Did the church ever teach that the earth was flat?

My husband insists that the church taught that the earth was flat. Since it obviously is not, he says he gives the church no authority. I have heard that this is only a myth. What is true? Thanks.

I have never read such a teaching odds are two issues are being confused 1) moral authority verses non-moral issues, and 2)geocentrism, though both really turn into one issue. It goes like this: God installs Natural Moral Law into all men. Some men misinterpret that law. The church is guided by the Holy Spirit to interpret Natural Moral Law and is thus the authority. Now outside issue of Natural Moral Law the church does not special authority from God. So when people generally believed the earth was flat people in the church probably agreed, yet that was not a moral issue. Now the geocentrism issue; throughout most of history people believed the earth was the center of the universe. They believed they saw that every day as the sun rotated over them. However some even many, many years ago knew that was incorrect. The church leaders taught one of Psalm’s backed that belief however this is not a matter of morals so the error by church leaders was not a violation of the church’s authority.

hope that helps?

one post is enough

The Earth: a Sphere or Flat?

Any mention of the pre-Copernican geocentric or earth-centred reality today would without a doubt be replied to with a reference to what moderns deem a sister ignorance or naivety, belief in a flat earth. This would be the standard reaction for a generation led to believe we are more intelligent and knowledgable than those ignoramuses of historic times and especially those Bible-thumping Churchmen of the Middle Ages and the seventeenth century. But the hard fact is that the only ‘flat-earthers’ among the great geocentricists of old exist in the sceptics’ prejudices, for it is a long time since that notion was seen off. The first recorded science-lesson as to the shape of the earth appeared in Isaias, yes, in the Old Testament, the Bible itself:

‘It is he that sitteth upon the globe of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as locusts: he that stretcheth out the heavens as nothing and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.’ — Ch. 40:22.

That the earth is a globe was also the conclusion of ancient science. They knew the shape of the earth as seen on the moon during an eclipse is always a full sphere. That would not be the case if the earth were a flat disc. The shifting position of stars as man moved north or south also demonstrated to them a sphere and of course the fact that ships appear and disappear over the horizon illustrates the curved nature of the earth. So no, nobody had to show the Church or the philosophers and astronomers of 5,700 years something they didn’t know already, as the Copernican propagandists would have us believe.

I’ll try to answer but I’ll probably also might need advice on this one. There was rumor talk of the Church being a “flat earth society” probably around the time of Christopher Columbus’ idea of a “round earth” from learning of Marco Polo’s expeditions before the new world expedition by ship. In the Bible, the book of Genesis was written during Moses’ time. It explained God’s creation toward an understanding of a time place and people hearing this such as the earth,sky(dome,floodgates) in which would almost likely seem like a “flat earth” but if I lived in Moses’ time and I faced the sky and saw the round sun and the round moon I might sound weird by saying how come the earth can’t be round also but I probably would not know that until there was a discovery to refute it. Galileo and Copernicus on bodies aroud the sun and heliocentric theory. This is why Genesis can’t be a rock solid science book as many people try to prove their point and many denominations outside the Catholic Church that try Genesis to replace science will fall down one by one if it keeps getting taught out of context. Genesis is God’s relationship and revelation to man and created. If Genesis was meant a science book in late 1800’s time of Pope Leo XIII, it would have been scrapped in the garbage in the late 1900’s time of Pope John XXIII and Pope PaulVI because of NASA space mission discoveries.

I don’t feel like running into my library and pulling out my copy of Augustine’s ‘City of God’, but I do remember some language in his work which seemed to indicate he did not believe the earth to be round. But it was his opinion, not Church teaching. That hardly made him unintelligent, he could only work with the information he was given at the time.

please JustaServant, having said this you are obliged to run into your library to pull out your copy of Augustine’s ‘City of God’ for this would have St Augustine in opposition to the Old Testament:

‘It is he that sitteth upon the globe of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as locusts: he that stretcheth out the heavens as nothing and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.’ — Ch. 40:22.

Have him please define “the church taught”.
How, exactly, does he understand that the church did this?
Was there a formal pronouncement binding upon all the faithful?
Did a council meet to proclaim it?
Before all is said and done, it will be seen to be the falsehood that it is and only one thing will remain to be done: You will have to ask him, “Who misled you with this info? I wonder what other errors they are proclaiming as truth…and what their true motive is for doing so.”

The ancients knew the Earth was at least round, if no a full globe. They knew this from the simple observation that the first thing you see in the distance, when travelling on the water, is the top of buildings or boats. From this alone they were able to deduce that the Earth was at least a convex shape, though there was dispute over whether or not the Earth went all the way around in a circle. Later on the mathematics developed to show that the Earth was a sphere-like shape, and this was several centuries before Christianity. So far as I know, there was never a debate among Christians about the spherical nature of the Earth; it was assumed based on the science of the times.

