The “Horns of Moses”

June 14, 2018

One of the innumerable attractions in Rome which we were able to see last week was that of Michelangelo’s Moses, housed (among other artistic works/artifacts) in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli. The statue of Moses was sculpted by Italian High Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti, who created this work in the years 1513-1515. This sculpture was originally commissioned in 1505 by Pope Julius II for his tomb.

Michelangelo’s Moses, in Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Moses is here depicted as seated, holding the two tablets of stone. Some suggest the intensity portrayed is meant to represent his holy anger when he cast down the stones upon being confronted with Israel’s idolatry.

But to the point of this post, Moses is seen here with two horns on his head. This is based on a rendering of Exodus 34:29 in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible in use during Michelangelo’s time. The English Standard Version renders the text, which speaks of Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai after talking with God, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” The Latin Vulgate renders the Hebrew word qaran, “to shine” as “horned.” Hence the horns on Michelangelo’s Moses.

The NET Bible contains this translator note:

The word qaran is derived from the noun qeren in the sense of a “ray of light” (see Hab. 3:4). Something of the divine glory remained with Moses. The Greek translation of Aquila and the Latin Vulgate convey the idea that he had horns, the primary meaning of the word from which this word is derived. Some have tried to defend this, saying that the glory appeared like horns or that Moses covered his face with a mask adorned with horns. But in the text the subject of the verb is the skin of Moses’ face.

The statue stands 8 feet, 4 inches and is made of solid marble.

Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click images for larger view.


Michelangelo’s Moses

August 22, 2014

One of the innumerable attractions in Rome is Michelangelo’s Moses, housed in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli.

Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The main attraction inside is the statue of Moses, sculpted by Italian High Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti, creating this work in the years 1513-1515. This sculpture was originally commissioned in 1505 by Pope Julius II for his tomb.

Michelangelo's Moses, 1513-1515. In Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Michelangelo’s Moses, 1513-1515. In Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Moses is here depicted as seated, holding the two tablets of stone. Some suggest the intensity portrayed is meant to represent his holy anger when he cast down the stones upon being confronted with Israel’s idolatry.

Moses is seen here with horns on his head. This is based on a rendering in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible in use during Michelangelo’s time. The text of our English Standard Version renders Exodus 34:29, which speaks of Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai after talking with God, says, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” The Latin Vulgate renders the Hebrew word qaran, “to shine” as “horned.” Hence the horns on Michelangelo’s Moses.

The statue stands 8 feet, 4 inches and is made of solid marble.

Click on images for larger view.


More on Mt. Nebo

November 30, 2011

Todd Bolen wrote me yesterday with helpful information regarding Mt. Nebo, and my photo in our previous post (Nov. 28).

Todd suggests that Mt. Nebo is further north than depicted in Monday’s photo (i.e., to your left). I value his scholarship and input, and wanted to pass that along to my readers. Look now at this photo:

Mt. Nebo. Looking from west to east. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Look to the upper right of photo. See the long shadow? Look to the left edge and then up to the top of the ridge.  Todd suggests the peak of Nebo is located a little behind (east of) the ridge and a bit to the left of the north side of that shadow. (Click on image for larger view).

Here is a photo Todd send me showing what his present research has determined to be the location of Mt. Nebo, from a different angle:

Mt. Nebo from northwest. Photo by Todd Bolen. Used by permission.

In his photo, Todd identifies Mt. Nebo as the peak at slightly left of center (with some trees at right).

Research in biblical history and geography (as well as other disciplines) is not static; it requires much ongoing research and sometimes course correction. I value such help as that which Todd provided re: Mt. Nebo, and am glad to pass along this info and photos to you.

Ferrell Jenkins has a good article w/photos dealing with various methods by which biblical sites are identified, using Lystra for an example; see here.


Moses Ascends Mt. Nebo

November 28, 2011

The Lord’s faithful servant Moses was not permitted to cross over with Israel to the Promised Land of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 34 tells of the end of the Moses’ earthly life. He was permitted to ascend Mt. Nebo and view the land promised to the Patriarchs, and then he died.

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3 the South, and the plain of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. 4 Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” 5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. 6 And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day. 7 Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished (Deut. 34:1-7).

Mt. Nebo is situated in what was at that time the land of Moab. Our photo shows Mt. Nebo from the western side of the Dead Sea, looking east, i.e., the opposite of Moses’ view in our text.

Mt. Nebo from west side of Dead Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin, Sept. 2011.

Top center of photo is Mt. Nebo, in the setting of the mountains of Moab.

Click image for larger view.


Along the Nile

September 21, 2010

One of the enjoyable elements of travel to the Bible lands can be the folks you share the experience with. I have been privileged on two trips to have my daughter Alysha with me, both in Israel and in Egypt.

It’s a treat when you’re in Egypt to sail on the Nile in a Felucca. We took a short excursion one afternoon, August, 2003.

Alysha in Felucca on Nile River. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

There were other feluccas along the bank, ready for use.

Feluccas along the Nile. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

When I saw the reeds along the Nile River I thought of Moses’ experience as a baby.  Hebrew male babies born at that time were literally under a death sentence from Pharaoh.  Moses’ mother hid him three months– “But when she was no longer able to hide him, she took a papyrus basket for him and sealed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and set it among the reeds along the edge of the Nile” (Ex. 2:3, NET).  See how this text is illustrated by our photo:

Reeds along the Nile. Baby Moses was placed in a basket in a setting like this. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

In God’s good providence Pharaoh’s daughter had compassion on the Hebrew baby, and allowed him to live. She gave him the name Moses, and secured a Hebrew nurse, Moses’ mother!

Click on images for higher resolution.