Monday, October 26, 2009

Horned Moses

It is St. Jerome (1st image - painting by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1480) who is responsible for the depiction of Moses with horns (2nd image - sculpture by Michelangelo, 1515). When he translated the Bible, St. Jerome used the basic meaning of the Hebrew word qaran, "to grow horns," rather than the derived meaning "to emit rays." The passage was intended to mean that Moses' face was radiant and "dispersed beams like many horns and cones around his head" - in other words, he had a halo. The mistake was clarified by English author Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) in Pseudodoxia Epidemica, a vast reference work he wrote and revised several times to refute the common errors and superstitions of his age. A little morbid trivia about Sir Thomas: (1) He also wrote a book called Hydrotaphia, or Urn Burial in which he described the discovery of a Bronze Age urn burial in Norfolk, England; surveyed ancient and contemporary funerary and burial customs; and wrote an extensive and highly-regarded meditation on mortality, and (2) His skull (3rd image) became the subject of dispute when it was accidentally disinterred in 1840, stolen, sold, put on display, and finally - in 1922 - returned to the church for reburial.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You may add your comments here.