The Center 

The question, whether the earth is stationary or rotates and/or revolves around the sun, was asked during antiquity. Some of the Pythagoreans were heliocentrists, and others too promoted the idea:

  • “Does the earth move like the sun, moon, and five planets, which for their motions he calls organs or instruments of time? Or is the earth fixed to the axis of the universe; yet not so built as to remain immovable, but to turn and wheel about, as Aristarchus and Seleucus have shown since; Aristarchus only supposing it, Seleucus positively asserting it? Theophrastus writes how that Plato, when he grew old, repented him that he had placed the earth in the middle of the universe, which was not its place.”
  • (Plutarch, Platonic Questions, Question VIII, Moralia, Book XIII, Complete Works of Plutarch, Kindle location 61004).

For many inquirers, the problems with this idea were more physical than theological, inasmuch as ancient physics had difficulty with the idea that the earth is moving rapidly, but people, houses and wagons don't go flying off. When you drop your keys, why do they fall perpendicularly under your hand, not slightly behind; why is it not necessary to ever be jogging back a bit to recover dropped items? It took the genius of Galileo to answer these questions in a convincing manner. Does the Bible address the topic? Who believes which theory, and why?:

The Center The Magnificat
Beautiful Simplicity Pagan Philosophy
Galileo's Crime The Stable Earth
The Moving Sun Tycho Brahe
Pagan Religion Philo Judaeus
The Revolution

Tycho Brahe's Geo-Heliocentric Model

The Center

According to atheists and even some believers, the choice between Ptolemy's geocentric astronomy and Copernicus' heliocentric theory boils down to a choice between God and atheism:

  • “Indeed, it is the quest of today’s scientists to silence all challengers to modern cosmology. For them, the Earth must remain in the remote recesses of space so that mankind need not be troubled by the possibility that Someone is behind it all and a Someone to whom they must hold themselves accountable. This is, indeed, a high-stakes game. . .
  • “As we noted earlier from the remarks of Stephen Gould, man has been on a relentless quest since the days of Copernicus to keep Earth away from center of the universe, for the science community knows full well that admitting to a special place for the Earth means that Someone higher than us must have deliberately put it in that privileged position.”
  • (Robert Sungenis and Robert Bennett, Galileo Was Wrong, pp. 58-64).

Is it indeed true that modern astronomy is a conspiracy designed to hide the evidence for God? Would it, in fact, be evidence for creation if the earth were in the center of the universe? Does the Bible give us any warrant for such an expectation?

The argument runs as follows: God chooses what is big, central, and imposing. If the earth is not big, central and imposing relative to its surroundings, then God cannot possibly have chosen this world to become incarnate, because it is just too unimportant. Does God think like this?

God chose Gideon: "And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house." (Judges 6:15). God chooses the younger over the elder, Jacob over Esau; He takes David, from tending sheep, over his brothers. There were big and imposing places in the ancient world, like Egypt and Babylon. But God did not choose them, He chose little Israel:

  • “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.
  • “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
  • “But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
  • (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).

He chose the downtrodden, despised slaves of the mighty Egyptians to be a people for His name, not the Egyptians, who were everything the atheists would wish them to be: powerful, central, prominent. He does the opposite of what the atheists expect He will do. Supposing God to be consistent with His pattern of acting in the Bible, then if the earth were centrally located and obviously important, He would not have chosen this as a place for His name, but somewhere else.

By the atheist way of thinking, a box-car is more excellent than a baby, a slag-heap than a hummingbird. Our earth is "insignificant" because not central:

"Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a hum-drum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people." (Carl Sagan, Cosmos, p. 193, Wikiquotes).

Size matters, position matters. But where has God ever endorsed these yardsticks? God does not see as man sees:

"But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7).

The New Atheists are ever telling us this is a small, inconsequential, out-of-the-way planet in an unimportant galaxy. How one reckons the importance of a galaxy, they do not say; but they are certain this one isn't. The undeniable fact that this is a popular argument does not make it a good argument. It certainly isn't a Biblical argument, given God's documented preference for the small, the poor, the despised:

Weight David
Israel Mary's Magnificat
Friedrich Nietzsche Lowest Place
God-Likeness Imaginary Friends
Douglas Wilson He Humbled Himself

The Magnificat

Mary sang a song of praise when told she would bear the Lord:

  • “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

  • “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.”
  • (Luke 1:46-55).

Ptolemy's Astronomy
The System Equant
Terrestrial Ball The Talmud
Money in the Bank Poets
Geography Dark Ages

Some people are too busy praising Mary to listen to what she has to say! What's that, Mary? God chooses the mighty, the central, the important? No, God chooses the weak, the peripheral, the discarded:

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence." (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

Jesus did not instruct His followers to take the noblest place open to them, but the lowest, "When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 14:8-11). There is a disconnect between the word's way of reckoning importance and God's.

Beautiful Simplicity

The Ptolemaic system, at least before it was weighted down with innumerable epicycles, and the Copernican system, which also sports epicycles, both share a certain conceptual simplicity. Not so Tycho Brahe's composite kludge:

  • “The Ptolemaic system, which supposes the earth to be the center of the universe, is now deservedly exploded; since Copernicus has revived that of Pythagoras, which was probably received by most of the ancients. Tycho Brahe's, which jumbles both together, is too complex and intricate, and contrary to that beautiful simplicity, conspicuous in all the works of nature.”
  • (John Wesley, Of the Gradual Improvement of Natural Philosophy, Chapter 21, p. 581).

The composite system loses the advantages of both of the two opposite standpoints it seeks to weave together.

