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Sir Isaac Newton and The Year 2060 by Stephen David Snobelen

I found this compelling and a great read. Enjoy!!!

Writings on Newton by Stephen David Snobelen

At the end of the seventeenth century, Isaac Newton (1642-1727) initiated a revolution
in science. At the end of the twentieth century, scholars began a revolution in the understanding
of Newton. As Newton's long-concealed private papers on theology become increasingly accessible,
students of Newton's thought are coming to see Newton as more than a scientist.
The author of the Principia mathematica was a true Renaissance man who spent decades delving in the secrets
of alchemy and even longer studying the Bible, theology and church history. Leaving behind four
million words on theology, Newton was one of the greatest lay theologians of his age. A study of
Newton's theology and prophetic views illuminates the life of this great thinker and helps us understand his science.
This website provides downloadable academic papers (both published and forthcoming) that explore Newton's
theology, prophetic views and the interaction between his science and his religion. These
resources include substantial quotations from Newton's unpublished theological manuscripts.

2060: The date heard around the world

On 22 February 2003, the Daily Telegraph (London, England) published a front-page
story announcing Isaac Newton's prediction that the world would end in 2060. The story was based
on interviews with myself and Malcolm Neaum, the producer of the BBC 2 documentary Newton: the dark
heretic (first shown on 1 March 2003). I was asked to make myself
available to the media
because some of my academic research on
Newton's prophecy and heretical theology was used in the documentary
and since I was not only
interviewed for the documentary both in Jerusalem and Cambridge, but am
also shown with the manuscript containing the 2060 date in
Jerusalem. Although the 2060 date was not news to the small community of
scholars who study
Newton's theology, this was the first time the wider public became aware
of Newton's prophetic
views. Over the next few days, the news spread around the globe and was
covered in newspapers
(making the front pages in Israel and Canada on 23 and 24 February
respectively), on the radio,
on TV and on a plethora of Internet news sites. The story was covered on
the Internet in all the
major European languages from English, French and Spanish to Hungarian,
Romanian and Russian.
Websites in South America, South Africa, Australia, China, Vietnam and
India also covered the story. Many of these websites picked up
the story second and third hand, and several of them treated the story
as a bit of a lark, with
one site including a picture of a mushroom cloud (an image more readily
associated with
Einstein) with the caption "Party like it's 2060". For almost a week, I
received a barrage of
requests for interviews from the media. CBC Radio and TV, Global TV in
the Maritimes, Agent France Presse,
the largest radio talk show in Chicago and even the Russian section of
Radio Free Europe, which aired the interview in Russian translation. I
to use this unexpected opportunity to fill in more details about
Newton's theological and prophetic
thought, and to point out that Newton's apocalyptic thought was not just
doom and destruction.
Although there was a sensational element in the way the news was covered
by many media organizations, the story has
performed a very important role in alerting the public to the fact that
Isaac Newton was not
merely a "scientist", but also a theologian and a prophetic exegete (not
to mention an alchemist).
The public was therefore challenged to re-conceptualize Newton in all
his complexity. The BBC 2
documentary, with its visual impact and much greater detail, challenged
its viewers in an even more profound way.

Why did Newton's prediction for 2060 become such a big news story?

