The Horns of Moses

Art featuring Moses shows he does not have horns

Art featuring Moses shows he has horns

Do you remember Moses having horns?

Most art today, such as classical paintings and statues, shows Moses sporting a pair of horns. Not everyone remembers this, and those experiencing the Mass Memory Discrepancy Effect distinctly recall him never having done so, yet when you search the internet for  "Moses Horns" you see it apparently has always been the case.

Not all modern day depictions of Moses show him with horns - Charlton Heston would have looked distinctly odd had he done so in his 1956 blockbuster "The Ten Commandments".

There could be a mundane explanation for all this though - one that even Michelangelo himself fell victim too when he sculpted The Moses in 1513.

The problem was mis-translation in the Old Testament of Moses having the Hebrew word "keren", which was meant to mean rays of light, as in a glow, but may have been translated as "horns". The subsequent artists then took this literally... 


There's a continuing fierce debate regarding what some are saying the word for horns actually meant.

Michelangelo was no fool, and would have been well aware of the writings. If he'd wanted to carve literal animal horns, clearly they would have been rendered beautifully. Instead we see short, off-centre, misaligned asymmetrical appendages which were certainly not in keeping with the aesthetics and style of his work. In other words, he's trying to send a message. One popular translation approximates to "rays of light". If you had to represent two of these on someones head in stone, what would you do? It's entirely possible that this is the exact scenario he faced, and his solution was what we see here - some kind of unusual shape to try to keep everyone happy.