“Reading the Bible Through Greek Glasses”

Medieval science as practiced by Christians went astray when “the Bible was . . . read through `Greek’ spectacles.”[1] Certainly the Greeks were right in many of their observations, but it was an almost religious attachment to Greek cosmology that was the West’s greatest impediment to further discovery and scientific advance. The Greeks, specifically Aristotle, put forth the geocentric theory, the belief that the earth is the physical center of the universe.

Galileo Galilei’s (1564-1642) struggle to get a hearing for his scientific views is often depicted as a war between religion and science, with the Christian religion being the chief antagonist. Like the Columbus myth, the facts surrounding the Galileo affair are not quite what they seem. Giorgio de Santillana, author of The Crime of Galileo, “argues that the Galileo affair was not a confrontation between `the scientist’ and a religious credo at all. Ironically `the major part of the Church intellectuals were on the side of Galileo,’ de Santillana notes, `while the clearest opposition to him came from secular ideas’ (i.e., from the academic philosophers.”[2]

Galileo’s “sin” was that he attacked “Aristotelian philosophy–and all the metaphysical, spiritual, and social consequences” the Church “associated with it.”[3] Aristotle attempted to present a comprehensive explanation of reality without any reference to the Christian God. His “unmoved mover” or “first cause” was a principle of existence, not a personal being. For Aristotle the universe was eternal, without beginning or end, and man had no individual immortality, doctrines that contradicted biblical revelation. It was Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) who hoped to teach Aristotle to “speak like a Christian,”[4] to harmonize Aristotelian philosophy with Christianity. By the time of Galileo, the views of Aristotle had become the views of the Church. So then, it was pagan Greece that led the Church astray, not a supposed flawed biblical cosmology.


[1] R. Hooykaas, Religion and the Rise of Modern Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972), xiii.
[2] Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 38. [3] Pearcey and Thaxton, The Soul of Science, 39. [4] Quoted in Mark A. Knoll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 45.