Thursday, February 16, 2012

Through a Twitter post by Janelle Peters (@janellepeters), I was alerted to the recent uploading of the theological documents of Sir Isaac Newton to the Internet. Many, of course, know Sir Isaac Newton as a scientist, but he considered himself as much a theologian, especially interested in the apocalyptic texts of Daniel and Revelation. He even predicted the coming end of the world in 2060.  From a newspaper report today comes this account:
Newton revolutionised physics, mathematics and astronomy in the 17th and 18th century, laying the foundations for most of classical mechanics - with the principal of universal gravitation and the three laws of motion bearing his name.
However, the curator of Israel's national library's humanities collection said Newton was also a devout Christian who dealt far more in theology than he did in physics and believed that scripture provided a "code" to the natural world.
"Today, we tend to make a distinction between science and faith, but to Newton it was all part of the same world," said Milka Levy-Rubin.
"He believed that careful study of holy texts was a type of science, that if analysed correctly could predict what was to come."
So he learned how to read Hebrew, scrolled through the Bible and delved into the study of Jewish philosophy, the mysticism of Kabbalah and the Talmud - a compendium of Jewish oral law and stories about 1500 years old.
These handwritten documents, over 7,500 pages, have been digitized and are now available at the website of the National Library of Israel.  These texts are difficult to read, some are written in Latin and others in English, and for young readers I suspect that even his cursive hand will prove difficult, but I think they will be worth the effort. Any text that is titled, "The Synchronisms of the Three Parts of the Prophetick Interpretation," and then begins, "The first part of the prophetick interpretation from the rise of the Beast of the Sea to the end, the second part from the beginning to the end & the third part from the beginning to the casting of the Beast and Fals prophet into the Lake of fire being synchronal interpretations of synchronal prophecies must be synchronal with one another," is a text that I am going to back to read (Newton Papers 6, 6 001r). Check it out!

John W. Martens

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