Some people today believe that the Bible is in error because of the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to Galileo.
While the church had previously made minor concessions, it was not until 1992 til Pope John Paul II issued a declaration acknowledging the errors committed by the tribunal that judged the scientific positions of Galileo. Let’s look at some of the dynamics of the case.
During the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church’s authority had been called into question, causing it to lose much of its power and influence. This was part of the reason the church chose to take a strong stand against Galileo.
Politics and personalities also played a major role in how the church handled Galileo’s case. At one point, Galileo wrote his theory using an argument that, perhaps inadvertently, made a public mockery of the Pope. Galileo also chose to force the issue, one Catholic defender at the time wrote that Galileo was intent on ‘ramming Copernicus down the throat of Christendom’.
The ‘Earth as center of the universe’ beliefs that Galileo opposed actually came from Aristotle, not the church or the Bible, but since the church had adopted those ideas, it was forced to defend them.
Does the case of Galileo prove that the Bible is incorrect? The Catholic Church made mistakes in the case, probably most importantly when it chose to take a literal interpretation of the verses in question and when it held too strongly to ideas from a secular source (Aristotle). But the Bible was not at fault.
The moral of the story of Galileo: People, even Bible experts, are fallible. The best way to learn the truth of the Bible is to learn from those who know the Bible AND read it for yourself.
Next: The Spanish Inquisition