As for St. Augustine, he certainly believed in a spherical Earth, but argued against there being people on the “other side of the curve”. He believed, again based on observation, that the rest of the globe was covered in water and had no major land masses. This was the same belief held up to the time of Christopher Columbus, who thought he was sailing directly to India. The relevant quote from St. Augustine’s “City of God”:


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. And, indeed, it is not affirmed that this has been learned by historical knowledge, but by scientific conjecture, on the ground that the earth is suspended within the concavity of the sky, and that it has as much room on the one side of it as on the other: hence they say that the part which is beneath must also be inhabited. But they do not remark that, although it be supposed or scientifically demonstrated that the world is of a round and spherical form, yet it does not follow that the other side of the earth is bare of water; nor even, though it be bare, does it immediately follow that it is peopled.

Even works like Dante’s “Divine Comedy” refer to the spherical Earth, though I can’t remember exactly where in that work it is mentioned.

Basically, the whole “Flat-Earth” idea, at least as it applies to Christians or post-Classical Greco-Roman Europeans in general, is completely false. They knew the Earth was round even before they had the math to prove it scientifically. :slight_smile:

Peace and God bless!

The ancient Greeks had concluded that the Earth was round long before the advent of Christianity. In the 3rd century BC, Eratosthenes even made quite accurate estimations of the Earth’s circumference.

Even in the early Church, educated people would certainly have had access to this knowledge (though relatively few people would have been “educated” or even literate).

Do you have any objective evidence for that claim? I know many Bibles reproduce a sketch of how the ancients may have viewed the world, as in scribd.com/doc/9665866/Flat-Earth-Bible-05-of-10-Sheol-Land-of-the-Dead

How do you know the ancients viewed the Earth as round?

However, the Catholic Church claims to be infallible in matter of faith and morals. How one interprets the Bible would be a matter of faith – whether you accept it or not. So, teaching a misinterpretation of the Bible would – most definitely – be erroneous teachings of faith. Therefore – this does undermine infallibility.

If you’re really going to hold up this argument then you should research Teilhard and how the Catholic Church most definitely did change it’s stance on evolution as a result of his work – only after making him suffer every punishment short of ex-communication and not publishing any of his works until after his death.

The Medieval people were not as ignorant about the world as most people today think of them today.

Globus cruciger
A cross on a globe shows the triumph of Christianity over the world. The image of an emperor holding a cross on a globe first appears on Roman coinage with Theodosius I (346-395). Emperors and rulers, such as Charlemagne, are shown with the cross over the globe. Many paintings and figures of Christ, especially as a child, show him holding this sign. It is a prominent symbol in images of Christ as the Savior of the World, Salvator Mundi. The sign is first found in the Cheops pyramid as a masonry mark. (The ancients knew the earth was round. Washington Irving created the story of the belief in the flat earth when he told the story of Columbus.) For a period prior to iconoclasm, the denomination on Byzantine coinage was indicated by the type of cross: stepped cross, solidus (gold, 4.55 g); cross orb, semissis (half solidus); plain cross, tremissis (third solidus).


See also the Wikipedia article

Here is a depiction of Charlemagne holding a globe from around the 10th-11th century

The Imperial Orb of the Holy Roman Empire (Reichsapfel, literally the “Imperial Apple”), made around the 1200’s.

Christ entrusted the Church with authority and infallibility. For Him not to do so would have been to leave it in open contradiction (look at the Protestants-30,000 groups and counting).

The Church has never taught or declared as infallible that the Earth is flat. It would be meaningless. The shape of the earth has nothing to do with faith or with morality.

Really how did “faith” change after the population knewn the earth was round?

Again what part of our “faith” changed?

The book that statistic comes from also says there are over 200 denominations within the Catholic Church. So, the Catholic Church is not unified either. That statistic uses a different metric to determine division than the Catholic Church uses to determine unity. Besides that, the number of Protestant denominations has nothing to do with whether or not the Catholic Church is infallible. But thanks for the ad hominem attack instead of a well reasoned defense.

The Church has never taught or declared as infallible that the Earth is flat. It would be meaningless. The shape of the earth has nothing to do with faith or with morality.

I’m not the one who said they did! Possibly you should address the, Catholic, poster of this theory and actually attempt to prove them wrong instead of attacking your friendly neighborhood Protestant who is simply pointing out the implications of what that Catholic said. Especially when you’re not even going to deny that if what the other poster said is correct then I’m right.

One aspect of the faith which is Christianity is how one interprets the Bible. If this is not the case then why does the Magisterium make official, infallible, proclamations about how to interpret certain parts of scripture. So, if the say Book W Chapter X Verses Y - Z mean such and such and they do so infallibly, then later they come back and say – ooppss that really means something else they have changed part of the faith. Namely the faith one has in the Bible.

Again what part of our “faith” changed?

Why did you feel the need to split up my quote in order to post the same question twice instead of just posting it once at the end?

You can prove the person who posted the statement, yourself, wrong. You can prove that I am wrong and interpretation of Scripture is not part of the faith. Or you can sit around asking questions. Two of these are apologetics, one of them is not.

I’m not aware of any example of the Catholic Church teaching infallibly regarding a certain Scripture passage or part. Can you give an example? Thanks.

So, you’ve never heard of Transubstantiation? You’ve never heard that when Jesus built the Church he was saying the Peter is the Rock he built it upon?

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