Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mistranslation in Vulgate gives Moses horns

From Lee Martin:

Trivia: Why did Michelangelo give horns to Moses?

Answer: The Bible that was in use during Michelangelo's time was the Latin Vulgate. Exodus 34:29 says " When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, . . . he did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God." For the word shone, the Latin uses the word cornuta (cornu means horn). So, Moses grew horns while he talked with God. In the original Hebrew, the word used here does mean shone.


Heb
wayəhî bəreḏeṯ mōšeh mēhar sînay ûšənê luḥōṯ hā‘ēḏuṯ bəyaḏ-mōšeh bəriḏətwō min-hâār ûmōšeh lō’-yāḏa‘ kî qāran ‘wōr pānāyw bəḏabərwō ’itwō:

LXX
ως δε κατεβαινεν Μωυσης εκ του ορους και αι δυο
πλακες επι των χειρων Μωυση καταβαινοντος δε αυτου εκ του
ορους Μωυσης ουκ ηδει οτι δεδοξασται η οψις του χρωματος
του προσωπου αυτου εν τω λαλειν αυτον αυτω

Vulg
Cumque descenderet Moyses de monte Sinai, tenebat duas tabulas testimonii, et ignorabat quod cornuta esset facies sua ex consortio sermonis Domini

Wycliffe
And whanne Moises cam doun fro the hil of Synai, he helde twei tablis of witnessyng, and he wiste not that his face was horned of the felouschipe of Goddis word.

Coverdale
Now wha Moses came downe fro mout Sinai, he had the two tables of wytnesse in his hande, & wyst not yt the skynne of his face shyned, because he had talked with him

Geneva
So when Moses came downe fro mount Sinai, the two Tables of the Testimonie were in Moses hande, as hee descended from the mount: (nowe Moses wist not that the skinne of his face shone bright, after that God had talked with him.

DRB
And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned* from the conversation of the Lord.

*"Horned"... That is, shining, and sending forth rays of light like horns.

KJV
And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Si'nai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.

NJB
And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of the testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses knew not that the skin of his face sent forth beams while He talked with him.

NRSV
Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.

NET
Now when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand – when he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone* while he talked with him.

* The word קָרַן (qaran) is derived from the noun קֶרֶן (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 (see U. Cassuto, Exodus, 449).

Related thread at Biblicalist

3 comments:

Moshé said...

The Vulgate is full of mistranslations. One of the most comical is in the psalm Nisi Dominus (Psalm 126 in Vulgate, 127 in Hebrew OT)

What does "sicut sagittae in manu potentis ita filii excussorum " mean?

"filii excussorum" is supposed to be a translation of בני הנעורים

excussus is ppp of excutio [excutere excuse excussum] = shake out, shake off

So, "filii excussorum" are supposed to be the sons of shakings-off!!!!

The Vulgate misconstrues the Hebrew for "youth" as derived from the Hebrew root meaning "shake"...

Keith Massey said...

It's a fascinating philological problem. I suggest that Arabic cognates could provide a new interpretation:
http://aplaceofbrightness.blogspot.com/2010/08/on-horns-of-philological-dilemma.html

Jbird said...

Hab 3:4. Qrn = horn. See anchor bible FIAnderson 2001

Qrn = horn all 69 times in Hebrew Bible. Including Exodus 34:29.

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