Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In which the Rashbam calls Jerome a moron

The statue at the right, and others like it, depict Moses with horns because of Jerome's translation of Exodus 34:29. The verse employs two words - keren and or - that led most ancient interpreters to suggest that Moses' face beamed with light when he descended from Sinai. This is the view found in the LXX, Targum Onkelos, Targum Neophyti, and the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. It is also the reading accepted by the committee that produced the King James Version.

Only Jerome disagrees. In his reading keren or is not "rays of light," but "horned skin." The translation, though later misused by anti-Semites, is not entirely unreasonable. Keren is a homonym, with horn being one of its meanings; also horns were often used by the ancients as ornaments or as a sign of distinction; alternatively Jerome may have thought the horn, or toughing of the skin, was a disfigurement of some kind caused by direct exposure to God.

I bring all this up, because tonight I doscovered the Rashbam's response to Jerome, which I loved because it was short, terse and rude -- exactly like a good blog post. Here is what he says:
[Keren] is an expression of majesty as in Habakkuk: "rays from his hand to him." Whoever compares it to the "his horns are the horns of a wild ox" is a moron(shoteh). Most biblical words are homynyns. Menchem b Seruk read it this way,
Related: One of my all time favorite posts

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