Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/465
NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE. 449
In the sixth century this development of theory culminated in what was nothing less than a complete and detailed system of the universe, claiming to be based upon Scripture, its author being the Egyptian monk Cosmas Indicopleustes. Egypt was a great treas- ure-house of theologic thought to various religions of antiquity, and Cosmas appears to have urged upon the early Church this Egyptian idea of the construction of the world, just as another Egyptian ecclesiastic, Athanasius, urged upon the Church the Egyptian triune idea of the gods ruling the world. According to Cosmas, the earth is a parallelogram, flat, and surrounded by four seas. It is four hundred days' journey long and two hundred broad. At the outer edges of these four seas arise massive walls closing in the whole structure and supporting the firmament or vault of the heavens, whose edges are cemented to the walls. These walls inclose the earth and all the heavenly bodies.
The whole of this theologic-scientific structure was built most carefully and, as was then thought, most scripturally. Starting with the expression applied in the ninth chapter of Hebrews to the tabernacle in the desert, Cosmas insists, with other interpret- ers of his time, that it gives the key to the whole construction of the world. The universe is, therefore, made on the plan of the Jewish tabernacle box-like and oblong. Going into details, he quotes the sublime words of Isaiah : "It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth ; . . . that stretcheth out the heavens like a curtain, and spreadeth them out like a tent to dwell in " ; and the passage in Job, which speaks of the "pillars of heaven." He works all this into his system, and reveals, as he thinks, treas- ures of science.
This vast box is divided into two compartments, one above the other. In the first of these, men live and stars move ; and it extends up to the first solid vault, or firmament, above which live the angels, a main part of whose business it is to push and pull the sun and planets to and fro. Next, he takes the text, " Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters," and other texts from Genesis ; to these he adds the text from the Psalms, " Praise him, ye heaven of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens " ; then casts all these growths of thought into his crucible together, and finally brings out the theory that over this first vault is a vast cistern containing " the waters." He then takes the expression in Genesis regarding the " windows of heaven " and establishes a doctrine regarding the regulation of the rain, to the effect that the angels not only push and pull the heavenly bodies to light the earth, but also open and close the heavenly windows to water it.
To understand the surface of the earth, Cosmas studies the table of show-bread in the Jewish tabernacle. The surface of this
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