Pagan Philosophy

The system of philosophy which Thomas Aquinas adopted for his own was borrowed from the pagan philosopher Aristotle, whose works came to Thomas mediated through Muslim and Arab interpreters like Averroes and Avicenna:

"Averroes may not have been influential in Islam, but he was in Christianity; if he represents an end-point for Arabic Islamic philosophy, for medieval Christian philosophy he represents a beginning. . .Thus, Christianity inherited the Arabic philosophy of Islam." (Hans Kung, Islam, Past, Present and Future, pp. 379-380).

Since this philosophy was taken up in the first place in a spirit of 'keeping-up-with-the-Joneses,' i.e. the Muslims, some skepticism may be in order. Wasn't it, after all, an Islamic Caliph, al-Ma'mun, who saw Aristotle in a dream: "His special interest in foreign culture and philosophy is commemorated in the story that Aristotle appeared to him in a dream and spoke words of encouragement to him." (Soheil M. Afnan, Avicenna, His Life and Works, p. 7). To this Aristotlean-Arab framework Thomas welded on an overlay of Christian theology. The resultant comprehensive 'theory of everything' included a science of astronomy, which was Aristotle's astronomy with a few corrections. Aristotle taught that the heavens were eternal, but inasmuch as this conflicted with Genesis 1:1, Thomas was obliged to give it up:

"It should be noted that these arguments of Aristotle are directed against the position that posits a world produced by generation and indestructible either of its very nature or through the will of God. But according to the Catholic faith, we hold that it began to be, not through a process of generation as from nature, but by flowing from a first principle whose power was not bound to give it existence in infinite time but as it willed, after previous non-existence, in order to manifest the excellence of its power over the totality of being, namely, that the totality of being depends entirely on it and its power is not confined or determined to the production of some given being." (Thomas Aquinas, 'On the Heavens, Book I, Lecture 29, 286.)

One might have thought these people would have been impatient to strike out on their own; after all, Aristotle's astronomy had been around for 1,500 years. But Thomas is no innovator in these matters. Their timidity is striking. Thomas retains the basic structure of Aristotle's astronomy, which features eight nested spheres clustered around a central, unmoving earth:

  • “Then at [268] he [The Philosopher, Aristotle] shows that even the lower heavenly bodies are spherical. And he says that from the fact that the first body is spherical, it follows that the next body "continuous" to it, i.e., immediately joined to it, is spherical: for that body which is "continuous" to, i.e., immediately joined to, the spherical body, must itself be spherical. Now this is true if the first body is spherical not only on its convex, but also on its concave, side. Since the very same nature of first body is in both these sides, it must have the same figure on both sides.

  • “The same argument holds for the other bodies which are in the center of these and contained by them, namely, they too have to be spherical. For those bodies that are contained and touched by the body that is spherical according to its convex side must also be spherical on their convex side, and consequently spherical according to their concave side, if they are of one nature. Since, therefore, the spheres of the lower planets touch the higher sphere, it follows that the whole of "what is carried," i.e., the whole body which is circularly moved, has a spherical shape, for all those bodies of the heavenly spheres mutually touch and are "continuous," i.e., in immediate contact one with the other. And there is no intermediate body that fills up voids between spheres, as some say - for it would follow that those bodies would be idle, since they would not have a circular motion.”
  • (Thomas Aquinas, 'On the Heavens,' Book II, Lecture 5, 352 and 353.).

Russian Icon

Thomas realized that Aristotle's simple and attractive visionary model had not quite worked out in practice. When Ptolemy traced out the orbits in the second century A.D., he had inherited from Aristotle two basic rules: the heavens, the planets, the sun and the moon must orbit around a point at the center of the earth, and they must do so in uniform circular motion, which according to Aristotle is 'natural,' i.e. according to nature, and thus requires no further explanation. Unfortunately by the time Ptolemy got done, both these starting requirements were reduced to little more than legal fictions: the Ptolemaic planets revolve, not around a common, fixed point, but around moving points in eccentric circles, and their uniformity of motion is preserved with reference, not to the circle about which they are revolving, but to another point called the 'equant' which may be moving in its own orbit! The beautiful, simple circular orbits became weighted down with epicycles. How did epicycles even work? Thomas realized things hadn't quite worked out for Aristotle's vision:

"Therefore Hipparchus and Ptolemy posited for each planet a single sphere which however was not concentric with the supreme sphere but had a center other than the earth, [i.e., an "eccentric"], in such a way that when the planet is in that portion of the sphere that is farther from us, the body of the planet is seen as smaller and slower moving; but when it is in the opposite region, it is seen as larger and faster. In addition to this, they posited certain small circles which they call "epicycles," which are in motion upon these spheres in such a way that the bodies of the planets are in motion in these epicycles, not as though fixed in such circles, but as though turning through them with a progressive motion." (Thomas Aquinas, 'On the Heavens,' Lecture 17, 454).

Copernicus advertised his heliocentric system as the only way to realize Aristotle's postulate of uniform circular motion. While Copernicus retained deferants and epicycles, he was able to discard the equant. It is stunning how many people imagine that Copernicus ditched epicycles: "What are the differences between these two mathematical explanations of the solar system?. . .A good model explains much about the world without employing too many special assumptions — such as the epicycles — and without requiring too many complex notions and tools." (Amir C. Aczel, Why Science Does not Disprove God, pp. 66-67). He did not! Nevertheless, he made real progress toward simplicity. Ptolemaic astronomy had bought its high predictive value at the cost of departing from its founding physical principles. This was the best secular science of astronomy available in the world which the early church writers inhabited, and most of them accepted it. The early Christian writers, however, never showed as much enthusiasm for the system as did the medievals, nor their own contemporaries the gnostics. The gnostic authors busied themselves with travel plans for the trip between the spheres (eight, or nine: sun, moon, five planets, fixed stars and the outermost sphere). The star-traveller had to know the passwords and secret handshakes required to pass each custom house.

