Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jews with Horns 1

Do you recognise this sculpture? It is the head of Moses (the guy from the Book of Exodus), as imagined by Michelangelo Buanarroti in the early 16th century. And he has a lovely pair of horns growing just above his brow.

Horns? Like a goat or a devil? From where on earth did that idea come? Wikipedia has a lovely explanation:

"The marble sculpture depicts Moses with horns on his head. This was the normal medieval Western depiction of Moses, based on the description of Moses' face as "cornuta" ("horned") in the Latin Vulgate translation of Exodus. The Douay-Rheims Bible translates the Vulgate as, "And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord." The Greek in the Septuagint translates as, "Moses knew not that the appearance of the skin of his face was glorified." The Hebrew Masoretic text also uses words equivalent to "radiant", suggesting an effect like a halo. Horns were symbolic of authority in ancient Near Eastern culture, and the medieval depiction had the advantage of giving Moses a convenient attribute by which he could easily be recognized in crowded pictures."

We might deal with that last sentence later, or I could just scream APOLOGETIC and move on. So here's what I know: in Exodus 34:29, Moses comes down the mountain for the second time after getting a new set of tablets, and the Hebrew says "ki karan or panav", i.e., that his face was beaming with light. The verb 'karan' is key here. I know it from traditional Jewish texts as light shining forth, which suggests rays coming from his face.

Perhaps the horn-like protuberances are Michelangelo's attempt to portray such rays. Or not. Because in the 5th century, Jerome (who created the Latin translation of the Hebrew for the Vulgate) made the connection between the verb 'karan' and the noun 'keren' which means horn. This is what he wrote:

"cumque descenderet Moses de monte Sinai tenebat duas tabulas testimonii et ignorabat quod cornuta esset facies sua ex consortio sermonis Dei
(And when Moses came down from the Mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord.) "

Interesting that the latin word for horns is 'cornuta' ... krn, not unlike 'keren'.

Ok, some people therefore believed that a Jew might have horns. Moses was a good guy, so where's the problem?

Next we turn to the Gospel of John in the New Testament. In chapter 8, a conversation between Jesus and the Jews is recorded. The highlights for me are these three verses:

38 - "you do the things that you have seen with your father"
41 - "you do the works of your father"
44 - "you are of your father the devil and the desires of your father you will do"

Everyone knows that devils have horns. But in case that is not enough, have a look at First Thessalonians 2:14-15:

"the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and the prophets, and have persecuted us, and please not God, and are adversaries to all men".

Your bible tells you that the Jews killed your god, that the Jews are the children of the devil, and that their leader had horns. What reason would you have to believe anything different?

AND IT'S STILL OUT THERE. It is a while since the ravaj was a child. However she came home one day from school and asked the father of ravaj why a kid in the playground asked to see her horns. Her father explained the background. She asked what she should answer if it happened again. Her father told her to tell them that she had shaved them for the summer.

1 comment:

  1. Her father told her to tell them that she had shaved them for the summer.

    LOVING IT

    ReplyDelete