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For Glory and for Beauty

(Chapter 4 of the Bible Wheel Book)

All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee. They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.

Psalm 145:10-12

Stained Glass Canon Wheel Cross
Stained Glass
Canon Wheel Cross

On December 5, 2002, my wife Rose completed my Christmas gift, the stained glass rendition of the Bible Wheel shown above. The photograph caught the setting sun behind the Wheel, causing the cross and tri-radiant symmetry to "shine in the darkness" like the light of the God’s Word revealed in John 1:5. This awoke a deep sense of spiritual awe at what God has done in His design of the Holy Bible. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, it transformed my highly detailed geometric analysis of Scripture into a work of sacred symbolism that any traditional Christian iconographer could have produced during the last fifteen hundred years. I did not recognize this at first. As usual, I had to wait for one of Rose's inspired off-hand comments for this Divine door to be opened. "Wouldn’t it be neat if we found the Bible Wheel in a stained glass window of some old church?" she asked.


Cross of
Victory

This question was on my mind the next morning as I went for my walk and glanced at the signboard of St. Mark's Catholic Church across the street. And there it was, the basic pattern of the Bible Wheel – a circle divided into three sections by an inverted Tau Cross (T) – at the base of the Cross of Victory! Suddenly, a thousand images flooded my mind and I recognized this form as truly omnipresent throughout Christian art, symbolism, and iconography, most notably in the tri-radiant cruciform halo in icons of Christ.


Celtic Cross

Though it had been over two years since I had discovered the Canon Wheel (which came four years after the discovery of the Bible Wheel), I had yet to connect it with Christian art. It was the religious overtones that stained glass had acquired through centuries of use in the Church, coupled with the light that lit up the cross and the tri-radiant symmetry, that awoke my artistic imagination and united it with my spiritual intuition to evoke an entirely new sense of the significance of the Bible Wheel. This was when I recognized the natural integration of the Bible Wheel with the traditional "Circle and Cross" found throughout Christian art, and sat in utter amazement as it dawned on me that God had designed the Bible to be a symbol of the very faith taught within its pages. This kind of continuous transforming revelation from one deep level to another ever deeper has characterized nearly every day of the last decade since I first discovered this Divine wonder. At every point I think to myself, "how could there be any more?" and then God opens my mind to see an entirely new and unexpected vista into His oceanic Wisdom.

The stained glass Canon Wheel Cross, another gift from my wife shown above, further exemplifies the endless artistic potential inherent in the structure of the Bible. In this piece, Rose extended the three arms of the tri-radiant symmetry outwards, which is simply the inverse of the stained glass Bible Wheel where the internal cross is formed by extending the three radii towards the center. Both of these forms come together in the Celtic Cross. When Rose was designing these pieces, the only difficulty was the choice of colors. She made many drawings with all sorts of variations, but none seemed correct. Then she fell upon God’s instructions for the priests' "holy garments" and had a strong witness in her spirit that these also were the proper colors for the Wheel:

And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty. And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office. ... And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work.

Exodus 28:2ff

It was not until about a year after she completed these works that we realized it was not merely the colors, but their placement, that seemed so appropriate. The "heavenly" purples, like the evening sky, are at the top and the "earthly" reds (in Hebrew, "adamah" means both "earth" and "red") are on the bottom. Neither Rose nor I noticed this when she was making them; in all ways we are utterly indebted to the incomparable grace of God‘s guidance. Neither of us feels that any of this really has anything to do with us personally. It is all the work of God. The one thing to remember when looking at these stained glass images is that they are artistic expressions of the innate structure of the Holy Bible. This is the overwhelming wonder of it all – the structure of Scripture unites with its content to reveal it all as a majestic Work of Divine Art that now looks like the prophetic prototype of the art God's people have been producing throughout the last two millennia.

