, including both its modern definition and its older, Biblical and mythological definition, which are far removed from one another. (I long ago learned that my tendency to expound on such subjects often makes me a target, but I have a short temper and the added tendency to kick ass which protects me from the worst effects, so I continue to do it.)
And as I explained this definition it occurred to me how such a change could take place over the course of human civilization to become something completely different from its origin. How are concepts altered in this weird type of evolution?
For instance, here is one actual quote from a version of the Old Testament describing the appearance of the cherubim:
"...and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME."
This is nothing like the tiny, pudgy, harmless, childlike winged beings that the modern word 'cherub' brings to mind. When you compare the images from original to modern you have a genuine WTF? moment. How could it evolve from something terrible and awe-inspiring into something comical and benign?
Then there's the original term I mentioned: angel. Technically speaking, cherubim are consdidered angels, but are monstrous and fearsome. But the other angels are called seraphim and there are, according to Biblical scripture, at least one million of them. They are, in fact, God's soldiers. Yes, sometimes they are described as protecting people, but the implication is that they are doing so in an almost military way. Apparently, they are not described as necessarily having wings, or as being sweet, benefactors whose jobs it is to watch over every person on Earth. But that's the way they are perceived today. Angels are referred to as God's supernatural soldiers and obeying his commands as such. If they watch over any mortal, it was because of an order to do so and not from a sense of independent good will. Mainly, they are sent to give warnings and hand out punishment.
"He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility— a band of destroying angels."
People are strange. They choose to ignore or alter things as they see fit. Whatever sells is the constant.
|And from this armored destroyer...|
|To this saccharine guardian.|