The meanings, origins and ancient traditions surrounding Christian symbols date back to early times when the majority of ordinary people were not able to read or write and printing was unknown. Many were 'borrowed' or drawn from early pre-Christian traditions.
The Definition and Meaning of the Eagle as a Catholic Christian Symbol
Catholic Christian symbolism in art provides a clear graphic illustration which represents people or items of religious significance. What is the definition and the meaning of the Eagle? An eagle is a large keen-sighted diurnal birds of prey noted for their broad wings and strong soaring flight. The Eagle Christian Symbol represents the resurrection and renewal.
Reference to the Eagle Christian Symbol in the Bible
The Easton Bible Dictionary provides the following definition, meaning and emblem for the Eagle Christian Symbol in the Bible.
Isaiah 40:31 - But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as EAGLES they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint"
Referred to for its swiftness of flight (Deut. 28:49; 2 Sam. 1:23), its mounting high in the air (Job 39:27), its strength (Ps. 103:5), its setting its nest in high places (Jer. 49:16), and its power of vision (Job 39:27-30).
This "ravenous bird" is a symbol of those nations whom God employs and sends forth to do a work of destruction, sweeping away whatever is decaying and putrescent (Matt. 24:28; Isa. 46:11; Ezek. 39:4; Deut. 28:49; Jer. 4:13; 48:40).
It is said that the eagle sheds his feathers in the beginning of spring, and with fresh plumage assumes the appearance of youth. To this, allusion is made in Ps. 103:5 and Isa. 40:31. God's care over his people is likened to that of the eagle in training its young to fly (Ex. 19:4; Deut. 32:11, 12).
There have been observed in Palestine four distinct species of eagles, (1) the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos); (2) the spotted eagle (Aquila naevia); (3) the common species, the imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca); and (4) the Circaetos gallicus, which preys on reptiles. The eagle was unclean by the Levitical law (Lev. 11:13; Deut. 14:12).