The earliest known illustrations of a horned Moses appear in the Aelfric Paraphrase of the Pentateuch and Joshua, a vernacular English manuscript dated to about 1050 A.D. The three examples shown here depict Moses giving the law (above left), Moses communicating with God (above right) and Moses and Joshua in the tabernacle (right). Numerous other representations of a horned Moses are among the more than 400 illuminations in this manuscript. Drawn by several anonymous artists, many of the illustrations remain unfinished, thus accounting for the lack of facial features in the picture of Moses communicating with God. Although the design of the horns varies slightly from one picture to another, they always appear as part of a headdress, rather than as a physiological feature. Although executed rather clumsily, these illuminations possess creative imagination and freedom from convention.
Aelfric (c. 955–1020) based his translation on the Vulgate, the Latin translation by Jerome (346–420 A.D.), which said that Moses’ “face was horned.”