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But how can there be different meanings? Aren't there a whole lot of people who insist that the Bible is the inerrant word of God (no matter how many contradictions there are, forget about translations)?


Semiotic this.

Brings up an interesting point related to eschatology too. There are passages in Daniel and Revelation regarding the emergence of really bad guys - having some number of 'horns'.

Horns are used scripturally to denote 'king' and 'strength' - in Psalms 132, Jeremiah 48, and Lamentations 2 for example - so the light/horn meme relating to Moses likely has more depth than we might suppose.

There's also the rather ambiguous scriptural use of 'ram's horns' - made from the horn of the animal, used as a musical horn.


Barbara, that depends on the definition of "inerrant word." For most Biblical literalist theologians (which does NOT include Pat Robertson, et al.), inerrancy applies to the intended meaning behind and within the individual words on the page -- this allows for things like ambiguity, layered metaphors, parabolic statements, poetic license, historical differences, genre conventions, issues of translation, etc. They also insist on going back to the oldest and/or most reliable of the original-language versions. However, there are lots of people who aren't all that theologically sophisticated who confuse individual "words" (especially words in translation) with Word-as-inherent-meaning and get upset if they find contradictions or translation problems.


I agree, MC. I think that's why the traditional Jewish illustrations tend to have light-horns rather than just halos and/or horns.


Those who read only one translation and proclaim it is the word of God letter for letter should take Hebrew and translated a verse or a chapter. It will not take long for them to understand that the Hebrew Language is not as exact as English. The writes of the Bible being Jewish didn't mind this, instead it was their great love. The more possible meanings of the text the richer more inspiring it is. While I am not in favor of changing God's word, I am in favor of enjoying it's fullness. However, that includes learning Hebrew!

Alexander Seinfeld

I don't think KRN can be interpreted here as "ray". In all of Tanach, this is the only place it is vocalized KARAN. Elsewhere it is either KEREN (which clearly in the context there means horn) or KAREN (fund). The fact that KARAN here follows the conjunction KE (that) and that the phrase is otherwise lacking a verb, the most plausible reading is that KARAN is a verb, so it could only mean "shined" or "radiated".


St. Jerome was at pains to translate with as little presupposed exegesis and allegorization as possible--part of why he is called the "Doctor of the Literal Sense." This may have influenced his choice of the less abstract translation, as might the Latin and Greek cognate forms.


Also, remember that the vowel points were not there yet.


All of the above comments seem to skip over the fact that "cornuta" (Jerome's choice) can imply "sexually betrayed" (cuckolded). And, adding fuel to the fire for sophists, was the fact that Moses married a Midianite, and is speculated to also have had a second wife from outside the Hebrew tribes.

The obvious sexual symbolism of horns cannot be ignored: the coin of Alexander shown above clearly showing ram's horns suggestive of the classic association of temporal patriarchal power with fertility and sexual prowess and dominance.

The most reasonable hypothesis (Occam's Razor ?) being that Jerome probably felt that such obvious signs of divine manifestation properly belonged only to portrayals of the Jeshua bin Jusef of Bethlehem and Nazareth, considered by Jerome to be "the son of God," Jesus.


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