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The Bible and the Emergence of Modern Science

Peter Harrison
S & CB 18 (2)
October 2006

Abstract

The Bible played a significant role in the development of modern science. Most obviously, its contents were important because they could be read in ways that seemed either to conflict with or to confirm new scientific claims. More important, however, were changes to the way in which the Bible was interpreted during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The move away from allegorical readings of Scripture and the new focus on the historical or literal sense a development promoted by humanist scholars and Protestant reformers contributed to the collapse of the symbolic world of the Middle Ages and paved the way for new mathematical and taxonomic readings of nature. Biblical hermeneutics was thus of profound importance for those new ways of interpreting nature that we associate with the emergence of modern science.

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