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"Abraham, Planter of Mathematics"


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Author Topic: "Abraham, Planter of Mathematics"  (Read 463 times)
Bianca
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« on: October 14, 2008, 10:21:04 pm »









"It exists to this day," Josephus claimed, "in the land of Seiris."14 Vergil held Josephus in the utmost respect, and he first referred to this passage to prove that the Hebrews had invented letters, despite Greek and Latin claims to the contrary. He then used it to prove the Hebraic origins of mathematics, and finally to trace the origins of astrology. Vergil also followed Josephus in his postdiluvian histories, claiming that the mathematical arts were [End Page 92] recovered in Assyria, and that the Jewish Patriarch Abraham, an Assyrian, transported them to Egypt 430 years later. Assuming that the "science of heavenly bodies" required mathematics, Vergil yoked the history of star-gazing to the history of mathematics, and installed astrology within a sacred lineage opposed to Pico's diabolic genealogy.15

Pico too had cited Josephus's assertion that Abraham disseminated knowledge in Egypt. But for Pico, this learning amounted only to the mathematical observation of the heavens necessary to formulate a divine calendar; a form of licit, human knowledge similar to the interpretations of nature necessary for sailors, farmers, and physicians. Indeed, Pico claimed, idolatry and astrology had received a nefarious twin birth when the Chaldeans overextended this science, confusing celestial objects with divine entities. Both Pico and Vergil accepted astronomy—and therefore mathematics—as a practice of the ancient Hebrews, but Pico strenuously insisted that all arts that attributed divine agency to natural objects were corruptions of this accepted, Hebraic knowledge. His critique pursued a reformation of natural, non-revealed knowledge.
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