Moses the Egyptian in the Illustrated Old English Hexateuch (London, British Library Cotton MS Claudius B.iv)
- 2019 Best First Monograph Award from the International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England
In Moses the Egyptian, Herbert Broderick analyzes the iconography of Moses in the famous illuminated eleventh-century manuscript known as the Illustrated Old English Hexateuch. A translation into Old English of the first six books of the Bible, the manuscript contains over 390 images, of which 127 depict Moses with a variety of distinctive visual attributes.
Broderick presents a compelling thesis that these motifs, in particular the image of the horned Moses, have a Hellenistic Egyptian origin. He argues that the visual construct of Moses in the Old English Hexateuch may have been based on a Late Antique, no longer extant, prototype influenced by works of Hellenistic Egyptian Jewish exegetes, who ascribed to Moses the characteristics of an Egyptian-Hellenistic king, military commander, priest, prophet, and scribe. These Jewish writings were utilized in turn by early Christian apologists such as Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius of Caesarea. Broderick’s analysis of this Moses imagery ranges widely across religious divides, art-historical religious themes, and classical and early Jewish and Christian sources.
Herbert Broderick is one of the foremost historians in the field of Anglo-Saxon art, with a primary focus on Old Testament iconography. Readers with interests in the history of medieval manuscript illustration, art history, and early Jewish and Christian apologetics will find much of interest in this profusely illustrated study.
“This is a fascinating, innovative, thoughtful, and thought-provoking work, which makes a useful and timely contribution to the developing historical consideration of ongoing cultural relations between East and West. It is well-written and accessible to both its intended academic audience and to readers outside the academy.” —Michelle Brown, professor emerita of medieval manuscript studies, University of London
“No doubt this publication will create a vivid discussion in different fields of the academic world. I hope that Egyptologists will also take note of this inspiring work.” —Dietrich Wildung, director emeritus, Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, Berlin
“Made famous by Michelangelo’s statue in Rome, the horned Moses seems altogether natural. As Herbert Broderick demonstrates in this complex and far-reaching analysis of the motif’s first occurrence, however, it is the product of successive interpretations, transmissions, translations, misunderstandings, and reflections. With dazzling erudition, intuition, and strength of convictions, Broderick puts forward powerful arguments that the prophet’s earliest appearances with horns in an eleventh-century illustrated Old English bible paraphrase derive ultimately from a Late Antique Egyptian exemplar that had interpreted the Greek Septuagint text through accumulated lore, exegesis, and local artistic conventions. At a moment when Coptic, Celtic, and Pakistani objects have been unearthed together in a ninth-century burial site in Sweden, Broderick makes a startling new contribution to our understanding of the global Middle Ages." —Herbert L. Kessler, professor emeritus, Johns Hopkins University
"Herbert Broderick examines a widely recognized and important motif, the representation of Moses with horns on his head, in the first extant example that we know of in the early eleventh-century illustrated Old English Hexateuch (London, British Library Cotton MS Claudius B.iv). In an original, precise, thorough, and penetrating interpretation, he relates it to other 'Egyptianizing' symptoms illustrating various attributes of Moses in the manuscript and presents a convincing hypothesis about the origin of these motifs as a pictorial expression of an Egyptian Jewish Hellenistic apologetic, taken up later by early Christian writers, that Moses was more ancient than all the Egyptian gods and pharaohs, and that the attributes of these gods and pharaohs, such as horns of power and light, actually were plagiarized by both the Egyptians and the ancient Greeks in an attempt to co-opt the Hebraic original." —C. Edson Armi, professor emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara
"Moses the Egyptian in the Illustrated Old English Hexateuch is a traditional work from the field of art history with significant implications for the study of the history of religion. While the author himself does not emphasize this point, it is of interest to scholars of the history of religion to note that Broderick’s analysis of Claudius B.iv also serves as a case study in the ways in which Hellenistic traditions continued to spread, converge, and develop well into the medieval era and across the globe." —Reading Religion
“Broderick delivers the most persuasive hypotheses to date to explain the origin of this strange document. . . . The Anglo-Saxon artists were probably copying a manuscript brought from the Mediterranean world, perhaps by Aelfric in the eleventh century, that has itself disappeared, the origin and meaning of whose images they could not fully explain. Broderick turns them into magic ‘windows’ teleporting us to an originary period of Christian exegesis, proselytizing, and incipient self-understanding.” —The Heythrop Journal
“...Broderick’s work offers new avenues for thinking about the visual culture available in the eleventh-century Canterbury… His work challenges readers to consider further how books transported ideas and artistic influences across time and space.” —Journal of English and Germanic Philology