John Philoponus against Cosmas Indicopleustes : A Christian Controversy on the Structure of the World in Sixth-Century Alexandria
Abstract: The scope of this study is to compare John Philoponus and Cosmas Indicopleustes, two Christian individuals of different backgrounds and belonging to different fractions of the Church in the turbulent time for the Church in sixth century Alexandria. Any Christian is likely to feel the need to define how the tenets of his or her faith relate to contemporary science. As long as Christianity has existed, it has been active in societies where science has had a prominent position. There are obviously two extreme positions: either you declare that science is always right when it is in conflict with the Bible, or you regard the Bible as given by God and science as an inferior, man-made source of truth. Intermediate positions are those chosen by the two sixthcentury writers who are the focus of this study, John Philoponus and Cosmas Indicopleustes. We have no clear evidence to show that Cosmas and Philoponus, as individuals, polemized against each other, or even that they knew each other. However, not as individuals, but as representatives of the two opposing fractions, they certainly stand against each other. They were both Christians, and the books by them that we study here are attempts to reconcile their ideas on geography and cosmology with what Scripture teaches about these matters. Although both of them refer to Bible passages as support, they draw widely different conclusions. Although Cosmas distances himself from science and although Philoponus refuses to accept all doctrines taught by the philosophy that he knew so well, it is primarily a controversy between two Christian fractions.
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