Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Ki Tisa #1: Michelangelo's Moses

Image from Olga's Gallery

If you look closely (it may help to click on the image to get it slightly larger), you will notice that Moshe has horns. Many depictions around the same time also give Moshe horns. The cause of this is a misunderstanding of the Hebrew (and/or possibly Latin) text.

In Shemot 34:30-35:

ל וַיַּרְא אַהֲרֹן וְכָל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-מֹשֶׁה, וְהִנֵּה קָרַן, עוֹר פָּנָיו; וַיִּירְאוּ, מִגֶּשֶׁת אֵלָיו. 30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face sent forth beams; and they were afraid to come nigh him.
לא וַיִּקְרָא אֲלֵהֶם מֹשֶׁה, וַיָּשֻׁבוּ אֵלָיו אַהֲרֹן וְכָל-הַנְּשִׂאִים בָּעֵדָה; וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה, אֲלֵהֶם. 31 And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him; and Moses spoke to them.
לב וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן נִגְּשׁוּ, כָּל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וַיְצַוֵּם--אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אִתּוֹ, בְּהַר סִינָי. 32 And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai.
לג וַיְכַל מֹשֶׁה, מִדַּבֵּר אִתָּם; וַיִּתֵּן עַל-פָּנָיו, מַסְוֶה. 33 And when Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.
לד וּבְבֹא מֹשֶׁה לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, לְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ, יָסִיר אֶת-הַמַּסְוֶה, עַד-צֵאתוֹ; וְיָצָא, וְדִבֶּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֵת, אֲשֶׁר יְצֻוֶּה. 34 But when Moses went in before the LORD that He might speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and he came out; and spoke unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.
לה וְרָאוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-פְּנֵי מֹשֶׁה, כִּי קָרַן, עוֹר פְּנֵי מֹשֶׁה; וְהֵשִׁיב מֹשֶׁה אֶת-הַמַּסְוֶה עַל-פָּנָיו, עַד-בֹּאוֹ לְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ. {ס} 35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face sent forth beams; and Moses put the veil back upon his face, until he went in to speak with Him. {S}
the took the word karan to mean horns, rather than shining light. The Latin translation gives cornutam which can also mean shining or horned. In the Vulgate:
34:30 videntes autem Aaron et filii Israhel cornutam Mosi faciem timuerunt prope accedere

34:31 vocatique ab eo reversi sunt tam Aaron quam principes synagogae et postquam locutus est

34:32 venerunt ad eum etiam omnes filii Israhel quibus praecepit cuncta quae audierat a Domino in monte Sinai

34:33 impletisque sermonibus posuit velamen super faciem suam

34:34 quod ingressus ad Dominum et loquens cum eo auferebat donec exiret et tunc loquebatur ad filios Israhel omnia quae sibi fuerant imperata

34:35 qui videbant faciem egredientis Mosi esse cornutam sed operiebat rursus ille faciem suam si quando loquebatur ad eos

Update: And, of course, I should have mentioned why the Latin translation has the same two possible connotations - it is not so much a translation as a near transliteration! In Hebrew in is qrn, and in Latin it is crn. It is the same root, and probably comes from the Semitic; (or else as has it for the word unicorn (= one horn), from the Indo-European root ker.)

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