|When someone mentions cherubs, chances are that your perception is of one or two little figures, leaning on their hands, chubby faces upturned and wreathed in a mop of curls. That image is a popular one, and often reproduced from the work of the famous Italian artist, Raphael. His Sistine Madonna, a huge and well known fresco in the Holy Sistine Church, Piacenza, Italy, shows these little winged darlings at the Virginís feet, gazing upwards, the very picture of innocence.
Cherubs as heavenly beings and representative of angelic traits, appear in both the Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah. Although sometimes confused with seraphim, (an angel with many eyes), they had their own distinct roles and appearance, which may have been vastly different from the image that we have now.
The word cherub is variously attributed to the Assyrian and Babylonian words kuribu and karibu, which when translated meant basically the same thing Ė blessed servants of God. But there were a lot of those, and some of them had interesting appearances. One school of thought believes that the shedu, a winged bull with the head of a man, was the forerunner or inspiration for cherubs, while others maintain it was the lammasu, a winged lion with a manís head. The lammasu is evident in many Phoenician archaeological remains and so would have been more familiar to the Israelites.