Between Wittenberg and Rome

Robert S. Westman

in The Copernican Question

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780520254817
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948167 | DOI:
Between Wittenberg and Rome

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Nicolaus Copernicus first formulated his new arrangement of the heavens amid the intellectual skepticism and political insecurity of the late fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century prognosticatory culture of the northern Italian university towns. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the German Protestant reform movement were obsessed with world-historical biblical prophecies; but for the Lutherans there was a uniquely urgent sense of imminent crisis and belief in an apocalyptic end of the world. On the eve of the Council of Trent, Copernicus's hypotheses quickly became the occasion for discussion and engagement among students of the heavens at Lutheran Wittenberg. The question was no longer merely about whether prognostication of natural events could be accommodated to a Bible-governed narrative, but rather it was about what relevance the Bible had for conflicting hypotheses of celestial order in theoretical astronomy. This chapter explores astrology during the time of Copernicus, along with the concept of the end of the world, the views of Philipp Melanchthon, Georg Joachim Rheticus's Narratio Prima, Andreas Osiander's advice on the publication of De Revolutionibus, and the link between the Holy Scripture and celestial order.

Keywords: Nicolaus Copernicus; prognostication; astrology; prophecies; end of the world; Philipp Melanchthon; Andreas Osiander; De Revolutionibus; Holy Scripture; celestial order

Chapter.  22098 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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