“This most beautiful system [The Universe] could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” – Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton, the brilliant mathematician who redefined physics for the world in the 17th century, was also a bit of a theologian. While he’s most famous for his ideas about gravity and the laws of motion, Newton also wrote commentaries on Daniel and Revelation. The man who invented Calculus also argued that the Jews would return to the Holy Land before the end of the world, and wrote that the Apocalypse would not occur until after A.D. 2060. Now, a number of Newton’s original papers and letters have been put on display in Jerusalem, offering the world a broader glimpse of this great scientist’s deeply religious nature.
For 250 years, many of Newton’s papers remained locked away in a trunk at the estate of the Earl of Portsmouth. In 1936, they were auctioned off and most were acquired by two very different sorts of men; the very secular economist John Maynard Keynes, and the Jewish Oriental Studies scholar Abraham Shalom Yahuda, who was devoted to proving the Pentateuch’s authenticity. While Keynes’ collection went to Cambridge University, Yahuda bequeathed his collection to the new State of Israel in 1951. In 1969 the manuscripts were locked away at Israel’s National Library, to be read only by select scholars. They have now been brought out of hiding and are on display at the Jewish National and University Library at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from June 18 – July 17, 2007.
These manuscripts offer to the world a greater understanding of Newton’s mystical side. While today’s secular scientists work to separate “religion” from “science,” Newton believed that the physical world revealed and glorified God. According to Israel’s National Library web site:
“There are at least three reasons why these papers are important, even though they do not always speak directly to the canonical Newton. First, the manuscripts help illuminate Newton’s science. Newton’s piety served as one of his inspirations to study nature and what we today call science. But Newton’s theological papers also tell us much about his inductive methods and his views on the unity of God’s Creation.
“Second, the manuscripts illuminate the person of Newton. The figure once viewed almost uniformly as an icon of cold rationality, now appears as an alchemist, a biblical scholar and a religious devotee who pored over the symbols of the Books of Daniel and Revelation for decades in an attempt to decode the meaning of the future foreordained by God. Newton can now be studied as an alchemist and a theologian in his own right.”
In one of the letters in the collection, Newton’s words have been taken as a prediction that the Apocalypse would occur in 2060, 1260 years (3.5 years x 360 years) after the Holy Roman Empire was formed in A.D. 800. His precise words are, “The time times and half a time do not end before 2060 nor after ___,” and he leaves the second date blank, as though he forgot to go back and fill it in. Newton was only a human being, after all.
Ultimately, however, this brilliant mind appreciated the foolishness of date setting. He wrote, “This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail.”
Many researchers love to point out Newton’s interest in alchemy, his disagreements with the Church of England, and his tendency to question the Anglican description of the Trinity. Newton’s passion for the Scriptures, however, is obvious throughout his writings, matched by his passion for studying the universe that God created. Newton would fully reject the idea that science and religion cannot mix. He admired God’s excellence in designing the universe, and in inspiring the Bible.
“The system of revealed truth which this Book contains is like that of the universe, concealed from common observation yet…the centuries have established its Divine origin.” – Isaac Newton
• The Newton Collection at JNUL – Jewish National and University Library
• Papers Reveal Newton’s Religious Side – AP
• The World Will End In 2060, According To Newton – This Is London
• The Newton Project – Imperial College London.
– From Koinonia House News Letter