Perhaps the early writers understood the intimate connection between the Ptolemaic system and pagan theology, including the practical 'science' of astrology, and thus could not really warm up to this system. Thomas latches on to this system as if it were the greatest thing ever. So if you get rid of it, you discredit him. He does, however, show a gift for disregarding what does not suit his purpose; the Ptolemaic system, in Thomas' hands, ends up considerably demythologized from its pagan original.

One would like to think that the durable link between the old pagan astronomy and astrology was nothing but a negative to be overlooked in the scholastic evaluation of this science. One would like to think. That is why it is disappointing to realize that Thomas specifically leaves in his system a back door open to this pagan science:

"Now, the celestial bodies, alone among bodily things, are inalterable; their condition shows this, for it is always the same. So, the celestial body is the cause of all alteration in things that are changed by alternation. . .Thus, it is evident that lower bodies are ruled by God through the celestial bodies." (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Three, Chapter 82, That Lower Bodies are Ruled by God through Celestial Bodies, p. 277).

By the time of the Reformation, people were already sick of this pagan/Christian hybrid, with good reason:

"What else are the universities, if their present condition remains unchanged, than as the book of Maccabees says, Gynmasia Epheborum et Graecae gloriae [2 Macc. 4:9, 12], in which loose living prevails, the Holy Scriptures and the Christian faith are little taught, and the blind, heathen master Aristotle rules alone, even more than Christ. . .I venture to say that any potter has more knowledge of nature than is written in these books. It grieves me to the heart that this damned, conceited, rascally heathen has with his false words deluded and made fools of so many of the best Christians." (Martin Luther, An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate, Kindle location 1723, Works of Martin Luther, Volume II, Part III, Section 25).

Galileo's Crime

Why did the Catholic Church feel obliged to protect Ptolemaic astronomy against Galileo's attacks? And where is it taught in the Bible? It is not found in the Bible, but in the works of Thomas Aquinas. Copernicus himself, no publicity hog, had flown under the radar, but Galileo wanted the public to understand that Ptolemaic astronomy had been decisively refuted. Venus displays phases, just like the moon, and he had looked through his telescope and seen them — seen them all, although the Ptolemaic orbits do not allow Venus to stand opposed to the sun, thus appearing fully lit from earth. But Galileo had seen it and wanted to shout it from the roof-tops. Because the sun never sees a shadow, the phases of Venus give us another viewpoint besides our own. The licentious Renaissance popes lived under the banner, 'Do whatever you like, dear, only don't do it in the street and frighten the horses.' They had not cared about Copernicus, but could not avoid Galileo.

The apparent size of Venus, even to the naked eye, is a stumbling block for the Ptolemaic system. At its biggest and brightest, Venus alarms people into calling 911 and reporting it as a UFO. But sometimes it is inconspicuous. If the Ptolemaic system were correct and Venus were orbiting in a circle about the earth (albeit an eccentric circle, and albeit carried on an epicycle), its distance from earth and consequently its apparent size should not vary that much, nor would it display the full menu of phases. The heliocentric system explains this change in visible size very handily, because as the planets race around their nested race-tracks, the distance between them can vary quite a lot, and Venus is also liberated to display the lunar-like phases it shows to the telescopic observer. An additional observation difficult for geocentrism is that of a swinging pendulum, suspended from a pivot made as frictionless as possible; it will trace a circle, why?

Two books were placed on the altar at the counter-reformation Council of Trent: the Bible and Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica. The Catholic Church had placed all its bets on this medieval author; when reformers like Martin Luther mounted Biblical arguments against practices built on Thomas' doctrinal innovations, such as indulgences, the battle lines were drawn. They would not abandon this uninspired if brilliant author, who then and thereafter became an idol to the Roman Catholic Church.

 On the Heavens 

The Stable Earth

Some readers think that, while the Bible does not teach Ptolemaic astronomy in any detail, it does teach an unmoving earth and a moving sun. Thus authors Robert Sungenis and Robert Bennett claim that they are following "tradition" in reviving Tycho Brahe's geo-heliocentrism, even though no one in Catholicism except a small party of seventeenth-century Jesuits ever embraced that composite, compromise system. Does the Bible really teach these two points? Even though these two survivors represent a starved, impoverished and minimalist reduction of the Ptolemaic system, are they Biblical? Certainly there are many verses which teach a stable and unmoving earth:

  • “The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs.
  • “What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?
  • “Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs?
  • “Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob;
  • “Which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters.”
  • (Psalm 114:4-8).

  • “Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.”
  • (Psalm 18:7).

  • “The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.”
  • (Psalm 68:8).

...But these aren't them, these verses describe an earth which is shaking, rattling and rolling! Before atheist readers busy themselves constructing a little snow globe that can tremble out of its orbit, notice that these 'tremble' verses often recount specific historic events, like the visitation at Sinai:

"And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly." Exodus 19:18).

Events like Noah's flood, or the earthquake at Sinai, do not require any novel cosmology. Similar events will mark the end-times. To a reader who does not often read the psalms, it may be impressive to be shown a verse like Psalm 93:1: "The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved." But is it not apparent that, whatever the 'unmoved' verses mean, it must be the flip side of what the 'tremble' verses mean? If one group of verses has been sequestered to refer to astronomic orbits, charted with reference to the solar system, Cartesian co-ordinates or a Newtonian grid, then what is left for the other group to describe? Planets falling out of orbit? God's blessing, gracious promise of peace and proffer of the rainbow sign mean stability; God's curse, judgment, just verdict and wrath mean the earth will shake and fall. These mirror-image verses, of stability and shaking, have been unnaturally severed one from another and wrenched into a foreign context to give support to geocentrism, which is not in the Bible author's view.

