The Horned Moses
The Church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome contains a statue of Moses with horns. I’ve seen this appalling demonic image at other Catholic sites as well. This is a blatant example of the Catholic Church’s tendency to paganize biblical religion – in this case, the man chosen by God to establish the Old Covenant with the Jewish people.
This issue is due to the choice of words used by St. Jerome in his fourth-century Latin version of the Bible, the Vulgate, which is the basis for the Catholic Douay Rheims version in English.
“And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tablets of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned (Latin, comuta) from the conversation of the Lord.”
The Hebrew word used in Exodus 34:29 that describes the light that radiated in Moses’ face after being in the presence of God is the word “keren/karan.” This word can be translated literally as “horns” – as in two beams of light – or figuratively as “light” or “radiance.” Whether one likes the word choice or not, it is a legitimate literal translation of the passage, if a bit awkward. St. Jerome correctly understood the term to mean “glorified.” However, modern Catholic versions no longer follow his wording. Hence, the New American Bible says,
“As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he spoke with the Lord.”
In creating the sculpture called “Moses,” Michelangelo chose to depict the glow in the face of Moses using the horn image found in St. Jerome’s Vulgate. This had nothing to do with the paganization of the Bible or Moses. It was simply a practical way of portraying in stone the light in Moses’ face, similar to the use of halos in portraying sanctity.
Mary’s Perpetual Virginity
Perhaps the virginal conception of Jesus really did take place, but Mary’s virginity ended there. She and Joseph did not remain celibate. After the birth of Jesus, they had sexual relations of the ordinary type, which produced the “brothers and sisters of the Lord.” Mary’s alleged perpetual virginity is just another Catholic myth.
Let me respond to this objection in a different way, using a very mundane metaphor.
Let’s say, one sunny afternoon in July, you’re at a baseball game in which your favorite team is playing. Your favorite player on that favorite team then steps up to bat, swings, and hits a home run. The ball soars high over the field and stands and falls precisely to the place you’re seated. You stretch out your hand and catch it.
Now you coddle that ball as if it were gold, and to you it is – the treasure of a lifetime. When you return to your car after the game, you place it on the seat next to you. On the drive home, you constantly admire it and even lovingly whisper to it, as if it were the love of your life. Back home, you find a safe bookshelf on which to place it. The next day, you shop online for a fancy pedestal with a glass case. After the pedestal arrives, you place the ball in the case and securely mount the pedestal on your fireplace hearth where all can admire it.
Everyone who enters that room is now subject to your long-winded and generously enhanced account of the game, the home run, and the day you caught that ball. But most importantly, no one – absolutely no one – will ever be permitted to remove the ball from its fancy pedestal and case. Never again will it be touched, hit, or thrown. It has been withdrawn from all ordinary use. The ball hit by your favorite player on your favorite team is far too special to ever be used by anyone else, due to the exceptional status of the one who hit it.
Now let’s consider the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On a day St. Paul described as “the fullness of time,” the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin in the village of Nazareth. He greeted her, not using her personal name, but with her heavenly title – “full of grace.” Others have rendered this, “highly favored daughter.” Regardless, Mary had been prepared for this moment with an abundance of graces from the instant of her conception. For her vocation would be absolutely essential to the redemption of the world.
After hearing the glad tidings that she would be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah, Mary was concerned only for her virginity. Once Gabriel assured her it would be honored, Our Lady bowed her head and declared her perfect submission to the will of God. And immediately, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity came upon her, and the Word was made flesh.
The flesh of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was taken directly from the flesh of Mary. Her body produced His, and would daily nourish it as well. The instrument with which humanity would be redeemed was derived from her. In a sense, to look upon Jesus would be to look upon Mary.
Miracle followed miracle, until the Savior of the world was born in a cold dark stable amid straw and farm animals, just outside of the village of Bethlehem.
The heavenly hosts sang at this birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.” Shepherds, beckoned by these angelic beings, left their fields to admire Him. Magi came from the east to adore Him, guided by a mysterious star. And Herod the Great, terrified and viciously jealous, plotted to murder Him.
And then, when it was all over, Joseph said to Mary, “Hey, babe, let’s roll in the hay and make some babies in the normal way.”
At least, that’s the opinion of many Christians.
Pardon me, but this common belief among Protestants is indirect blasphemy. It is a mockery of the infinite sanctity of Christ, in that it amounts to the profane use of the mother who gave birth to Him, and who provided Him with the physical body that, once offered on the Cross, would be the instrument by which the gates of heaven would be torn open, so that fallen mankind could finally enter.
No man would ever have touched Our Lady – not a good man, because of his virtue, nor even a bad man, because of his fear of God. No man would have dared to penetrate that sanctuary, that holy of holies where the Savior of the world had been conceived and carried for nine months. And least of all would St. Joseph have done so – the man called by God to be the guardian of both the Messiah and His Mother.
Mary’s virginity was perpetual. Never did she have sexual relations with the foster father of Jesus, nor with any other man. She was the life-long spouse of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, she was far too special to be embraced by anyone else, due to the exceptional status of the One who overshadowed her.
If you can understand the case of a man preserving a precious baseball, can you not understand as well the case of God Almighty preserving the precious Mother of the Messiah?