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Maybe Moses really had horns

Discussion in 'Christianity and World Religion' started by cloudyday2, Aug 27, 2015.

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  1. cloudyday2

    cloudyday2 Generic Theist Supporter

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    In ancient Near Eastern religions, the bull was important. The earliest cities had bull-head idols. Baal was often depicted as a calf. In artwork the gods and demigods were depicted with horns.

    Now we come to Moses:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_(Michelangelo)

    IMO, Moses was meant to have horns - just like a Near Eastern demigod. The Hebrew word "keren" literally means "horn", and we know that horns were a symbol of divinity in that region. Receiving the Law is equivalent to eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Learning the Law was a step towards becoming Godlike, so it would make sense that Moses acquired horns after receiving the Law.

    Any thoughts?
     
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  2. LoAmmi

    LoAmmi Dispassionate

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    The word has three meanings. Much like in English where a word will have multiple meanings. One of them is horn, one of them is radiant, and another is used for funds such as a fund for orphans.The context sets which one it is and Jewish tradition states it is radiant and not horn.
     
  3. cloudyday2

    cloudyday2 Generic Theist Supporter

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    Which meaning makes more sense in the context of Near Eastern religion that spawned the Torah? I suspect that as the memory of horns as a symbol of godliness vanished, the Rabbis were faced with the concept of a horned Moses that no longer made sense. Therefore the Rabbis developed this idea that it really meant horn-shaped (conical) rays of light. The original meaning was just plain old horns IMO.
     
  4. LoAmmi

    LoAmmi Dispassionate

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    It wouldn't really matter either way really, but I would put more faith in those people who learned the language as children, who spoke the words of the Torah every week, and who spent extensive time studying just the Torah. I've never heard it was horn-shaped light, just that his face itself was radiant.
     
  5. Niblo

    Niblo Muslim Supporter

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    The translators got it wrong. The correct translation - as you say - is radiant.
     
  6. cloudyday2

    cloudyday2 Generic Theist Supporter

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    Here is a link that mentions some scholars who think Moses was intended to have horns.
    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2008/03/did-moses-have.html

    Here is a link to Sasson's paper:
    https://discoverarchive.vanderbilt.edu/handle/1803/3743
     
  7. MehGuy

    MehGuy Free speech warrior degenerate Supporter

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    If Moses had horns my children church services as a kid would have been a lot more interesting.
     
  8. cloudyday2

    cloudyday2 Generic Theist Supporter

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    So we can add those pointy Moses-horns to the list of other church dangers (such as tripping on your shepherd robes that are too long :) )
     
  9. Arthra

    Arthra Baha'i

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    I think Cloudy.. I go along with Lo Ammi and Nibio.. "horns" is mistranslated or misplaced analogy .. In the Renaissance it was fashionable to revive pagan art forms hence the use of the horns by Michelangelo from depictions of Pan.

    Owing to the representations of the old painters and sculptors, it has become a wide-spread belief that Moses, when he came down from Mount Sinai with the tables of the Law, had two horns on his forehead. This strange idea, however, is based upon a wrong interpretation of Ex. xxxiv. 29, 35, [​IMG] ("And behold the skin of his face shone"), in which [​IMG] means "to shine" (comp. Hab. iii. 4, [​IMG] = "brightness was on his side").

    - Jewish Encyclopaedia

    "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him."

    - Exodus 34:29-30
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2015
  10. cloudyday2

    cloudyday2 Generic Theist Supporter

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    The problem with dismissing the idea that Moses really had horns is that we must take the word of the Rabbis. This is like asking Al Capone what the coded entries in his ledgers mean. ;)
     
  11. LoAmmi

    LoAmmi Dispassionate

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    Are we comparing Jewish rabbis to criminals?
     
