*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 8th of January 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening me

Galileo, Galileo

Galileo, Galileo

Galileo, Figaro - magnificoo

That’s right! Early Modern Week (not planned) continues today on the anniversary of the death of Freddy Mercury’s favorite Astronomer Galileo Galilei on this day in 1642.

So many places we could go with him- let’s break down the critical life story and then look at his significance.

First- even a cursory read of popular histories will reveal a familiar trope: the person who says, “everyone says I’m wrong, I’ll show them.” You can think of Washington Irving’s story of Columbus where somehow Irving forgot people already knew the earth was round but still had Columbus “prove” everyone wrong. So too with figures like Copernicus and Galileo. I think we are attracted to the rogues, the would-be prophets, etc.… Let’s look at Galileo and see just how radical he was.

He was born in 1564 in Pisa, Italy. His father was a musician who worked in musical theory. This interested Galileo from a young age, and when it was time to go to school to learn medicine, he switched to mathematics instead. Music theory is, at its heart, mathematics, and this reveals Galileo’s fascination with understanding the natural world in light of mathematics.

He didn’t graduate but could make a living as a tutor. His big break came in 1609 when he got his hands on a new Dutch instrument: the telescope. Galileo did not invent the telescope, but he perfected the Dutch telescope. He taught himself to grind glass and make lenses. And it was with his telescope that he made two huge discoveries. The first was that the moon was bumpy; it had mountains and valleys and destroyed earlier hypotheses about the moon. And then, secondly, he observed a moon around Jupiter. Part of the argument for having the earth at the center of the cosmos was that we were the only planet with moons- thus, everything revolves around us.

Perhaps Copernicus was right.

A quick word about Galileo’s use of the “scientific method.” With his observations using new tools, he wasn’t saying that he had the definitive answer to what the world looked like. Essentially he concluded that the geocentric model was wrong than the heliocentric model. He said, “the evidence seems to suggest something else” rather than a dogmatic scientific decree. There’s a kind of humility here we might do well to remember.

So far, not so bad. He’s become a minor celebrity for his inventions and suggestions- but he’s not run into too many problems. He was being patronized by the DeMedici’s (telescopes aren’t cheap!).

He knew he had to walk a fine line with the church. Copernicus benefited from working amongst Protestant printers and in Protestant lands. He also died as his book was being published.

Galileo’s extensive work was his 1632 “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems”- the dialogue form was widespread and more accessible for the layperson to read. Galileo worked with Pope Urban VII (an old friend) to ensure that he wouldn’t fall afoul of the inquisition.

X But there was plenty of juice to rage against novelty such that his name became associated with those blasphemers, allegedly, who rejected the supposedly clear teaching of Scripture that the sun moved and the earth was fixed.

He and his followers were very keen on his message, making it to the masses. He used the printing press shrewdly. He was called to defend his position before the church…. Wait… like Luther? Yes. Insofar as this wasn’t just some rebel hot head dropping new knowledge but part of a larger group of people trying to effect change from within the church. And so Galileo had to act carefully. HIs book was careful to suggest that these were just “theories.” The inquisition condemned him, but treating him like a heretic from the past would inflame the situation. He played chill, the inquisitors wrote their condemnation and spent the rest of his days in house arrest from 1633. He died nine years later, on this day in 1642. Because of his condemnation, he was not permitted a lavish mausoleum or tomb.

As new technology confirmed his models, his reputation in the church was rehabilitated. SLOWLY. In 1734 his remains were moved to a more fitting mausoleum. In 1835 his Dialogues were removed from the list of Prohibited Books. In 1979, Pope John Paul officially stated…something like “yeah, we could have done better” (almost a kind of “we’re sorry if anyone was offended kind of apology tbh).

Galileo Galilei, the man so nice they almost named him twice, died on this, the 8th of January in 1642.

The last word for today comes from Matthew 14:

34 When they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 When the people who lived in that place recognized him, they sent word throughout that whole region, and they brought to him everyone who was sick. 36 Then they begged him that they might just touch the edge of his clothes. Everyone who touched him was cured.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 8th of January 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man who sees a little silhouetto of a man,

Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the Fandango! He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by just a poor boy, I need no sympathy, Because I'm easy come, easy go, Little high, little low, Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to Me, to me… I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.