The Cross of Victory

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-56

The Cross of Victory, also known as the "Cross of Triumph" or simply "Cross and Orb," is very old. The latter description comes from its origin as an image of the orb of the world surmounted by the cross which began appearing around the eighth century in Christian art and Byzantine coins. This, by the way, is a rather obvious contradiction of the already thoroughly discredited myth This link takes you off the Bible Wheel site and opens a new window that medieval Christians generally believed the world was flat. Many denominational churches use the Victory Cross in their seals, logos, and art. For example, here is the seal and its explanation from the United Church of Christ This link takes you off the Bible Wheel site and opens a new window: Seal of the United Church of Christ

The symbol of the United Church of Christ comprises a crown, cross and orb enclosed within a double oval bearing the name of the church and the prayer of Jesus, "That they may all be one" (John 17:21). It is based on an ancient Christian symbol called the "Cross of Victory" or the "Cross Triumphant." The crown symbolizes the sovereignty of Christ. The cross recalls the suffering of Christ — his arms outstretched on the wood of the cross — for the salvation of humanity. The orb, divided into three parts, reminds us of Jesus' command to be his "witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The verse from Scripture reflects our historic commitment to the restoration of unity among the separated churches of Jesus Christ.

A variation of this pattern appears in the seal of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, which places three of the primary Protestant doctrines – Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), and Sole Fide (Faith Alone) – to form an upper semi-circle with the cross moved inside taking the place of the vertical line. Here is their explanation This link takes you off the Bible Wheel site and opens a new window: Seal of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

The official seal of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod is a unique blend of symbols and words. In the center is a blue shield, representing the Christian's faith;

  • a prominent gold cross proclaiming that we preach Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead;
  • Latin words under the cross reading "Jesus Christ is Lord";
  • three equilateral gold crosses symbolizing the Holy Trinity;
  • three gold stars on the shield standing for the three Christian creeds: the Apostolic, the Nicene and the Athanasian.
  • Grape vines fill the bottom white spaces, symbolizing Christ's words in John 15:5.

As seen in these explanations, the seals were designed to symbolically convey essential theological truths in color, word, and form. This is a primary human activity; it is how God made us. It is also the method God exemplified throughout the Bible, where He teaches His truths through symbols and word pictures. Jesus is called a Lamb, a Door, a Vine, a Star, a Lion. These are all symbols that God Himself chose to reveal the character of His Son. The Christian Church, led by the same Spirit of God who inspired Scripture, has long followed this Divine example by producing theological art, which finds its highest expression in the calculated iconographic beauty characteristic of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Bible as the Seal of the Living God

That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.

Ephesians 1:12f

The seals below are from four Protestant theological seminaries. They have three elements in common; a Circle encompassing the whole, an image of a Book representing the Bible, and a Cross proclaiming the essence of the Gospel (1 Cor 2:2). Two of them use a Dove to signify the Holy Spirit (Mat 3:16) who inspired Scripture (1 Pet 1:11), who leads each believer "into all truth" (John 16:13), and who seals us in the faith (Eph 1:13). Two use a Shield recalling the "the shield of faith" (Eph 6:16). One uses Alpha Omega to represent both Jesus Christ (Rev 22:13), the Living Word of God who created everything, and the completeness of the Bible as God's Word from beginning to end. One includes the seven-branched Menorah to represent the perfect and complete Light of God's Word with its shield following the pattern of the tri-radiant halo except for the extra diagonal dividing the upper left section.

Seal of the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Seal of teh Wesley Theological Seminary Seal of the Ashland Theological Seminary Seal of Grace Theological Seminary
Book, Cross, Shield,
Tri-radiant Halo
Book, Cross, Dove Book, Cross,
Alpha Omega
Book, Cross, Crown,
Menorah, Shield

All four of the symbolic elements discussed in Chapter 3 of the Bible Wheel book appear in these standard Christian seals. This is why the Divine design of the Bible Wheel is so utterly astounding. These standard Christian symbols exist implicitly in it and spontaneously emerge from it when we do nothing but simply "roll up the Bible like a scroll (pg 16). The Circle describes the overall form of the Wheel which is the just the Book itself, the Cross shines from its tri-radiant symmetry, the whole is encompassed and sealed with Aleph Tav corresponding to the Alpha Omega, and the seven divisions link directly to the seven branches of the Menorah. Christians use these symbols in their seals because they are what God has taught us in His Word. Each represents a kind of sealing in and of itself so that these standard Christian seals are made with Biblical symbols that carry within themselves the ideas of sealing and completion. They are strongly reiterative and self-reflective. This means that God's design of the Wheel now looks like the prophetic prototype of all standard Christian seals. In other words, the Bible itself is the Seal of the Living God, inside and out (both in content and form)!

