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     The Scriptural Controversy Grows A first indication that theologians were beginning to create close ties to the Aristotelians had occurred a little more than a year before in Florence . In the course of a conversation that had taken place among a group of Florentine intellectuals on November 1, 1612, the Dominican Niccolò Lorini (1544 –?) had attacked the Copernican ideas as being contrary to scripture. Galileo sent a protest letter to Lorini, but this letter has been lost. But we have the response of Lorini himself written on November 5. The Dominican showed his surprise at being accused of discussing philosophical questions by anyone. But he admitted that he had made a reference, without any special involvement, to the “opinion of [that] Ipernicus, or whatever his name is,” and he stated that it “appears to be against Holy Scripture.” This answer must have made Galileo laugh, as he wrote to Cesi showing that he thought he had nothing to fear from an “incompetent conversationalist.” But he was wrong. A little more than a year later on December 12, 1613, at the court of the grand duke who was then at Pisa, something of much greater importance in the theological-biblical development of the Copernican controversy took place. Benedetto Castelli, who taught mathematics at the University of Pisa, gave Galileo the news in a letter written two 69 Fantoli-03_Layout 1 1/16/12 12:48 PM Page 69 days later. Castelli had taken part in a lunch offered by the grand duke together with Cosimo Boscaglia, a philosophy professor at the University of Pisa. Castelli, in response to a question of the grand duke, had spoken of the observations of the Medicean Planets, which he had carried out the night before. Boscaglia admitted that they were real, but he added that “only the motion of the Earth seemed incredible and could not be true, all the more so since Holy Scripture was clearly against this opinion.” In the discussion that followed, Christina of Lorraine, the mother of the grand duke, appeared to take sides with Boscaglia, while the grand duke and the grand duchess, together with someone else, took sides with Castelli. The latter, speaking as a theologian, had blunted the biblical arguments of Boscaglia and had reduced him to silence. Castelli’s report was optimistic, but undoubtedly Galileo became very concerned about this scriptural development in the discussion. He saw that his adversaries, since they could no longer deny the reality of his discoveries, were proceeding ever more to dig themselves in behind the bastion of scripture. It was the last bulwark, but the one most to be feared, because it could nullify Galileo’s plan to have Copernicanism accepted or at least considered without preconceptions in the Catholic world at that time. It was all the more worrisome for Galileo that the discussion had taken place at the grand duke’s court, even more so since the Grand Duchess Christina, a woman of strict piety, could be vulnerable to such propaganda against Copernicanism founded on scripture. Galileo, therefore , felt it necessary to establish a defense by making clear his position on the relationship between science and the Bible. He did this by writing a long letter to Castelli, which he certainly intended to have a wider circulation in manuscript form. At the beginning of this letter Galileo admits that sacred scripture could not lie or deceive, but he immediately adds that its interpreters and expositors could err in various ways; the most serious error would be if they should wish to stop at the pure meaning of the words. In fact, in such a case, one would wind up attributing to God human forms and feelings such as anger, repentance, and hate. There exists, therefore, the possibility—even at times the necessity—of interpreting scripture in a nonliteral way. Such is the case, Galileo states, when it comes to ar70 ✦ The Case of Galileo Fantoli-03_Layout 1 1/16/12 12:48 PM Page 70 guments about natural phenomena. In fact, Galileo explains, both Holy Scripture (since it is dictated by the Holy Spirit) and nature (which faithfully carries out the divine orders) come from the divine Word. But while scripture has to be adapted to the common ability to understand and, therefore, has to use words and ways of speaking that, if taken in their literal sense, are far from the truth, nature, since it is “inexorable and unchangeable,” is not at all concerned “that its recondite...


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