The first palliation for the reputed offence of the Fathers is that whatever false science they retail, was practically all of it derived from the very sources which it is the fashion of the day to laud in the highest degree. As far as was consistent with their faith, the Christian Fathers were the pupils of the Greeks. It was the latter and not the patristic writers who invented the false theories of a solid firmament and a motionless earth. If Europe and Arabia down to the Renaissance believed in the Geocentric system, it was because they trusted Ptolemy the Greek, till then admittedly the greatest of astronomers. And a similar ancestry could be traced, we venture to say, for all or the major part of their scientific errors as far as these may have extended.

But if the Fathers were in general the heirs of the Greeks, they were not guilty of the mistake of accepting the inheritance in its entirety. To a large extent they could discern the chaff from the wheat, and were actually at pains to make the separation. It ought to be known that the scientific literature of the Grecians is teeming with the wildest and vainest of speculations regarding all matters within the scope of astronomical science. Here as elsewhere, the Greeks speculated endlessly, contradictorily, emptily, and almost aimlessly. In unfounded speculation they discoursed on all manner of astronomical subjects, the shape and size and distance of the sun, its nature and that of the moon and stars, and so on almost indefinitely, with scarcely any agreement or concomitance of opinion. There were almost as many diverse opinions as there were men.

Father George Vincent Leahy, Astronomical Essays (1910)

 

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