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Why Jews Have Horns And Whether Terrorists Get Virgins Or Raisins


It was my first day at the University of Michigan. I'd been unpacking all day when my roommate arrived, accompanied by her mother.

My roommate was a girl from Jackson, Michigan whose father worked as a prison guard. I think she was of Mexican origin -- because she had a Mexican-sounding name and because the one thing she put up on the wall was a typing paper-sized poster of Emilio Zapata.

Well, we talked a bit about this or that, and I'm not sure how religious origins came up, but when I said something about being Jewish, her mother said, "Oh, my daughter's never met a Jewish girl before." She later said she'd heard (and no, I'm not kidding or making this up) that Jews have horns. Yeah, well, I had mine removed when they took off my braces.

My mother, who is a part-time biblical scholar, later explained why people might think this: Apparently, the Hebrew word "or" for light, as in "Moses had rays of light around his head," (or something close to that), was mistranslated as the word for "horn" or "horns." So, some lazy-ass translator was responsible for years of Christian-on-Heeb persecution...thanks a bunch...not to mention an unfortunate accident in Michaelangelo's portrayal of Moses above.

Well, the other day, in comments on my 72 virgins post, Kitt posted a link to a blog suggesting there may be a mistranslation of the word "virgin" in the Koran. Apparently, all those sick fuckers could be dying for 72...raisins?

The buzz, in brief, is that (following a period of strictly oral retransmission) early written transcriptions of the Koran recorded consonants but not vowels. Thus the martyr's reward might be the prized hur -- "white" (raisins) -- not Houri -- virgins. [A waggish compromise faction suggests Vegans ... of the dietetic or galactic variety?]

From what I've tasted of desire, I hold with those who favor Houri (unless more experienced Vegans are an option) with honorable mention to hur. Is it possible these pure, unblemished "raisins" of which the Angel whispered to the Prophet are, in the idiomatic wordplay of the day, the metaphorical equivalent of today's "cherries"?

...For a faith pegged to strict authenticity of sacred text, any such gnat becomes a hard camel to swallow ... a single instance opens the entire text to the horrors of interpretation. Thus these scholarly speculations are, quite literally, fighting words.

Posted by aalkon at July 29, 2006 9:59 AM

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I've heard of another Koranic scholar who claims that "hur" is also quite similar to the ancient Arabic term for "jockstrap-clad, bubbble-butt circuit boys."

Posted by: Lena at July 29, 2006 3:10 PM

Actually it's the Hebrew word for "ray" or "beam" - as in ray of light - which is also used to mean "horn" because both are describing a conical, tapering shape. The word is "Keren" in Hebrew.

So the Hebrew original says "Moses' face was beaming" - and that got mistranslated into his having horns.

Posted by: Ben-David at July 30, 2006 5:44 AM

Thanks a lot. I'm a little light in the Hebrew department. L'hitraot!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 30, 2006 10:32 AM

Ooooh. When they taught us that Jews had horns way back in Lutheran school, I thought they meant like clarinets or something.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at July 30, 2006 3:00 PM

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