Academic journal article Theological Studies

New Heavens and a New Earth: The Jewish Reception of Copernican Thought

Academic journal article Theological Studies

New Heavens and a New Earth: The Jewish Reception of Copernican Thought

Article excerpt

New Heavens and a New Earth: The Jewish Reception of Copernican Thought. By Jeremy Brown. New York: Oxford University, 2013. Pp. xviii + 394. $74.

Copernicus's revolutionary shifting of the center of the universe from our earth to the sun deeply disturbed religious thinkers. As Brown indicates at the outset of this masterful and definitive volume, no accurate or comprehensive history of its Jewish reception exists. Such a study must locate and interpret obscure rabbinic texts written in a convoluted literary Hebrew, alluding to the complex intellectual worlds of talmudic (chap. 2) and Kabbalistic thinking, and then present them in the context of the larger history of religion and science, interpreting both fields to outsiders. In all this, B. is extremely successful. As a learned Jewish layman (and a professor of emergency medicine), he carefully accumulated the data for this project (many illustrations come from his personal collection of rare books); as a gifted writer, he manages the complexity of this wealth of data very well, generating a roughly chronological and lucid narrative.

Like Christians, Jewish thinkers assessed the Copernican revolution against biblical discourse, presumptions drawn from Greek thought, postbiblical authoritative geocentric religious traditions, and received scientific understandings. …

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