The Moving Sun

In defense of this idea are offered Psalm 19 and Joshua's miracle:

  • “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork.
  • “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.
  • “There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
  • “Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
  • “Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
  • “His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.”
  • (Psalm 19:1-6).

  • “Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
  • “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.”
  • (Joshua 10:12-13).

When told a thing moves, one must ask, 'With reference to what?' When told, with reference to the observer, that is manifestly true, and should not excite controversy. We use language like this today when we talk about the sun rising and the sun going down. No one need apologize for using this language; it is not 'wrong,' if correctly understood. If one says, 'No, these authors mean the sun moves with reference to a grid imposed upon the solar system as a whole,' the objector must prove the speakers had any such Newtonian grid in mind.

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church formed ambitions similar to those of the builders of the Tower of Babel. The popes desired to rule the world, they raised armies, they fought wars, and they desired to lay down the laws for all human studies. There was no sphere of human activity from which they modestly withdrew. In return for their overweening ambition they received several black eyes, including military defeats and the embarrassment of their house arrest of Galileo (who recanted to avoid worse). The conflict between Galileo and the Catholic Church is often summarized as a conflict between 'science' and 'religion.' This leads to misunderstanding if the 'religion' referenced is assumed to be the Bible; it is not, rather medieval scholasticism, a system which incorporates both science and religion into its all-encompassing 'theory of everything.' If Galileo was right, Thomas Aquinas was wrong; the Catholic Church of that day took its stand on the premise that Thomas could not be wrong. He was wrong, however. And as was pointed out by the reformers, he was not altogether on the Bible bus when it came to Christian doctrine either. Combining Aristotelian psychology and anthropology with the gospel of amazing grace had produced strange distortions which required correction.

 Pope Leo XIII 
Aeterni Patris

The modern Catholic geocentrists point out that heliocentrism was condemned by the Council of Trent and several popes. Pope Alexander VII signed a papal bull, Speculatores domus Israel, which in 1664 was attached to the Index of Forbidden Books, condemning "all books which affirm the motion of the earth," binding the consciences of the faithful. This is a problem for Catholic apologists like Robert Sungenis, because the modern popes have proclaimed themselves infallible. What possible way out is there for the Catholic who wants to agree? Perhaps the geocentrist popes were not speaking ex cathedra; there are no well-defined rules for determining when a pope is speaking ex cathedra (from the chair) and when he is not, so any embarrassing or inconvenient papal statement can be tossed aside by invoking that rule. But the Council of Trent's endorsement of a flat-out wrong system of astronomy should concern Catholics and make them wonder about what else that erring conventicle endorsed; although if in fact what they endorsed is the unanimous consent of the early church fathers, that is somewhat different. Living when they did, the early church writers did by and large subscribe to the common secular astronomy of their day, which was Ptolemaic. Some, like Augustine and Basil, regarded cosmography as a matter of indifference, not addressed in scripture:

"Those who have written about the nature of the universe have discussed at length the shape of the earth. If it be spherical or cylindrical, if it resemble a disc and is equally rounded in all parts, or if it has the forth of a winnowing basket and is hollow in the middle; all these conjectures have been suggested by cosmographers, each one upsetting that of his predecessor. It will not lead me to give less importance to the creation of the universe, that the servant of God, Moses, is silent as to shapes; he has not said that the earth is a hundred and eighty thousand furlongs in circumference; he has not measured into what extent of air its shadow projects itself whilst the sun revolves around it, nor stated how this shadow, casting itself upon the moon, produces eclipses. He has passed over in silence, as useless, all that is unimportant for us." (Basil, Hexaemeron, Homily 9, Section 1).

Why these issues should trouble Protestants is not apparent. Some Protestants also disliked Copernicus; unlike the Catholics, these people were not necessarily committed to the pagan philosopher Aristotle or those of his school like Thomas. Are there, in fact, real Bible problems with helicentrism? In order to find geocentrism in the Bible, one must be willing to interpret phrases like 'the sun rises' as meaning something completely different in scripture than when we use them:

“One can easily surmise from language such as 'the sun rises or 'the sun sets' that although Scripture may express the appearance of the movement from the perspective of the observer on Earth, nevertheless, Scripture confidently affirms the scientific fact that, of the two bodies, one of them moves and the other does not. In that particular scientific category, Scripture is adamant that it is the sun that moves, not the Earth.” (Robert Sungenis and Robert Bennett, Galileo Was Wrong, The Church Was Right, Volume II, p. 57).

Are we "adamant" that it is the sun which moves when we say "the sun rises"? Do we "confidently affirm" any such verity? Of course not; this thesis, like the moving earth, rests upon nothing. As is often pointed out, Copernicus in his magnum opus provided an index of times of 'sunrise' and 'sunset,' without intending to abandon his central thesis. This language is phenomenological; it means, from the observer's point of reference, the sun is moving. The observer is not invoking any absolute point of reference. Deny it, and you'll hear the rejoinder, 'Look!'— a perfectly adequate response. It is certainly true that the Catholic Church, on many occasions, affirmed geocentrism over heliocentrism, but no such accusation can be levelled against the Bible.

