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Mathematical Treasure: Depictions of God as Creator-Geometer

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

As we have seen elsewhere in Mathematical Treasures, medieval scribes and artists who created illuminations for Bibles and other religious manuscripts sometimes visualized the God who created Earth and the universe as the Supreme Geometer. They thus depicted him with mathematical instruments such as compasses or dividers, which were used to measure and lay out distances in geometrical drawings. Both documents shown here were copied and illuminated in Paris. The first is undated and has text in Latin; the second dates to the first quarter of the 14th century and was written in Old French.

God depicted as geometer in undated medieval Bible from Paris.

God depicted as Geometer in early 14th-century French manuscript Bible.

Detail from the image above:

Detail from early 14th-century French Bible.

These illustrations are from MS. Bodl. 270b, fol. 001v and MS. Douce 211, fol. 003r, respectively, and are available from the Digital Bodleian website of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Depictions of God as Creator-Geometer," Convergence (July 2023)