  12. cloudyday2

    cloudyday2 Generic Theist Supporter

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    ;) <--- in case you didn't see my winky ;)

    Seriously, the horns probably made sense at the time the Torah was first composed, because all the surrounding religions used horns to symbolize the holiness of gods and demigods. As the centuries passed and those ancient near eastern religions became extinct, the Jews reading the Torah probably found the "horns" of Moses increasingly confusing. Eventually somebody decided "karan" ("horns") might have actually meant "horn-shaped rays of light", because light made more sense at that later time to symbolize holiness. As this explanation gained popularity, "karan" gained an alternative meaning - "radiance" in addition to the original "horns".

    In other words, it doesn't matter how a modern Hebrew dictionary defines the meaning; we need to learn what "karan" meant at the time the Torah was composed. We could test to see if "karan" really meant "radiant" by looking for other instances in the Torah narratives where something is radiant to see if "karan" or some other word is used. I suspect we would find that "karan" means "radiant" only in that particular instance with Moses. Meanwhile we would probably find that every other occurrence of "karan" means "horns". This would suggest that Moses had plain old horns IMO.
     
  13. LoAmmi

    LoAmmi Dispassionate

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    Only occurs four times. Three here and one in Psalms talking about an ox. That's pretty inconclusive. I would also say that the focus on his face rather than his head, two different words, says something about the meaning.
     
  14. cloudyday2

    cloudyday2 Generic Theist Supporter

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    What about the Hebrew word used for "face"? Maybe that word is used elsewhere in the Torah to mean "head"?
     
  15. cloudyday2

    cloudyday2 Generic Theist Supporter

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    I used an online concordance to search for "radiant". If there are instances where a word other than "karan" is used to mean "radiant", then it might indicate that "karan" did not originally have this meaning. As you said, "karan" only means "radiant" when applied to Moses. There are several instances where "karan" was not used, but Ezekiel 43:2 looks almost exactly like Moses: "Behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shined with his glory." Ezekiel 43:2 is a prime candidate where "karan" might have been used but was not used.
    http://biblehub.com/concordance/r/radiant.htm
     
  16. cloudyday2

    cloudyday2 Generic Theist Supporter

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    I found this very brief but fascinating article about the Moses horns. To be honest, I don't fully understand the concept, but apparently it meant "horns" AND "radiance" SIMULTANEOUSLY(?).
    http://www.academia.edu/251126/Old_Light_on_Moses_Shining_Face
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2015
  17. SepiaAndDust

    SepiaAndDust There's a FISH in the percolator

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    Interestingly, it means the same thing in the Indo-European languages. The Proto-Indo-European word for "horn", ker, survives in English as unicorn, cornucopia, and (yes) horn.

    It's one of those supposedly Nostratic words that shows an ancient link between the I-E and Semitic language families. Most likely, though, it's just a false cognate.

    Either way, Moses never had horns....
     
  18. Jane_the_Bane

    Jane_the_Bane Gaia's godchild

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    The horns are a classical translation error.

    This interpretation/tradition did not exist prior to the Latin Vulgate, which translated the relevant term as "horns".
     
  19. timewerx

    timewerx the village i--o--t--

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    I actually have an itty bitty horn in my upper forehead, doesn't show in my avatar because of the lighting (which is why I don't take my pictures with the light over my head). It's under the skin but its proportions are similar to that of a calf or a cow and also found in the same place as you would in a calf.

    None in our family has similar feature. So I won't discount the possibility yet that Moses had a horn and look! I turned out to be a Christian! :D
     
  20. cloudyday2

    cloudyday2 Generic Theist Supporter

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    Check-out this short article (I forgot to link it in post #16).
    http://www.academia.edu/251126/Old_Light_on_Moses_Shining_Face

    If I understand correctly, the linguistic link between "horn" and "radiant" only existed in the Sumerian word "si", and it was not passed-down to later Near Eastern languages. However, the concept that "horn" and "radiant" were equivalent persisted long after the words became different.

    Another thought: maybe the story of Moses meeting God on a mountain was originally a Sumerian myth about a Sumerian hero that was translated into Hebrew?
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2015
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