The English Wikipedia says that Heliocentrism was "official" in Judaism only by the 20th century:

"In the 19th century, ... Hatam Sofer (d.1839) gave approbations to two books even though one supported heliocentrism and the other geocentrism...
Since the 20th century, most Jews have not questioned the science of heliocentrism. Exceptions include R' Schneerson of Chabad who argued that the question of heliocentrism vs. geocentrism is obsolete because of the relativity of motion. Schneerson's followers in Chabad continue to deny the heliocentric model."

Are there pre-19th century Rabbinic sources that explicitly acknowledge Heliocentrism?

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    That's not how I read the Wikipedia article. I read the article as saying that most Jewish writers who addressed the issue (starting in the 16th century), accepted Copernicus' heliocentric model (and presumably later advances by Kepler, etc.). Though I'm not sure about the phrase: "although it was found to be contradicting verses of Tanakh (Jewish Bible)"; "found" by whom? Also, the article's discussion of Jewish attitudes towards "Greek wisdom" (especially the article's implied definition of "Greek wisdom" as used in the Talmud) is misleadingly incomplete.
    – Fred
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 4:38
  • Check out Jeremy brown's book Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 4:56
  • 1
    Category error: I don’t see the phrase in the Wikipedia article you link to, and I would edit it out if I did: Judaism cannot officially recognize heliocentrism or geocentrism any more than it can officially recognize the color of your eyes. Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 5:08
  • @J.C.Salomon, Question updated.
    – Sparkler
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 5:27
  • 1
    Still unclear, @Sparkler; nothing about the heliocentric model would affect the calendar at all. At most the more precise measurements of the year & month could theoretically lead to minute adjustments of the Jewish calendar. See The Rectified Hebrew Calendar for an example of such an attempt. Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 5:32

1 Answer 1


Heliocentrism or geocentrism or whatever is entirely irrelevant to halachah; at most there is a question whether certain Biblical verses or aggadic comments correspond to (current scientific understanding of) the universe as it is, or reflect the way we perceive the world, similar to the continued use of the English words “sunrise” & “sunset”.

That said, your question cannot be meaningfully answered. Absent a Sanhedrin, even halachik questions can only be “officially” settled by broad consensus of qualified rabbis through the generations; matters of belief even less so; and questions of pure scientific fact are often simply not relevant at all (though their applications can sometimes be).

  • 6
    Why can't someone find the earliest acknowledgement?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 5:17
  • I totally agree with the idea of separation between religion and science. What I meant by "acknowledgement" is that it became common knowledge such that for example Poskim could use that information to resolve various issues (one of them for example is the relatively high inaccuracy of the Jewish calendar, i.e. requiring Adar Bet).
    – Sparkler
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 5:22
  • @Sparkler Actually, the reason for Adar Bet is that the calendar is quite accurate. The reason for it is that the month by definition (as required by the Torah) must be based on the cycle of the moon. The position of Pesach in the Spring must be based on the cycle of the solar year. Since the discrepancy was known to an accuracy unabtainable by the rest of the world until modern times, Adar Bet was required to bring the two (known) cycles into conformance. Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 12:23
  • @Sparkler, about the Jewish calendar, I don't think you believe that the alternative to heliocentrism is that the Earth goes around the Moon!
    – MichoelR
    Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 0:05

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