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Comets: The Debate On The 'Wonders In The Heavens'

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Chapter Summary

A category of signs from the Book of Nature that particularly interested Constantijn Huygens comprised unusual celestial phenomena. The study of the Book of Nature on the basis of the Bible and the corpus of classical texts made interpretation more difficult rather than easier. The seventeenth century saw a radical change in the way in which the appearance of comets was interpreted. At the beginning of the century they were generally regarded by Dutch scholars as signs of God's wrath and as possible harbingers of the Last Judgement. While Voetian theologians continued to emphasise the traditional interpretation, a growing group of scholars claimed that the appearance of comets should be regarded as a manifestation of God's majesty. The traditional interpretation of the supernatural significance of comets was based on a synthesis of certain biblical passages and classical texts.

Keywords: Bible; Book of Nature; Dutch scholars; God's majesty; Voetian theologians



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