The Church Maintains the Works of Cosmas Indiocopleustes

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The Church Maintains the Works of Cosmas Indiocopleustes

Post by flatterme on Sat Apr 21, 2018 5:30 pm

The Christian Topography has been preserved in two copies: one a parchment manuscript of the 10th century belonging to the Laurentian Library in Florence, and containing the whole work except the last leaf; the other, a very fine unical manuscript of the eighth or ninth century, belonging to the Vatican Library, and containing sketches drawn by Cosmas himself, but wanting entirely the twelfth book, which is the last.  There is, besides, in the Imperial Library in Vienna, a Cosmas manuscript, but this contains only a few leaves of the Topography.  This treatise, completed around 547 A.D., remained rather obscure until 1706 when it was first published in its entirety (the Florentine codex collated with that of the Vatican) by a Benedictine monk, Father Montfaucon, as part of a larger work entitled Nova Collectio Patrum et Scriptorum Graecorum.
The Christian Topography contains references to nearly seventy authorities selected from among philosophers, historians, travelers, doctors of the Church, soldiers, and statesmen. Comas’ primary objective and motivation in writing the treatise was to discredit the “false and heathen doctrine of a spherical earth”.  This he accomplishes with reprehensible religious zeal in the first book [chapter].  In order to disprove the pagan writers with such stature as Plato, Aristotle, Strabo, Pythagoras, Eudoxus, Pytheas of Marseilles, Ptolemy, Eratosthenes, and many others, Cosmas used two very effective weapons: the words of God and his “common sense”.

In subsequent Books (II-XII) (Cosmas) fulfills his secondary objective, that of revealing the "true doctrine" of the universe and the earth's place in it, as defined by Cosmas' interpretation of the Scriptures, confirmed by the Church Fathers (Book X) and even non-Christian sources (Book XII).

In addition to the above mentioned classical/pagan writers, Cosmas also takes issue with fellow Christian writers, such as Saint Basil, Isidore of Seville, Origen and others who either avoided the controversy of a spherical earth or argued on the side of the pagan scientists. Some of his fellow Christian writers openly declared that it did not matter so far as faith was concerned whether the earth was a sphere, a cylinder or a disc. But this sort of rationalizing was not good enough for Cosmas. God had once explained to Moses on Mount Sinai exactly how the Tabernacle was to be built, and when it was found in the writings of Saint Paul that there was a passage which could be interpreted to mean that the Tabernacle was a picture of the world, it was quite natural for the Church Fathers to envision the world as a vast tabernacle: a tent with a rectangular base, twice as long as it was broad, and with an arched roof supported by for pillars. Both prophets and apostles, says Cosmas, agree that the Tabernacle was a true copy of the universe, the express image of the visible world.

Using this biblical passage by the Apostle Paul (Hebrews IX:1-2) which declares that the first Tabernacle was a pattern of this world, for the first "had ordinances of divine service and a worldly sanctuary; for there was a tabernacle made; the first wherein was the candlestick and the table and the shewbread, which is called the Sanctuary". Cosmas undertakes, with much else, to explain the symbolism of that Tabernacle in detail. In calling it worldly, Cosmas explained, St. Paul was indicating a sort of pattern of the world; the candlestick represents the luminaries of the heavens (sun, moon, stars); the table was an analogy to the earth itself and the shew-bread symbolized the fruits produced from the world. The same logic was applied by Cosmas in his conception of the shape of the world, for the Scripture said "thou shalt make the table in length two cubits and in breadth one cubit" (Exodus XXXVII:10). This indicated to Cosmas that the earth was flat and twice as long, from east to west, as it was broad. Moreover, the earth was suspended, as Job said (Job XXXVIII:38), on nothing, but was founded on God's stability.

The heavens come downward to us in four walls, which, at their lower sides, are welded to the four sides of the earth beyond ocean, each to each. The upper side of the northern wall; at the summit of heaven, curves around and over, till it unites with the upper side of the southern wall, and thus forms, in the shape of an oblong vault, the canopy of heaven, which Cosmas likens to the vaulted roof of a bathroom.

This great dome is divided into two strata by the firmament; from the earth to the firmament is the present dispensation of angels and men containing the land, the sea and the inhabitants of the world, with the angels hovering close to the "roof" holding the sun, moon and stars which they controlled. In the second storey, from the firmament to the arch of the second heaven, was to be found the kingdom of the blessed (the saints and angels) and enthroned at the top was Christ himself. From some passages in Book IX it may be inferred that Cosmas estimated the distance from the earth to the firmament as double the distance from the firmament to the summit of the Upper Heaven.


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