Galileo pointed out that Joshua's miracle of stopping the sun cannot be understood 'literally' under the Ptolemaic system any more than under the Copernican system, because in the Ptolemaic system, the only proper motion belonging to the sun is its seasonal march along the ecliptic; the daily rotation is not due to the sun, but to the outermost sphere. Thus stopping the sun would hinder only that seasonal motion, not the daily rotation. Thus Joshua's miracle is no argument in favor of Ptolemy's astronomy. Moreover, as Galileo pointed out, the Bible text plainly situates the sun "in the midst of heaven:" "So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day." (Joshua 10:13.) This is right where Copernicus, but not Ptolemy, situates that luminary. This very 'literal' reading plainly interrogates too sharply a text which does not intend to address the point, but Galileo's 'literal' reading of Joshua 10:13 is no more, nor less, foolish than those offered by the adherents of Ptolemy's astronomy, much less by the 'Neo-Tychonians.' All of these 'interpreters' want to force this passage to testify on a point not addressed.

Tycho Brahe

Is Tycho Brahe's geo-heliocentric mixed system practically the same thing as the Ptolemaic system championed by Thomas Aquinas? One problem,— though it did not seem a problem to the Lutheran Tycho Brahe,— is that his orbits intersect, for example, the sun and Mars. (In Tycho's system, the other planets revolve around the sun, while the sun, and the outermost heavens, revolve around the earth.) But if the world system is made up of concentric spheres as Aristotle and Thomas thought, can there be any such intersecting orbits? From the start, some perceived the mathematical orbits as notional, not 'sensible,' i.e., visible and tactile: "So that when we speak of circles in the heavens, of contacts, bisections, and equalities, we speak accurately, as not speaking about sensibles." (Proclus, Commentary on the Timaeus of Plato, All Five Books, translated by Thomas Taylor, Book II, p. 297). However there was a tendency toward reification, so that some in the Middle Ages were visualizing crystalline spheres, nested like Russian dolls. If the main spheres are concentric, as are Ptolemy's, this is not a problem; otherwise there may be some major china breakage as the spheres go crashing into one another. If these authors want to revert to the earlier conception of the orbits as mathematical constructs, there is no problem; however some of their Popes likely thought, and said, there were solid spheres up there.

The daily rotation of the sphere of the fixed stars requires an immense object to move very rapidly. With the nested, touching spheres, it is at least possible to visualize this outermost sphere transferring its motion to the inner spheres. Once Tycho Brahe shatters his colliding spheres by smashing them into one another, how is this transfer accomplished? The old astronomy is gone, with shattered shards of crystalline spheres littering the cosmos, and so we have already discarded scholastic tradition. Claudio Ptolemy, working centuries after Aristotle, traced out his circular orbits with little thought of their parent spheres, yet Thomas returned in his astronomy to Aristotle's focus on these nested spheres. With the crystalline spheres, now re-made into bumper cars, in bits and pieces after Tycho's compromise between Ptolemy and Copernicus, any 'tradition' of interest to Catholics has departed with them.

Both the pure heliocentric and the pure geocentric models display a certain conceptual clarity which no compound system can rival. Reviving this compromise system brings back confusion. What a waste of time that certain Catholic apologists have gone to the trouble! Nor have they even been able to revive it. Tycho's main complaint against heliocentrism was the failure to observe stellar parallax. Our authors understand that Tycho centered the stars around the earth, as geocentrism would also demand:

"One stumbling block toward understanding the equivalence between the heliocentric and geocentric concepts of parallax is that the original model of geocentrism advocated by Tycho Brahe did not have the stars centered on the sun; they were centered on the Earth. That being the case, no parallax would be forthcoming, at least based on the above mechanics and geometric proportions." (Galileo Was Wrong, Robert Sungenis and Robert Bennett, p. 108).

Indeed, Tycho rejected heliocentrism because stellar parallax had not yet been observed, but it finally was observed in the nineteenth century, when improvements in observation made it possible to notice a change in the scenery as the earth moved in its yearly trip around the sun. So our authors have 'improved' Tycho by making him even less geocentric, no longer centering the sphere of the fixed stars on the earth but the sun. If this trend continues, they will advance all the way to heliocentrism!:

  • “One stumbling block toward understanding the equivalence between the heliocentric and geocentric concepts of parallax is that the original model of geocentrism advocated by Tycho Brahe did not have the stars centered on the sun; they were centered on the Earth. That being the case, no parallax would be detected, at least based on the above mechanics and geometric proportions. That is, the stars would be in the same vertical alignment when one looked at them six months apart. Perhaps no one in Bessel’s day realized that the only thing required to bring the geocentric model into conformity with the results of heliocentric model was to shift the center of the stars from the Earth to the sun. Consequently, the geocentric model that had the stars centered on the sun never gained its rightful place in the halls of astronomy. Tycho Brahe had not presented such a model because in his day (1546-1601) no one had yet discovered a stellar parallax, and, in fact, this lacuna in the astronomical evidence was one of the arguments Tycho used to discredit heliocentrism.”
  • (Robert Sungenis and Robert Bennett, Galileo Was Wrong, p. 348).

At that point, they will have nothing in common with Thomas' revived Aristotelian universe. As it is, they have very little in common with him, because Aristotle, 'The Philosopher,' was not a geo-heliocentrist like Tycho, but the real thing, a geocentrist. Our authors understand this word in their own private sense: "Consequently, the geocentric model that had the stars centered on the sun never gained its rightful place in the halls of astronomy." (Galileo Was Wrong, Robert Sungenis and Robert Bennett, p. 108). Dictionary in hand, dear reader, you may correct that sentence to read, 'Consequently, a geocentric model does not have the stars centered on the sun but rather on the earth.' 'Geocentric' means 'centered on the earth,' and 'heliocentric' means 'centered around the sun.' The dictionary is the reason why no one, before our authors, ever discovered that you can make a 'geocentric' system work by centering things around the sun. To be sure, it does work a lot better that way!

