Thursday, March 22, 2007

Isaac Newton and the Apocalypse

I was browsing through some of Isaac Newton's lesser-known writings at The Newton Project when I stumbled across a record called untitled treatise on Revelation. Considering Newton is generally regarded as one of if not the smartest person ever to live, I figured even an atheist such as myself should have a peak at what he had to say about the end of the world.

What a rabbit hole it turned out to be. At around 320,000 words, mainly in English but with many passages in Latin and citations in Greek, it was quite a challenge to get through. In addition, the treatise was never prepared for publication by Newton. Rather, it was more like his lab notes from over thirty years of trying different methods to fit the puzzle pieces of the Book of Revelation into history as he knew it.

And Newton sure knew his history. When the guy who came up with Calculus and a big chunk of Physics set his mind to studying history, he acquired a broad and detailed knowledge of every single country and king starting with early myths and ending with the times he lived in. And then he set to work.

Under titles such as:

Position: The Subject of this Prophesy is the Roman Empire signified by the Dragon & Beast.


Position: The first Trumpet began with the invasions of the Eastern regions A.C. 395. The second with the invasion of the western A.C. 408. The third with the invasion of Afric A.C. 427. And thefourth with the wars in Italy A.C. 536.

you find a detailed matching of actual history to Christian prophecy.

Sadly, at the end of the treatise, Newton offers no final conclusions. Futher research into his writings indicates he had concluded only that there were several matches between the earlier parts of the Apocalypse and historical events that had occured since the final book of the Bible had been written, but he offered no opinion on how it would end.

Besides being a great insight into Newton's view of history, the first section of the treatise gives some real insight into how Newton himself thought and went about learning:

Let me therefore beg of thee not to trust to the opinion of any man concerning these things, for so it is great odds but thou shalt be deceived. Much less oughtest thou to rely upon the judgment of the multitude, for so thou shalt certainly be deceived.

Interestingly, Newton seems to be applying the Calculus he developed to his study of the Apocalyse in this bit of advise:

To proportion the most notable parts of Prophesy to the most notable parts of history, & the breaches made in a continued series of Prophesy to the changes made in history And to reject those interpretations where the parts and breaches of Prophesy do not thus bear a due proportion to the parts & changes in History.

Back to the much simpler world of modern politics for me, but if you have a little time, Newton himself invites you to check out his research:

Having searched after knowledge in the prophetique scriptures, I have thought my self bound to communicate it for the benefit of others...


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