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"Abraham, Planter of Mathematics"

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Author Topic: "Abraham, Planter of Mathematics"  (Read 463 times)
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« on: October 14, 2008, 10:25:10 pm »

Annius thus dated the origins of Chaldean learning to around 4000 BC; within the first generation of humankind. The Chaldeans and the Patriarchs developed wisdom at the same moment, from the same fount. Indeed, the transparent implication was that Seth and Enoch developed these arts because they were themselves Chaldeans.

Annius's Berosus provided another source, alongside Moses, for the history of early time, but one that overturned the traditional theological status of Chaldeans. But this conflict with scripture did not discredit the text. While for Pico, Chaldean origins had been an incontrovertible demonstration of astrology's illicitness, Annius's forged genealogies made the Chaldeans entirely orthodox, an integral and esteemed part of the scriptural genealogy of knowledge, and Annius's Berosus presented himself as the mouthpiece of what Walter Stephens has called the "pious Chaldean." The Annian Berosus described the Chaldeans as God's first chosen people.21 And the Hebrews inherited and preserved astrology, a pure, original and divine Chaldean practice.

Pico's initial argument had relied on a particular vision of the early Assyrian empire and of Assyrian culture, and debate regarding the propriety of astrological knowledge was framed by discussion of this historical context. Scholars either approved of or denounced astrological arts by locating their origins before or after the Chaldeans abandoned true religion. The very tool that Pico used to criticize and condemn astrology, then, could be recalibrated, given a slightly different history in order to support it. Moreover, the history could also be adjusted to condemn any range of arts: one could further constrict Pico's range of acceptable mathematics by dating [End Page 95] the origins of any mathematical art to after the Chaldean lapse. While Pico had fixed the site of the debate, its terms remained plastic.
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