Neither are our nouveau-geocentrists concerned to preserve uniform circular motion, Aristotle's minimum demand: they like Kepler's ellipses better. There is a lot more to Thomistic/Aristotelian astronomy than geocentrism. To be sure, unlike our authors, Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle were true geocentrists, but there is more: for example, it is asserted that change and decay are confined to the sublunary sphere; the heavenly bodies are unchanging. Can that assertion be tested? Sure; look through a telescope at the red spot of Jupiter, if it ever changes, Thomas' astronomy is disconfirmed. Our authors are holding onto a small fraction of a large, complex, and coherent world system. Since they've thrown out 90 per cent of the system, why bother holding on to the tiny remnant they retain? What these authors are promoting isn't Aristotle, it isn't Thomas, and it most emphatically is not the Bible; it's just really bad astronomy.

 Scipio's Dream 

While there hasn't been a stampeded of support for Mr. Sungenis' geocentric ideas, that does not mean he is a lone ranger. Several Saudi clerics have in recent years espoused geocentrism, including Sheikh Bandar al-Khaibari:

"Beginning his bizarre summary, Sheikh al-Khaibari 'First of all, where are we now? We go to Sharjah airport [in the United Arab Emirates] to travel to China by plane, clear?'
"Holding a cup of water aloft, the cleric adds: 'Focus with me, this is Earth'.

"Over the next 30 seconds, Sheikh al-Khaibari enters into a baffling explanation of his point of view, claiming that if the Earth truly was rotating, then airliners could just stop in the air and wait for the country to arrive beneath them, rather than waste time actually flying.

"'China would be coming towards it,' he argues.

"On the other hand, he said, if the Earth was moving in the opposite direction the plane would never be able to reach its destination because 'China is also rotating'.
"On concluding his baffling explanation, Sheikh al-Khaibari went on to claim the NASA lunar mission was Hollywood fabrication and that humans have never been to the moon, according to Al Arabiya." ('Saudi cleric becomes online laughing stock after telling student the sun rotates around the Earth as otherwise planes would not be able to fly,' Daily Mail, February 17, 2015).

The corrective for this conundrum is Copernicus' simile of the ship, moving evenly through the waters. Could a passenger who wished to travel, the easy way, to the dining room on his Carnival Cruise liner leap high into the air, then come down closer to his his destination as the ship rotates beneath him? No, because he is moving at the same rate as the ship. He is not independent of the ship; the ship, its passengers, and to a limited extent the circumambient air are all part of the same moving construct. Momentarily losing contact with the deck is not enough for him to 'lift off' into another realm. The airplane on the runway is moving with the rotating earth; they make a unit: as far as the airliner is concerned, the earth is stationary. Rising into the air does not in an instant dissipate all that inherited momentum, leaving the airliner free to 'wait' for its destination to come to it. There are physical effects of the rotation of the earth, but they are subtle; it's not the kind of thing you can notice by jumping up and checking to see where you land. You land underneath where you jumped, because you're rotating, too. It's not so easy to escape the general trend.


Pagan Religion

The Ptolemaic system is a serious, scientific astronomy intended to 'save the appearances:' the intent is for the modeled planetary orbits to come out where the observed exemplars are actually found. As such it is fairly successful; it has high predictive value. Copernican astronomy was not any major improvement on this score, except in the matter of Venus. Though as observed from earth the heavenly bodies come out in roughly the same places, they are in fact situated quite differently in the different systems, which will affect matters like apparent size, not to mention travel times. The telescope, which came into use after Copernicus, proved a great friend to his theory. That Venus displays phases, much like the moon, is an observation confirmed by the telescope but inexplicable under Ptolemy's astronomy. In a general vein, the Aristotelian idea that change applies in the sublunary sphere but not in the heavenly spheres was also disconfirmed by the telescope:

"Copernicus' theory, for example, suggested that planets should be like the earth, that Venus should show phases, and that the universe must be vastly larger than had previously been supposed. As a result, when sixty years after his death the telescope suddenly displayed mountains on the moon, the phases of Venus, and an immense number of previously unsuspected stars, those observations brought the new theory a great many converts, particularly among non-astronomers." (Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p. 153).

It is often pointed out by advocates for these theories that NASA makes its computations for rocket launches based on the premise of a stationary earth. This may well be the case, for all I know, for lifting satellites into orbit or even travel to the moon, especially since the earth is a fixed station as far as we are concerned. Why plot a course between one moving object and another, when it is not necessary? But, in plotting the appropriate trajectories to guide its exploratory satellites on complex itineraries to arrive at their final intended destinations, Mars and beyond, I would imagine NASA ultimately must incorporate Copernican revelations, as the way these bodies are moving relatively to one another is not correctly modeled by the Ptolemaic system. There is one task the Ptolemaic system proposes to itself, and that is to save the appearances: it must predict what the sun, moon, stars and planets will look like from the earth on the requested date. It does that, impressively. Ask the astrologers; this is a practical technology after all. It never set itself the task of accurately pinning down their respective positions and locations. May I suggest that, plotting a course for a Voyager type mission would be a massive flub for a system that was never really designed to do that? Perhaps these geniuses can set themselves to the task, and see if they can recreate a successful mission of that type under their assumptions and premises, since they seem to have a lot of time on their hands.

