“Celestial” Copernicus – A Man Among the Stars!

In the last several months, I remembered that I had studied some of the history of mathematics in college. I had a wonderful professor, named J. Colwell, who challenged us to find information on Christian mathematicians and ideas on the foundations of mathematics. During this time, I wish I would have realized how blessed I was to think about such things, in a Christian environment. Since then, from time to time, I take a little time to learn about Christian mathematicians, scientists, inventors, and any contributors to Christian or Christian-culture thought. It can be very inspiring to look into the lives of some of the predecessors of the maths and sciences, and how much more a greater wealth when their consciences were dedicated to Christ, as well as their brains.

So, I wanted to take a look at Copernicus, Nicolaus Copernicus, as I was reintroduced to him a little more in the Spring 2020. This man almost single-handed and completely changed the considerations of the movements planetary bodies, our moon, stars, rotations, and did so experimenting from his own personal observatory, without even the use of telescopes. Why was this important to me? I would say it’s because he was a strong believer that did not consider what was known to be scientific/mathematic fact, without looking into the matters of astronomical theories, for himself. He did not just settle in the thought that everything that had been discovered was limited to what was already discovered, but he hungered for more. And I really liked that about him. In 2020, I learned more on the heliocentric theory and how Copernicus published a work in 1543 that introduced the idea of a sun-centered system with enough backing behind it for it to become “universally accepted” :).

His great magnum opus, the great writing project that changed the program for ages to come was called De Revolutionibus orbeum celestium, which when translated is: “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres”. The Heliocentric Theory supported in this work was a theory that more-or-less placed the sun as the center of the universe with planets surrounding it. Sounds easy enough for us, but the theory that was in place at the time, and accepted for the previous 10+ centuries as valid, placed the earth as the center of everything, with sun, moon, stars, and planets all orbiting it. It could have been of pure ignorance, as the church fathers of the Middle Ages, supported this Ptolemaic Thoery, that supposed the earth was the center of the celestial’s activity. This Ptolemaic System, also considered the geocentric (earth-centered) theory, was the one supposedly well-established since the 2nd century by Ptolemy of Alexandria. The church fathers of the Middle Ages that were the ones noted to have the “truth” on such matters did look for Scriptures that would support this ancient geocentric view, and concluded long ago that Psalms 19:6 and Psalms 93:1 might support this. So here are those verses:

Psalms 19:6 “It (the sun) rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.”

Psalms 93:1 “The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.”

Model of GeoCentric System – Established Around Somewhere Between Ad 85 – 165 in Ptolemy’s work entitled The Almagest.

There were some “dissenters” from the Ptolemaic view over the centuries, that found some holes in the theory including an Islamic Maraghma astronomer, named Mu’ayyad al-Din al’Urdi, who defined planetary motion that varied from Ptolemy’s views. Copernicus observed his variations and additionally was spurred on by a more contemporary dissenter, a German scientist named Regiomantanus. Regiomantanus thought that even though translation had been sloppy from translating from different languages, there were faults in the actual Almagest/Ptolemaic view. He published a summary of the Almagest, several years before Copernicus was born. Copernicus gathered some more strength behind his geo-centered aversion from a teacher he had from Bologna, named Dominica Maria Novara, who was another skeptic of Ptolemy’s work. So academically seeking out how to prove new light on a pure heavenly conquest, Copernicus took a lot of notes, gathered from centuries of resources, asked his own questions, consulted other teachers, reviewed skeptic respectable works on the matter, and used mathematical and scientific reasoning to prove his theory that demanded recognition, and the results proved their worth, the work became known as a “major event in the history of science” (Wikipedia quote).

I have a feeling that Copernicus got some of the insight by way of personal revelation, but that is my own theory. My husband is a firm believer that if you think enough on a subject, you can be in a good position to receive enlightenment on it, and I think that is precisely what Copernicus did. Truly he “set his mind things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). I’ve been amazed at the thought of searching the Scriptures for insight on the proving of the heliocentric idea. In this day of easily-accessed resources like google on the internet, or youtube videos, or books found at the library, or previous knowledge of the Bible, its easy for me to search “heavens”, “earth”, “stars” or “sun” in the Bible. Or other accessible articles to learn what happened in this story of Copernicus’ discovery. And I did do a very little of that. What I found was from the first verse in Genesis 1:1 it was read “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”, and it hadn’t struck me before, but that God did not say earth and then heavens, as in a geo-centric concept. (I know this is a stretch, the Hebrew does say heavens first). But God made “heavens first, and then earth” (and Moses must have heard God say) …. created the “Heavens and the earth” in that order, in Genesis 1:1. And then I discovered that all of these verses, in the following list*, listed below as references, every time they are noted as saying heavens and then the earth, heavens proceeding earth, or possibly could mean a host of heavens considered by God, versus the thought of earth considered as the center of universe. [Could that be another argument for helio-centrism?]: If nothing else, it does show me that God’s ways are higher, and so much higher, that He keeps saying heavens first and then earth. Just a thought to ponder.

All verses noted that say or mention the idea of heavens created, or considered, or ordered before the earth.

*Verses: Ps 124:8; Matt. 24:35; Ps. 108:5; Ps. 73:25; Is. 55:9; Ps. 121:1-2: Lk. 2:14; Phil. 2:9-10; Jer. 23:24; Deut. 4:39; Jer. 32:17; Ps. 19:1-2; 2 Peter 3:7

The website creation.com is very encouraging in considering many Creation articles on information and studies, but their article for Copernicus also attested that there is not one clear verse that defines it for us.

But how it must have been encouraging to him, to bring forth a mostly-brand new theory – written, organized, with him having “done the math” – for others to come alongside him and ask him to publish the work. His manuscript was first called Commentariolus, and he dispersed it among several good friends. Somewhere from start date 1510 and 1530, the entire publishable work was completed.

The work had subjects divided up by chapters, and information in covered on the theory, the history of the topic, on mathematics and these major axioms (with some room for amendment):

(Copernicus’ Axioms on the Right Side)

What I have gathered from Copernicus life in addition to his contributions to the “On The Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres” work, is that he was a mathematician, a polyglot (linguist), a physician, a governor, helped his uncle with administrative church duties but was not overfond or happy about taking orders from the Catholic church. He gained a doctorate in canon law, was an astronomer, also was an economist that is known for creating an accepted Economic theory known as “Gresham’s Law”, and I wonder if there’s anything he couldn’t have done.

He did not have a wife and children, although he did care for his relatives, their children, and served his uncle and professional community faithfully.

I hope that I can remember what potential a life has that is devoted to God in terms of seeking truth, aiming for perfection, and overcoming persecution against an idea that is so engrained but incorrect. An idea that even if it seems unreasonable, having the same patience to see through a conviction that may take decades, a lifetime, or centuries before the idea is recognized. I believe he proved it, and it truly shows, that he did just that.

Sources:

Wikipedia – Nicolaus Copernicus

Wikipedia – De revoltuionibus orbium celestium

Wikipedia – Mu’ayyad al-Din al-Urdi

Creation.com – Article ‘Nevertheless, it moves!’: Copernicus, Galileo, and the theory of evolution

openbible.com/info/topics

Google search “7 Axioms of Copernicus”

Google Images

Biographics of Brilliant Youtube

slideplayer.com

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