Flat Earth

Centuries ago Christians were said to believe that the Earth is flat, as a plane or disk. Some very real-sounding quotations were mentioned particularly by atheists and others opposed to Rabbi Yeshua’s Church and attributed to famous people. A popular part of that belief is that Christopher Columbus sailed to the “new world” against the wisdom of his day. However, it’s all myth.

Some early Catholics were confused because a spherical earth would include antipodes, diametrically opposed locations connected by a theoretical line running through the center of the earth. The United States and Australia are often called antipodes of each other. The confusion arose because, to an observer on the surface of the earth, an antipode would be directly underground and the people who lived there would be walking upside down.

St. Augustine was among those taken in by this difference of perspective between a man standing on the earth and a man viewing the entire earth from a distance. “But as to the fable that there are Antipodes, that is to say, men on the opposite side of the earth, where the sun rises when it sets to us, men who walk with their feet opposite ours that is on no ground credible.”

However, St. Bede the Venerable, only three centuries later, in The Reckoning of Time, said that the Earth was round, explaining the unequal length of daylight from “the roundness of the Earth, for not without reason is it called ‘the orb of the world’ on the pages of Holy Scripture and of ordinary literature. It is, in fact, set like a sphere in the middle of the whole universe.” The large number of surviving manuscripts indicate that many, or even most, priests of that time read that the earth is a sphere.

St. Thomas Aquinas firmly held that the earth is a sphere, and evidently took for granted that his readers knew it. He wrote in the Summa, “Sciences are differentiated according to the various means through which knowledge is obtained. For the astronomer and the physicist both may prove the same conclusion: that the earth, for instance, is round.”