When we look for a physical explanation for the movements of the heavenly bodies, here heliocentrism shines, with Newton's law of gravitation providing a credible motive force. How, after all, is a very small body like the earth going to exert the attraction needed to keep a very large body like the sun in orbit around it? One big advantage to the heliocentric system is that we can understand what makes it go.

By contrast Ptolemaic astronomy has. . .the idea that circular motion is 'natural.' It is a very rapid motion at that: "Therefore the swiftest of all motions is the motion of the heaven." (Thomas Aquinas, 'On the Heavens,' Book II, Lecture 6, Section 356). Our latter-day geocentrists are aware but untroubled: "Geocentrism says only that the universe rotates around the Earth once per day, and in that rotation it carries the stars with it." (Galileo Was Wrong, p. 118, Robert Sungenis and Robert Bennett [these authors, incidentally, do not really think "the universe" rotates around the earth at all, though they persistently make statements like this; in their system the fixed stars rotate around the sun not the earth]). There is of course desire, love and fore-thought. . . though when you come right down to it, Christians are no more comfortable than atheists at ascribing such features to spheres.

Atheists often talk as if the Ptolemaic system were an instance of Christian wish fulfillment: the system displays the features that it does because these are the features Christians would want or expect to find in the world. This would be odd indeed if true, because the system was not invented by Christians, but by Greek pagans. When Thomas took it over and incorporated it into his system of the world, it was already 1,500 years old. Thomas has a gift for ignoring what he does not want to notice, and some of what he cannot avoid noticing he does correct. The system remains, however, more pagan than Christian.

In the pagan Greek mind, if it moves, it is animate; it has purpose, it is ensouled. Ptolemaic astronomy is not reductive materialism. The objects of which it treats were thought to be gods, especially the outermost sphere, which sets the whole world-system in motion. The reader may reflect that Joshua's miracle is 'easier' in the heliocentric system than in the pagan Greek system, because stopping the outermost sphere which carries out the daily revolution would bring cosmic disaster in its wake; this sphere's motion sets the whole world going, there can be no change in the lower world without its motion:

"But it is better to say that if the motion of the heavens were to cease, so too would the motion of all lower bodies, as Simplicius said. For the powers of the lower bodies are as matter and instruments in relation to the heavenly powers, and hence do not move unless moved." (Thomas Aquinas, 'On the Heavens,' Book II, Lecture 4, Section 342).

By contrast, in Copernicus' system, it is simply a matter of stopping the rotation of one body; no cosmic catastrophe would be expected to ensue, no birds stopping in mid-flight nor falling bodies halting in mid-air. Joshua's miracle is thus an argument for heliocentrism, not geocentrism. In the pagan astronomy, the outermost sphere is a god, indeed Aristotle's highest god:

"He [Aristotle] says therefore first [214] that, because we are inclined to believe in the eternity of the world from what has preceded, it follows that a man shows himself easily persuasable by the dictums of the ancients -- not, however, by those of any who erred but principally by those of our fathers, who, namely, schooled us in divine worship. We should be inclined to believe their words to be true, to the effect that there is something immortal and divine, not only among the number of the immobile substances, which are totally separated from matter, but also among bodies which have motion, such, however, that of the motion of the divine and immortal body there be no end, by which, namely, it might be terminated; rather its motion is the end of all other motions. Now the reason he attributed this to the ancient sayings of the ancestors is because all those who established a form of divine worship among the gentiles sought to have divine worship given to the heaven as to a divine and immortal body whose motion is endless." (Thomas Aquinas, On the Heavens, Book II, Lecture 1, Section 290).

This outermost sphere is in fact a god to Aristotle, it is the unmoved mover. But Thomas will ultimately commit deicide against it. He robs the heavens of their eternity and ultimately shuts them down:

  • “Therefore, that generation and corruption may come to a stop in the inferior bodies, the movement of the heavens must also come to a stop. And on this account the Apocalypse (10:6) says “that time shall be no longer.” It ought not, of course, seem impossible that the movement of the heavens come to a stop. For the movement of the heavens is not natural in the way the movement of heavy and light bodies is. . .but it is called natural in that the heavenly body has an aptitude for such movement; the principle of that motion, however, is an intellect, as was shown in Book III. The heaven is moved, therefore, as are things moved by a will. But a will moves for a purpose.”
  • (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Four, 97, 2-3).

  • “On the contrary it is written (Apoc. x, 5, 6): The angel whom I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and he swore by him that he liveth for ever and ever.... that time shall be no longer. Now time will endure as long as the heavens are moved. Therefore at some time the heavens will cease to be moved.

  • “Again it is written (Job xiv. 12): Man when he is fallen asleep shall not rise again till the heavens be broken; he shall not awake nor rise up out of his sleep. Now we must not understand that the heavens will be broken in their substance, because this will always remain, as proved above. Therefore when the dead shall rise again, the heavens will be broken in the sense that their movement will cease.”
  • (Thomas Aquinas, On the Power of God (De potentia), Question 5, Article 5.)

Thomas finds a prophecy of this cosmic shut-down in Job 14:12: "So man when he is fallen asleep shall not rise again; till the heavens be broken, he shall not awake, nor rise up out of his sleep." (Job 14:12, Douay-Rheims Challoner; 18:6); "sic homo cum dormierit non resurget donec adteratur caelum non evigilabit nec consurget de somno suo." (Vulgate). This is deicide by pagan lights. The pagans commonly deified major constituents of the world-system; Poseidon is the sea, Demeter the wheat crop, etc. They did the same with their astronomy. Christian theology of course can have none of this, because God is a spirit: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:26). There is only one God, and He is not identified with any constituent of the world-system.

