Cosmology, the study of the origin &
structure of the universe:
Greek Pagan cosmology (Continued).
Modern view of the solar system.
Church taught an Earth-centered system.
The big hoax: that the church taught
a flat Earth during the Middle Ages.
Replacement of the ancient Pagan cosmology with a newer Pagan cosmology (Cont'd):.
Cosmas Indicopleustes' main objection to the Greek cosmology was that he felt it came from
Pagan origins. He commented:
"No man can serve two masters,
(Matthew 6:24) as has well been said by the Lord, but if one will serve God,
let him serve him, or if Mammon, then Mammon. And again he says through
Paul: 'Ye cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord, and of the table
of devils.' (1 Corinthians 10:21) And again: 'Be ye not unequally yoked
together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with
lawlessness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord
hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an
infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?' (1I Cor.
He did not appear to realize that the
cosmology in the Hebrew Scriptures which he did accept also appears to have come from a pagan source -- a much
more ancient Middle Eastern myth that was devoid of any rational content.
The modern view of cosmology:
Copernicus (1473-1543 CE) sounded the death knell of Greek cosmology in
his most important book Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies. In it, he
described a crude model of a sun-centered solar system with planets revolving around the sun in purely circular orbits. In order to escape
imprisonment by the Catholic Church, the book was presented as a hypothesis -- a work of
the imagination. Copernicus was in many ways lucky. He died on the day that the
first edition of his book was published. The church did not have an opportunity to arrest, torture, find him guilty, and turn him over to secular authorities to be burned at the stake.
The Church retained the concept of a Sun and bunch of planets revolving around a stationary Earth. To defend the status-quo, Protestant and Catholic churches often quoted:
Two passages which clearly portray the Sun as rapidly moving:
"Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race."
Ecclesiastes 1:4: "The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose."
Two passages which clearly portray the Earth as stationary:
- Psalm 104:5: "Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever."
Job 38:4: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?..."
Martin Luther also mentioned Joshua's command that the sun stand
Joshua 10:13: "And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day."
Seven additional passages are listed later in this section.
That would be meaningless unless the sun were moving around the Earth before he issued his command.
Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was the first major supporter of Copernicus'
theory; he was imprisoned by the Catholic Church's Inquisition in 1592. and later burned alive
Early in the 17th century, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) invented
the telescope which revolutionized astronomy. He observed that the planet
Venus went through phases. That was absolute proof that Venus revolved around the sun. He also observed spots on the Sun. These violated the Church's teaching that everything beyond the Earth is pure and undefiled by sin. He also found that Jupiter
had moons revolving around it. This violated the Church's teachings that all heavenly bodies revolved around the Earth.
The church arrested Galileo twice; the Inquisition showed him the
instruments of torture that would be used to force his recantation if he
didn't offer it willingly. He abandoned his teachings under pressure and
retired under house arrest. It was not until the year 1835 that the teachings of Copernicus and
Galileo were finally accepted by the Catholic Church. Another century and a half
were to pass before Pope John Paul II issued an apology to Galileo. To our knowledge, the Catholic Church has never apologized for Bruno's execution.
The Big Hoax:
There is massive documentary evidence that the Medieval Christian
church generally accepted the Greek spherical earth cosmology. However, a false belief that the church taught a
flat earth became near universal. The "Historical Society of Britain some
years back listed [this belief] as number one in its short compendium of the ten most
common historical illusions." 2
The hoax began in the early 19th century and has largely
continued to the present day.
Washington Irving (1783-1859) widely recognized as America's first man of
letters, popularized the mistaken idea in his 1828 history of Christopher
Columbus. (One source incorrectly cites the novel Rip van Winkle.)
Irving's book includes:
"... a fictitious account of Columbus's defending
a round earth against misinformed clerics and university professors"
at a meeting at Salamanca, Spain, in 1491. Presented as a historical documentary, it
was largely a work of fiction.
