Ezekiel was a priest of ancient Israel. He was with a group of Jewish exiles in the land of Chaldea when he claimed that “the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.”1 He went on to describe a highly unusual vision.
Now, extraordinary claims like this require extraordinary evidence. But for thousands of years, it has been simply a matter of faith as to whether a person believed Ezekiel really saw God or not. Even if it was just a dream or hallucination, his description of God is certainly a far cry from the bearded old man sitting on a cloud, that many people imagine God to look like. At the very least, Ezekiel’s vision is much more imaginative, and is worth reading in itself.
However, what makes it particularly intriguing to us, is that the vision contains descriptions which closely match the details I have just given, of the formation of the early universe and its particles. However, some of the details have been lost in the process of translating the original Hebrew into English, so I will attempt to follow the Hebrew as closely as possible, and point out when English translations lose some of the original meaning.
This is how Ezekiel’s curious vision begins: “I saw, and look! a stormy wind coming from the north; a great cloud, and a fire taking hold of itself, and a brightness around it and from the midst of it, like the sparkle of amber from the midst of the fire.” 2
This sounds similar to the radiation era of the early universe, which could be described as an intensely hot self-contained cloud or fog, within which protons, neutrons, electrons, and light itself in the form of photons, were essentially trapped.
Of course, this is not anywhere close to being proof that Ezekiel was seeing the early universe, so let’s continue examining the vision: “And from the midst of it, the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man.” 3 Each of these creatures had four faces and four wings. “And the likeness of their faces were the faces of a man, and faces of a lion to the right for all four, and faces of a bull from the left for all four, and faces of an eagle for all four.” 4
These strange four-faced creatures are later identified by Ezekiel as “cherubs.” However, my hypothesis is that, in this particular vision, these creatures and their weird attributes are also meant to represent something else. Some have suggested that the four faces represent directions, like the four cardinal points of a compass, or a correspondence to the zodiac. There may be some truth to this.
However, I propose that at this point in the vision, the four creatures represent the four fundamental forces that emerged out of the early universe, and they also represent the helium-4 particles that emerged. As we continue, we will see that this strange vision makes much more sense if it is really describing what I propose.
Of the four wings on each creature, Ezekiel says: “Their wings joined each to the other. They do not turn about as they go. They go across the faces of each.” 5 Some translations say the wings go straight forward, but the Hebrew says they go across the faces, so this is how the verse has been translated here.
The account says that “their faces and their wings were parted upwards for each. Two joined each, and two covered their bodies.” 6 While most English translations imply that only the wings were parted, the Hebrew doesn’t make this distinction. It reads as if both the faces and the wings were parted. I suppose it doesn’t make sense for the creature’s faces to be parted, which is why English translators tend to gloss over this; but we can make more sense of the original Hebrew if the vision is actually talking about particles. Furthermore, while many translations say “stretched,” the Hebrew word used here actually means “parted.” A different Hebrew word is later used to mean “stretched.” 7
If this verse is really alluding to particles, it would accurately describe what happened in the hot early universe, when two hydrogen-2 nuclei would fuse to become helium-4, which has two protons and two neutrons. No heavier elements could be created in any significant quantity, because of the heat. The verse would also make a good description of how quantum entanglement works, where pairs of particles can have correlated states even when they are parted.
My hypothesis may still seem unconvincing right now, so consider what Ezekiel sees next: “And the likeness and appearance of the living creatures was as burning coals of fire, like the appearance of the torches moving between the living creatures; and there was a brightness to the fire, and from the fire came forth lightning.” 8
These “burning coals of fire” sound a lot more like particles. The verse could be describing the cloud of atomic nuclei, still without their electron shells in the radiation era. The ones “moving between” could be electrons, and also photons, the particles of light that would have been scattered off the nuclei in the early universe.
Curiously, the living creatures are described as being “like the appearance of the torches moving between the living creatures.” If the living creatures represent particles, this suggests there are even smaller particles moving between the larger particles. This is true, according to physicists. Protons and neutrons are actually made up of even smaller particles, called quarks. While there are several types of quark, protons and neutrons contain only two types, called “up” and “down.”
It is therefore remarkable that the King James Version of this verse describes one of these smaller creatures, saying “it went up and down among the living creatures.” Let me repeat. The quarks that make up protons and neutrons, the nuclei of all ordinary matter, are called “up” and “down” quarks!
Ezekiel continues: “And the living creatures run and return, like the appearance of the streak of lightning.” 9
This would also fit remarkably well with the idea of photons being scattered off the nuclei. In addition, according to quantum physics, what holds normal particles together are yet more particles, called gauge or virtual particles. These are rapidly and continually being exchanged by the normal particles, and so would have the appearance of running and returning at lightning fast speed, which sounds just like what Ezekiel is attempting to describe here.
But if you are not convinced that Ezekiel is being given a glimpse of the atomic realm, consider the next part of his intriguing vision.
1 Ezekiel 1:1. 2 Ezekiel 1:4. 3 Ezekiel 1:5. 4 Ezekiel 1:10. 5 Ezekiel 1:9. 6 Ezekiel 1:11. 7 Compare Ezekiel 1:22. 8 Ezekiel 1:13. 9 Ezekiel 1:14.