The image on the cover of the Bible Wheel book portrays these ideas. The Seal of the living God – the Holy Bible – is represented by the stained glass Bible Wheel set in the center of the stone circle and cross. The symbols engraved around it are the standard Biblical symbols of the Dove, the Alpha and Omega, and the Book at the base reminding us that the whole symbol emerges from the Bible and the Bible alone. The background is from the façade of the First Covenant Church This link takes you off the Bible Wheel site and opens a new window in Seattle Washington, built in 1910. It caught my interest when I noticed the striking variation of the traditional "circle and cross" made with a solid ring with three arms cut from a single stone set atop a pedestal carved from a distinctly darker stone.

Facade of the First Covenant Church in Seattle, Washington

Though I have not been able to find a statement from the designer of this façade, it seems clear that he meant to symbolically express the unity of God by the circle and the doctrine of the Trinity with the three arms. In any case, the moment I saw it I knew it would be a perfect setting for the Divine Jewel of the Bible Wheel. It integrates the traditional "circle and cross" with the tri-radiant halo by retaining its elements – a circle with three arms – only inverting them to point outward rather than inward. The distinct pedestal then emphasizes the tri-radiant circle by setting it apart even as it echoes the traditional four-armed cross.

Seal of St. Tikhon's Theological Seminary

The union of the tri-radiant halo with the four-armed cross is not new to Christianity. It appears, for example, in the Seal of St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary This link takes you off the Bible Wheel site and opens a new window, established in 1938. This is a common iconic form of the Greek Orthodox Church. It differs form those of the Protestants in that it uses a face to represent the humanity of Christ. The beauty of this seal is that it sums up what the faith is all about and what we see when we look at the Bible as a whole and extract its essential message, which is nothing less than the Light of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). The Greek Letters above the cross – IC and XC – are the first and last Letters of the words IHSOUC (Jesus) and XRISTOC (Christ). This way of writing Divine names is very old; it appears in some of the earliest New Testament manuscripts and even in the Septuagint, the pre-Christian Jewish Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is a standard element in icons of Christ as seen in both examples given in the last chapter (Bible Wheel book, pgs 33, 39). The three Greek Letters on the arms of the tri-radiant halo spell o wN (Ho On) meaning He Who Is, the Septuagint's rendition of "I AM THAT I AM" (Exo 3:14). This iconic form, therefore, strongly proclaims the Deity of Christ and His Work on the Cross, with the three arms further reiterating the Doctrine of the Trinity. This is why Christian iconography has been called "theology in form and color." It is designed to visually represent the fundamental doctrines of the faith.

Icon of Christ in glory from San Giovanni's Baptistery

This magnificent mosaic of Christ seated in glory from the ceiling of the San Giovanni (St. John's) Baptistery This link takes you off the Bible Wheel site and opens a new window in Florence, Italy, made in the thirteenth century, is another premier example of this ubiquitous artistic pattern. It was designed to reiteratively display the tri-radiant symmetry, first in the halo of Christ, and again in the form of His body within the circle of glory. Christian tradition, especially in its Greek Orthodox branch, holds that true religious icons are the product of Divine inspiration. It seems impossible to explain the correspondence between these ancient icons of Christ – whose name is called the Word of God – with the geometric form of the Holy Bible in any other way. And besides, what a glory it is to behold! The power of God's revelation is absolutely overwhelming, filling the soul with a witness unlike anything ever seen in the history of the world. Who can but cry "Grace, grace unto it!" (Zechariah 4:7)?

The Bible Wheel Medallion

Bible Wheel Medallion

The inherent artistic potential of this Capstone that crowns God's Word has continued to bear abundant fruit, beyond anything I ever could have imagined. In another burst of Divine inspiration, Rose made a solid silver Bible Wheel medallion set with Sixty-Six Stones to represent the Sixty-Six Books of the Bible, so now the Seal of God – the Holy Bible – is effort-lessly displayed as a stunning piece of jewelry. Every day people comment how beautiful it is without having any idea of what it actually represents. I pray the day comes soon when everyone will know what God has done in His Word so that "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab 2:14).

The Bible Wheel is, therefore, simultaneously a Seal, a Capstone, a Jeweled Medallion, and a Divine Work of Theological Art. It glorifies God's Word beyond all measure. Yet these are only a few of the top-level super-obvious signs of its Divine design. The Alphabet encompassing the Bible Wheel is not merely a symbolic seal on the whole. Each Letter has a meaning that is supernaturally integrated with dominant themes interwoven throughout the three Books on its corresponding Spoke. It is to this infinite depth of Divine Wisdom we now shall turn (in chapter five of the Bible Wheel book).






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