Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Isaac Newton: Frumie

I was enjoying James Taranto's Best of the Web as always, yesterday, when he mentioned this really interesting link.
Three-century-old manuscripts by Isaac Newton calculating the exact date of the apocalypse, detailing the precise dimensions of the ancient temple in Jerusalem and interpreting passages of the Bible--exhibited this week for the first time--lay bare the little-known religious intensity of a man many consider history's greatest scientist.

Newton, who died 280 years ago, is known for laying much of the groundwork for modern physics, astronomy, math and optics. But in a new Jerusalem exhibit, he appears as a scholar of deep faith who also found time to write on Jewish law--even penning a few phrases in careful Hebrew letters--and combing the Old Testament's Book of Daniel for clues about the world's end. . . .

In one manuscript from the early 1700s, Newton used the cryptic Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the Apocalypse, reaching the conclusion that the world would end no earlier than 2060. "It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner," Newton wrote. However, he added, "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."
The article is really interesting, and the website - from the Jewish National & University Library in Israel - is fascinating. It has the actual manuscripts from Newton, and while he was [I believe] a devout Christian, he spends quite a bit of time on the Old Testament, particularly the Beis Hamikdash (Temple). It's really interesting stuff.


  1. Newton, in addition to being one of the most important scientists ever, was a total nut-case. Even his religious views (as opposed to alchemical or occult) were far-out nutty ones. He's the example I go to when I need to demonstrate that brains aren't necessarily sufficient.

    Newton is also a character in one of Neal Stephenson's books. Kind of fun.

  2. JA, what have you done to show you're not the nut?

  3. That's really cool, thanks for sharing! :)

  4. JA - That doesn't sound nuts to me at all.