Pagan theology kept pace with the advances of pagan astronomy. The pagans had always deified the planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars et al are all, of course, gods. They deified also the celestial spheres when they were invented. Seneca, making fun of the deification of Claudius (Roman emperors were routinely deified upon their decease if not sooner), finds the portly Claudius already suited to god-status, because he was built for comfort, not for speed, and gods, according to the Stoics, are supposed to be "globular:" "Only do say what species of god you want the fellow to be made. An Epicurean god he cannot be: for they have no troubles and cause none. A Stoic, then? How can he be globular, as Varro says, without a head or any other projection? There is in him something of the Stoic god, as I can see now: he has neither heart nor head." (Seneca, Pumpkinification of Claudius); sphericity is next to godliness. Thomas goes very far to demythologize Ptolemy's system, but the fact remains the system was 'not invented here;' it is not a system of Christian astronomy as the atheists imagine. Further demythologization is desirable, all the way to heliocentrism and beyond.

Philo Judaeus

By contrast with the geocentric pagan philosophers, Philo Judaeus, a monotheist, kept an open mind to the possibility of heliocentrism, finding a 'fit' in the seven-branched candlestick:

"This much alone we must remind our readers of at this moment, that the sacred candlestick and the seven lights upon it are an imitation of the wandering of the seven planets through the heaven.  How so? some one will say.  Because, we will reply, in the same manner as the lights, so also does every one of the planets shed its rays.  They therefore, being more brilliant, do transmit more brilliant beams to the earth, and brilliant beyond them all is he who is the center one of the seven, the sun.  And I call him the center, not merely because he has the central position, as some have thought, but also because he has on many other accounts a right to be ministered unto and attended by the others accompanying him as bodyguards on each side, by reason of his dignity and his magnitude, and the great benefits which he pours upon all earthly things." (Who is the Heir of Divine Things, XLV, 221-223).

Admittedly Philo elsewhere takes for granted the common Ptolemaic understanding, that the earth is at the center: "But perhaps we ought to look on these things as spoken in an allegorical sense; for some say the tree of life belongs to the earth, inasmuch as it is the earth which produces everything which is of use for life, whether it be the life of mankind or of any other animal; since God has appointed the situation in the center for this plant, and the center of the universe is the earth." (Philo Judaeus, Questions and Answers in Genesis, Book 1, Question 10). But his mind remains open, and why shouldn't it?

The Revolution

The 'Scientific Revolution' dethroned Aristotle. Why Christian folk should feel solicitude for this pagan philosopher's declining fortunes is unclear. Some of the ideas that animated men like Isaac Newton, a Bible student, were Biblical. To pagan Greek ears, the phrase 'natural law' would have sounded like an oxymoron; 'law' rules men, not nature, in Greek philosophy. But in the Bible, God's command is law equally for nature as for man:

"He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger. Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble. Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars. Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south. Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.' (Job 9:4-10).

Since modern science's foundation stones are laid closer to Christianity than those of Aristotle, why should Christian folk long for that old pagan? And if by chance they did want him back, then bring him back, spheres and all, not some mixed-up modern production which has nothing to do with him. . .or Thomas, or anyone else.

As an aside, notice the familiar pattern of the quoted verse: "Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble." The earth, Biblically, does both: it moves and does not move. God does both: He shakes the earth from its foundations when He comes in judgment, and He also preserves the earth in peace and stability by His gracious pardon and blessing. The disastrous deflection of the earth associated with God's wrath and judgment is the earthquake, where the surface crust moves relative to its foundations deep within the earth, not relative to other planets or heavenly bodies. Sequestering one set of verses (move/doesn't move) from the other can mislead the reader into mistaking the topic in view.

The earth is like a picture-book, ordained by God to show forth His wonders, and the earth-quake, though not always accompanying His theophany nor assigned as the instrument of His judgment, is a perfect picture of it. This God-ordained imagery is blotted out by a fanciful reconstruction which assigns these verses a meaning pertaining to 'orbits.' What have orbits to do with God's judgment? Quite whimsically and arbitrarily, our modern-day neo-geocentrists think that all the 'totter' and 'shake' verses are talking about something different than the 'stable' verses: “Here the 'tottering' refers to the Earth’s land mass, not the Earth’s position in space. . .Similar to all the other Psalms that speak in this same way, the movement attributed to the Earth refers to its internal structure, not its spatial position in the cosmos.” (Robert Bennett and Robert Sungenis, Galileo Was Wrong, the Church Was Right, Volume 11, page 76). This way of reading the Bible is just whimsical, not 'literal.' Literally, shaking and not-shaking are two sides of the same coin.

There is something backwards about elevating the pagan Aristotle above an earnest, even if misguided, Bible student like Isaac Newton. Messrs. Sungenis and Bennett's thesis discredits the Christian testimony of professing Christian astronomers of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, including the heliocentric pioneer, Copernicus, with no evidence beyond guilt by association and animadversion. To be sure these men were not Aristotelians. Atheists offer a warped and biased interpretation of this history for their own reasons. No case can be made for Christians to adopt the atheist story as if it were factual.

Not to be unduly suspicious, but one must wonder at the motivation of those who wish to revive the old idea of the luminiferous aether, discredited since Michelson and Morley's ground-breaking experiment. This elastic, tenuous, universal medium was important for a wide variety of not-necessarily-Christian folk, including the theosophists. Madame Blavatsky, it will be recalled, was entranced with the stuff, believing it an integral element of the Ancient Wisdom world-view she cultivated: ". . .the anima mundi proper was considered as composed of a fine, igneous, and ethereal nature spread throughout the universe, in short— ether." (Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, Kindle location 10954, p. 317):