Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Moses' horns are back in the news

TRANSLATION AND ICONOGRAPHY: Why Even Some Jews Once Believed Moses Had Horns. It is often said that this is a simple matter of mistranslation, but Vulgate author Saint Jerome would not have made such a crude mistake (Elon Gilad, Haaretz).
Hence, Jerome must truly have believed that Moses came down from Mount Sinai with horns, and not radiant. Since Jerome was living in the Holy Land at the time and consulted with Jews when working on his translation, he must have been informed by them that Moses indeed had horns. This may be a bit hard to believe, but we in fact know that some Jews did believe that Moses was literally horned.
John Meade also has a post at the ETC Blog on the ancient biblical translations and Moses' horns: Why Does Michelangelo's Moses Look Like That? He agrees that Jerome knew what he was doing when translated Exodus 34:29 the way he did. Whether that was the correct translation remains debated today.

In PaleoJudaica's early days there was some discussion about the origins of the tradition that Moses had horns. You can follow that discussion here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and, more recently, here (link has rotted; sorry) and here. The link has rotted in the last post too, but you can see the carving of the horned Moses at Rossyln Chapel here.

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