Church Write-Up: Moses’s Horns; Interpersonal Reconciliation at the Cross

Here are some thoughts about today’s Lenten service.

A. The pastor told the story about Moses’s horns. Michaelangelo’s sculpture of Moses depicts Moses with horns. This was due to the widespread influence of Jerome’s Bible in medieval and Renaissance Europe. Exodus 34:29 states that Moses came down from the mountain after being with God and his face was shining, so he had to wear a veil. The word translated as “shining” can also mean “horns,” and Jerome mistranslated it as horns.

I have often heard this story, but I wondered how true it was. Was Jerome really that obtuse? Also, were there other places in Scripture in which the word obviously meant shining, and Jerome recognized that?

This article here saved me some work by answering my questions. First of all, Jerome was fully aware of the view that Moses’s face in Exodus 34:29 was shining. The Septuagint interprets it that way. Second, Jerome in other commentaries assumes that qrn can mean shining, not in Exodus 34:29 but in other passages in Scripture. So it was not as if Jerome were unaware of that interpretive option; he just had a different interpretation of Exodus 34:29.

There were Jewish interpreters who claimed that Moses had horns, and Jerome, who valued Hebrew interpretation as if it were closer to the original meaning, went with that. According to the article, there is a possibility that this was the original meaning of the text, since some gods in the ancient Near East had horns, horns were a sign of strength and power, and Moses’s horns could have been a response to the horns of the Golden Calf.

B. The pastor talked about the difficulty of apologizing to people face-to-face. He said that e-mail was a lifesaver for a lot of people, especially introverts. I identify.

C. The pastor said that Jesus on the cross reconciled people, not only with God, but with one another. This is because we can view other people as dear to Jesus because Jesus died for them. Ephesians 2:14-16 talks about Christ breaking down the wall between Jew and Gentile: both are reconciled with God and now are in community with one another. In John 19:26-35, Jesus on the cross effects community, as he pronounces Mary to be the beloved disciple’s mother, and the beloved disciple to be Mary’s son.

This can be a difficult teaching. I can understand that what Christ did on the cross creates a community. People who recognize that union with God comes through Christ—-not through law and circumcision—-gather together with each other with that common belief, even though they may not have had anything to do with each other prior to embracing that belief. The Gospel brings people together who otherwise might not be together.

However, I can recognize and appreciate that a person is dear to God, but that does not necessarily mean that I want to be friends with that person. If God wants to have a relationship with a person and forgive that person, that is fine with me. That does not mean that I want to forgive that person for sins against me.

As the pastor said, though, it is difficult to feel God’s forgiveness. Often, the only direct encounter of forgiveness that we feel is interpersonal, and that is why it is important for us to extend forgiveness to others. In addition, if I refuse to forgive a person and to have anything to do with him or her, while recognizing that he or she is still dear to God, I am not helping him or her. If someone is dear to God, and if God is dear to me, should not I value whom God values? Here, we get into law: feel this, do that. I am not strong enough to be in certain relationships.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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