Project Genesis

Jewish History

Post-Biblical History

The Rumor that Jews Have Horns

Question: What is the story behind the rumor about why Jews have horns? How did that get started?

Answer: To my knowledge, it began with a mistranslation of Exodus 34:29—“…and Moses didn’t know that his face shone when He [God] spoke with him.?? The Hebrew word for the verb “shone?? is “karan?? and is phonetically close to the word “keren,?? which can mean horn.

The error was compounded by the Italian artist, Michelangelo, in his sculpture of Moses, which portrays our leader with two horns.

With best regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton

3 Follow-ups »

  1. In many television shows that show Jewish people, all of them have very big, pointed noses. Why is this so?

    Thank you for your excellent question.

    The fact of the matter is, there is no such thing as a “Jewish nose??. There are plenty of people who are Jewish, whether by conversion or by birth, who do not have the stereotypical “Jewish nose??. By contrast, there are many people with absolutely no Jewish ancestry who may have such a nose. It is only a stereotype, and is actually drawn from a negative source in pseudo (false) science of the 1800’s. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s there was a social philosophy called Eugenics, which taught that certain groups were genetically inferior and certain groups were genetically superior to others. This idea had a great deal of influence on the Nazis and contributed greatly to the Holocaust. There were also medical and psychological ideas, such as phrenology, where people thought that the shape of a person’s head, and in some cases, face, indicated psychological and character traits.

    The following comes from H. Westbrook at “

    “Nineteenth-century eugenicists ascribed “primitive?? physiological characteristics to Jews, including what one enlightened scientist called “a large, massive, club-shaped, hook nose.?? Character could also be ostensibly inferred from nasal shape, a “Jewish nose?? being the sign of “commercialism or desire for gain.?? The stigma of this supposedly Jewish feature led many Jews to undergo plastic surgery as a cure for their “nostrility.?? Indeed, the father of the modern nose job was Jewish surgeon Jacques Joseph of Berlin, who pioneered scarless rhinoplasty in the 1880’s.??

    The fact is that all of these ideas are actually rather silly, but many entertainers take advantage of these things when making shows, etc.
    May you be blessed with good things.

    Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski
    Richmond, VA

    Comment by ATR — August 27, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

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