One of the most magnificent statues of Moses was crafted by Michelangelo - a famed Italian artist from 14th and 15th century. It was commissioned by one of the popes and today it graces the church of St. Peter in Rome. Enjoying this beautiful work of art, one cannot help but notice that Moses has a pair of horns protruding from his head. They are not sharp, sort of nubby and cannot be mistaken with some strange hairstyle. No, they are definitely horns! What a strange artistic idea to depict the great lawgiver and deliverer of Israel with horns.
But Michelangelo was not alone. Many other medieval depictions of Moses clearly show horns on his head. What led so many artists to believe that Moses had horns? The answer is simple – the Bible.
More accurately an imprecise translation of the Bible! The Vulgate translation was composed in Latin in the 4th century CE by Jerome. The depiction of horns appeared in the phrase describing Moses as he came down the mountain with the commandments. The language of Vulgate is preserved even today in English translations – “…he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord” (Ex 34:29 Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible).
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