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Biblical References

     There are tantalizing hints of the four temperaments in the Judeo-Christian tradition just as in the Graeco-Roman.  For instance, Ezekiel (writing in the Old Testament around 590 B.C.) imagined mankind as embodied in the shape of "four living creatures... And every one had four faces" symbolizing four types of character:  "the face of an ox... the face of an eagle... the face of a man, and the face of a lion" [Ezekiel 6:10].  Likewise in the New Testament, Saint John (writing around 96 A.D.) beheld mankind in the form of four beasts arrayed around the throne of heaven: one beast had the face of "a lion," one the face of "a calf," one the face of "a man," and one the face of "a flying eagle" [Revelation 4:7].

     And what did the four beasts bid St. John witness?  Not only "four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth" [7:1], but also the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse [6:1-8], four symbolic figures representing four terrible sufferings to be visited on Christians.  The first (the Sanguine?) rides a red horse, carries a great sword, and brings the scourge of war.  The second (the Melancholic?) rides a black horse, holds a grain scale, and brings the bane of scarcity and famine.  The third (the Phlegmatic?) rides a pale or gray horse and wields the power to turn nature against man in the form of pestilence and plague.  And the fourth (the Choleric?) rides a white horse, shoulders a bow (like Apollo, the Archer god), and represents the threat of foreign conquest.

     The notion that mankind has four faces is thus clearly in evidence in the Bible, and perhaps this helps to explain why the New Testament has four Gospels, written in four different styles by four very different personalities.  The Gospel according to Mark, for example, is an eye-witness version of Jesus's story, loosely organized, full of vivid details and physical action, as if thrown together by a man of impulsive Artisan character (also, the Lion was Mark's symbol in Medieval art).  The Gospel according to Matthew, on the other hand, is a historical or traditional account of Jesus, and is likely the work of a Guardian (Matthew was a customs house official and tax collector, a student of Hebrew Law and the scribal tradition).  In turn, the Gospel according to Luke is a scholarly explication of the Jesus story, written in a technical and classical style, probably the work of a Rational (Luke was the most learned of the Gospel writers, with a broad Graeco-Roman education, and was also thought to be a trained physician).  Lastly, the Gospel according to John is a wholly spiritual interpretation of the story, full of symbolism and metaphor, miracles and mysterious meanings, written to inspire faith in Jesus as the supernatural Son of God -- and unmistakably penned by a soulful, even mystical Idealist.

     The question of why the early Church included four separate Gospels in the New Testament has been debated by Biblical scholars for nearly two hundred years.  Why didn't the Church fathers integrate the various accounts of Jesus into one narrative?  Of course, we can never know for certain, but Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, based his explanation (in 185 A.D.) on what appears to be the common assumption of early Christian theology:  that since "Living Creatures are quadriform, ... the Gospel also is quadriform" [Adversus Haereses, iii,II,8].

Excerpted from Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence, David Keirsey