The Bible said the sun went back, but it didn't.


Friday, 7, 18/14

The first reading tells the story of how around the year 720 B.C. when Judah’s King Hezekiah was about to die, Isaiah told the king  that God was giving him fifteen more years of life. When the king said that was hard to believe, Isaiah said he had a way of proving that God was behind that promise. He would make the sun and its shadow go back ten feet on what it had progressed. And then he made it happen.

In 1630 when Galileo published a paper stating that the sun stayed unmoved at the center of the solar system while the earth moved around it Cardinal Bellarmine condemned Galileo for denying the Bible’s teaching that the sun moved.

In 1992 the Church, having come to understand that the Bible was not meant to be taken as a scientific text book, apologized to Galileo for condemning him. 

(I have recently written my take on the history of Christianity. Let me quote what I wrote about this passage from Isaiah, Chapter 38.)

Galileo had life-long friends among the influential cardinals, but they could not stand by him when he went against passages of Scripture such as Isaiah, Chapter 38, where the sun is described as moving backwards.

“So the prophet Isaiah invoked the Lord who made the shadow retreat the ten steps it had descended.”

For maintaining that Scriptures need not be taken in a literal sense, Galileo quoted St. Augustan; but Rome was not then ready for such interpretations.

In 1633 when the Inquisition condemned his presentation of the heliocentric theory Galileo accepted the Church’s decision, recanting his “heretical” assertions. Still, the Church put him under house arrest for his last five years. He used that seclusion to do good original work in kinetics and other fields. 

The story shows us that we must humbly agree with the Magisterium even when the Magisterium is wrong.

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