2 Corinthians 3:7, 13—Did Moses wear a veil when speaking to the people or not?

Problem: Exodus 34:33 (kjv) asserts that, “Till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail [sic] on his face” (cf. v. 35). This implies he had the veil on while speaking with them. But this seems to contradict the statement here in 2 Corinthians 3 that they could not look “steadily” on it, which implies that they were looking at it when Moses spoke (vv. 7, 13).

Solution: Recent translations have corrected this problem, rendering Exodus 34:33 as follows: “when Moses had finished speaking with them [the people], he put a veil on his face.” This fits the context better as well, since this verse is followed by the assertion that “whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with Him [God]” (v. 35). Then Moses would come out, take the veil off and speak to the people until they could not bear the glory, and he would cover it up until he again went in before the Lord (v. 34).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.