Tuesday, February 24, 2004

MOSES' HORNS � Gerald A. Honigman replies to Larry Swain:
In response to Larry Swain's comments about my problem with Michelangelo's horned Moses ("Michey"... to try to lighten up a topic which has brought immense suffering to Jews), let me state/restate the following...

While scholars, artists and others may interpret this sculpture as they will and assume Michelangelo's understanding of the fine details of the differing translations and attempts to portray a variety of ideas via his Moses, my main point stays the same. For those wanting to see another interpretation, see Guy Shaked's at The rays of Michelangelo's Moses as the sign of the betrayed...deals with another interesting take on this.

I hope your viewers read the article at Arutz Sheva that you mentioned which prompted this discussion. For the demonization of the Jew from the getgo in Christian teaching created a climate where--whatever Michey did or didn't mean regarding those extra-cranial growths--the overwhelming majority of those who would see them would know how they would interpret them. They had been taught of the Jew as the Devil's offspring for 1500 years...and with deadly consequences.

How many average people today are aware of the consequences of this demonization by Christendom of the Jews? While those who post on this site may or may not be aware of this, does the average Christian understand...or really care? "May His blood be upon us and our children" still provides the answer for Jewish suffering in many a Christian mind regarding all of this. Regardlesss of the necessity of Jesus to die in Christian theology, Jews are still too often seen by many-- if not most-- as G_D killing sons of the Devil in many places. Well-documented studies by non-Jewsish scholars have pointed to the theological roots of anti-Semitism...which is once again on the rise in Christian Europe and elswhere...despite decades of education about the Holocaust. And on that very topic, unfortunately, still too many would like to pretend that it was caused by Martians rather than deal with the fact that two millennia of this demonization, dehumanization, and other such "religious" enlightenment carefully paved the road to Auschwitz.

While there are Christians who have been trying to come to grips with how such teaching in the name of the Christian "Prince of Peace" could have caused such pain and suffering, there are still many who comment that they don't understand why the Jews are still so upset about all of this "past history." An important book several decades back by Charles Glock, I believe, a Protestant scholar, Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism is an eye-opener. There are other good sources as well by both Christians and Jews on this topic.

I will yield on one point. I too am puzzled by why Michey just chose Moses to place horns on. His David doesn't have them...though some may have wished that he did to distract from other protrusions Michey did include.

So, that has me wondering a bit more about this too. But don't miss the forest of Mel, Meet Irineos for the one iffy tree.

As for the tree, I agree with Larry Swain that the lack of horns on other figures tends to indicate that M. was thinking in terms of biblical exegesis before any demonizing of Moses, although, as I said before, that may have been a subtext. I also agree with Jerry Honigman that M. could hardly have been ignorant of the understanding some viewers would have of it � alway assuming that horns meant demonic in this period, which I suspect it did, but I don't know. Comments from specialists on Michelangelo and Renaissance art would be very welcome on this one.

As for the forest, I think there's an awfully big jump from Mel Gibson's unreleased movie to Irineos's comment, Arafat, and Auschwitz, and I worry that the rush to make that jump carries the danger of granting too much importance to the first (even in a worst-case scenario) and trivializing the others. But obviously some disagree with me. I blog, you decide.

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