Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/388

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character from Saint Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians and from the one hundred and forty-eighth Psalm. As to "the waters which are above the firmament," he takes up the objection of those who hold that, this outside of the universe being spherical, the waters must slide off it, especially if the firmament revolves; and he points out that it is by no means certain that the outside of the firmament is spherical, and insists that, if it does revolve, the water is just what is needed to lubricate and cool its axis.[1]

Saint Jerome held that God at the creation spread out the firmament between heaven and earth, separating the upper waters from the lower, and that, in order to keep all in place, He caused the upper waters to be frozen into ice. A proof of this view Jerome found in the words of Ezekiel regarding "the crystal stretched above the cherubim."[2]

The germinal principle in accordance with which all these theories were evolved, was most clearly proclaimed to the world by Saint Augustine in his famous utterance, "Nothing is to be accepted save on the authority of Scripture, since greater is that authority than all the powers of the human mind."[3] No treatise was safe thereafter which did not breathe the spirit and conform to the letter of this maxim. Unfortunately, what was generally meant by the "authority of Scripture," was the tyranny of a literature imperfectly transcribed, viewed through distorting superstitions, and frequently interpreted by party spirit.

Following this precept, Saint Augustine developed, in every field, theological views of science which have never led to a single truth—which, without exception, have forced mankind away from the truth, and have caused Christendom to stumble for centuries into abysses of error and sorrow. In meteorology, as in every other science with which he dealt, he based everything upon the letter of the sacred text; and it is characteristic of the result that this man, so great when untrammeled, thought it his duty to guard especially the whole theory of the "waters above the heavens."

In the sixth century this theological reasoning was still further developed by Cosmas Indicopleustes. Basing his theory of the universe upon the ninth chapter of Hebrews, he insisted that the earth is flat, a parallelogram, and that from its outer edges rise immense walls

  1. See Ambrose, "Hexæmeron," ii, 3, 4; iii, 5 (Migne, "Patr. Lat.," xiv, 148-150, 153, 165). The passage as to lubrication of the heavenly axis is as follows: "Deinde cum ipsi dicant volvi orbem cæli stellis ardentibus refulgentem, nonne divina providentia necessario prospexit, ut intra orbem cæli, et supra orbem redundaret aqua, quæ ilia ferventis axis incendia temperaret?"
  2. See Jerome,"Epistola," lxix, 6 (Migne, "Patr. Lat.," xxii, 669).
  3. "Major est quippe Scripturæ: hujus auctoritas, quam omnis humani ingenii capacitas." Augustine, "De Genesi ad Lit.," ii, 5 (Migne, "Patr. Lat.," xxxiv, 266, 267). Or, as he is cited by Vincent of Beauvais ("Spec. Nat.," iv, 98): "Non est aliquid temere diffiniendum, sed quantum Scriptura dicit accipiendum, cujus major est auctoritas quam omnis humani ingenii capacitas."