A strongly anti-religious French author, Antoine-Jean "...Letronne
falsely claimed that most of the Church Fathers, including Augustine,
Ambrose and Basil, held to a flat Earth.2 In
his book On the Cosmographical Ideas of the Church Fathers (1834), he
misrepresented "the church fathers and their medieval successors as
believing in a flat earth." 2 His work has been
repeatedly cited as 'reputable' ever since." 3
This idea was repeated by two leading anti-religious writers, John
William Draper and Andrew Dickson White, later in the 19th century. It
became imbedded in school books as early as the 1860's.
Author Daniel Boorstin, wrote, in error, as late as 1985: "
"A Europe-wide phenomenon of scholarly amnesia...afflicted the continent from...300 to at least 1300
[CE]. During those centuries Christian faith and dogma suppressed the useful image of the world
that had been so slowly, so painfully, and so scrupulously drawn by ancient geographers."
Jeffrey B Russell is a Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In the forward to his 1997 book ""Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and
Modern Historians," David Noble writes that Russell believes that the hoax:
"... became widespread conventional wisdom from 1870 to 1920 as a result of 'the war between science and religion.' when for many intellectuals in Europe and the United States all religion became synonymous with superstition and science became the only legitimate source of truth." 5
The review of Russel's book on the Amazon.com web site states, in part, that the book:
"... begins with a discussion of geographical knowledge in the Middle Ages, examining what Columbus and his contemporaries actually did believe, and then moves to a look at how the error was first propagated in the 1820s and 1830s. ... He shows how later-day historians followed these original mistakes, and how this snowball effect grew to outrageous proportions in the late nineteenth century, when Christians opposed to Darwinism were labelled as similar to Medieval Christians who (allegedly) thought the earth was flat. But perhaps the most intriguing focus of the book is the reason why we allow this error to persist. Do we prefer to languish in a comfortable and familiar error rather than exert the effort necessary to discover the truth? This uncomfortable question is engagingly answered, and includes a discussion about the implications of this for historical knowledge and scholarly honesty." 5
The hoax continues today, in ever diminishing strength. It is still found
throughout the Internet, and even in some academic texts that were still in print in the early 21st century and may be still available today.
RELATED FEATURE ESSAYS on Cosmology, the study of the origin & structure of the universe:
- Part 1: Overview about cosmological beliefs. The Ancient Pagan view originating in Sumer.
Part 2: The revised Pagan view, as generally accepted within early Christianity.
Part 4: A modern-day return to the belief that the Earth is flat, and that there is a massive, false conspiracy teaching that the Earth is similar to a sphere
Part 5: Three more proofs that the Earth is more or less spherical and not flat.
Part 6: Five more proofs that the Earth is more or less spherical and not flat
Part 7: Arguments about the Earth's shape. A weak proof of a spherical Earth. More Old Testament passages about the Earth's shape.
Part 8: Passages from the New Testament about the Earth's shape. Additional proofs that the Earth is not flat.
Part 9: Proofs 15 to 21 that the Earth is not flat.
Part 10: Proof 22 that the Earth is not flat. Are Flat Earthers Hoaxters?
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Daniel Boorstin, "The Discoverers: A history of man's search to
know his world and himself," Random House, (1985). Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
Jeffry B. Russell, "The myth of the flat Earth," American
Scientific Affiliation Conference, 1997-AUG-4. at: http://www.id.ucsb.edu/fscf/library
"Who invented the flat Earth?," ChristianAnswers.net, at: http://www.christiananswers.net
"New American Bible, Saint Joseph Personal size Edition,"
Catholic Book Publishing Co. A diagram showing the cosmology of the
ancient Israelites -- "The World of the Hebrews" -- is shown
opposite Page 4.
Jeffrey Burton Russell, "Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and
Modern Historians," Praeger Publishers, (1997).
Copyright © 2002 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-JAN-28
Latest update and review: 2017-FEB-18
Author: B.A. Robinson