One reason why Newton's heresy, apocalyptic thought and prediction about the 2060 date became
news in February 2003 is because most members of the media and the public had no idea that
Newton was anything other than a "scientist". For many, the revelation that Newton was a
passionate believer who took biblical prophecy seriously came as something of a shock. It seems
that both the media and the general public have a notion of Newton as a "rational" scientist
that makes it difficult to absorb the knowledge that Newton was practising both alchemy and
prophetic exegesis—studies many see as antithetical to the enterprise of science. The media has
perpetuated a myth that science and religion are inherently in conflict (the fact is, sometimes
they are; but religion has also often stimulated the development of science). The story about
Newton predicting the Apocalypse in 2060 is the sort of thing that one would expect to see on
the covers of the tabloids. In this case, however, the story is true. Ironically, the tabloids
did not cover the story (perhaps because this story, although counter-intuitive to many people,
is authentic).
There is likely another reason why so many found the story about Newton and 2060 so
compelling. When the story broke, storm clouds of war were on the horizon. Concern about
the predicted war in Iraq (now a "fulfilled" prophecy) probably heightened the public's interest
in Newton's date for the end of the world, particularly because the pending war involved the
nation who occupies the land of ancient Babylon�a land that figures prominently in biblical
prophecy and in Newton's own prophetic writings. The head of the Department in charge of the Newton
collection in Jerusalem, in a TV interview pointed directly to the threat of war in Iraq as one reason
for the interest in the story. Reviewing footage of two Canadian television
news items on the 2060 story, I was struck by its placement in the midst of images of U.S.
troops and helicopters arriving in Kuwait, along with statements about the pending war from
presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer. It is clear that whether we are religious or secular,
we are living in "apocalyptic" times. India, Pakistan and North Korea are rattling nuclear
sabres. Jetliners fly into skyscrapers laden with kerosene and human bodies. Terrorists strike around the world. Also beginning
around the time the documentary aired was the SARS outbreak, appearing seemingly out of nowhere
like a biblical plague. And then there are concerns about the degradation of our environment and
fears of a coming eco-apocalypse. In the context of these troubling realities, a dramatic story
about the greatest scientist of all time predicting "the end of the world" carried with it added
potency and poignancy. Curiously a couple months after the 2060 story broke, Sir Martin Reese,
one of today's leading scientists, published a book entitled Our final hour (Our final century in the UK) in
which he argues that the human race has only a fifty-fifty chance of surviving the 21st century. Apocalypticism
is not the exclusive domain of the lunatic fringe. It is a broader phenomenon that reflects humanity's
insecurity about the apparent fragility and tenuousness of our existence on planet earth.

Why is news of Newton's prophetic studies only coming out now?

Newton's theological and alchemical papers were kept from public scrutiny by the Portsmouth
family until 1936, when they were sold at Sotheby's in London. The largest single collection of
the theological papers was acquired by the Jewish scholar Abraham Shalom Ezekiel Yahuda.
When he died in 1951, he left them to the newly-founded State of Israel. His will was contested
and thus the manuscripts did not arrive in Israel until 1969, when they were brought to the
Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. It was only after this point that scholars
had access to this particular collection of papers. But the manuscripts were only conveniently
accessible to scholars after the majority of Newton's scientific, administrative, theological
and alchemical manuscripts were released on microfilm in 1991. Since 1991, there has been a
revolution in Newton scholarship as the theological manuscripts began to be assessed in earnest
by a small group of specialist scholars. A significant element of this revolution was the founding
in 1998 of the Newton Project, based at Imperial College, London and the University of Cambridge.
This project has already begun the process of transcribing Newton's unpublished theological manuscripts
in order to make them accessible to the world. The BBC 2 documentary revealed to the wider public
for the first time and in dramatic fashion the results of this recent revolution in the understanding of Newton's life
works. The announcement about the 2060 date must be seen in this context.

Although the initial Daily Telegraph article did not make this claim, some subsequent
media reports mistakenly attributed the discovery of the 2060 date in Newton's writings to me.
However, other media reports (which were based on direct interviews with me) correctly stated
that the 2060 date has been known for some time, but only amongst Newton scholars (and academic
publications, unlike television documentaries, generally do not make news). In fact, at least
three important Newton scholars, David Castillejo, Frank Manuel and Richard Westfall, examined
the Yahuda manuscripts (either in the original copies or, in the
case of Westfall, in microfilm reproductions) shortly after their arrival in Jerusalem
in 1969. Castillejo was
likely the first to encounter the 2060 date, as he was the first scholar to examine the Yahuda
collection. He published the 2060 date in his 1981 work The expanding force in Newton's
cosmos (p. 55). Westfall published the date in his 1980 biography of Newton, Never at
rest (pages 816-817). I first came across the date in my own research (as opposed to
reading it in Castillejo or Westfall) when I was studying Yahuda MS 7 on microfilm while a PhD
student at the University of Cambridge in 1997. I published the date in my 1999 British
Journal for the History of Science paper "Isaac Newton, heretic: the strategies of a
Nicodemite", pages 391-2. The real story is not the discovery of the 2060 date, but that
Newton's non-scientific work is being made known to the public in a spectacular manner.

How important was biblical prophecy for Newton?

Extremely important. For Newton, biblical prophecy forecast the
divinely-ordained events of the future. He believed the interpretation
of biblical prophecy was "no matter of indifferency but a duty of the
greatest moment". Prophecy allowed Newton to see history in advance. It
also identified an evil, apostate system (Babylon) that pure Christians
must flee to avoid destruction and the wrath of God.

How does biblical prophecy work for Newton?

Newton believed both in God and that the Bible was a revelation from
God. He also believed that God was not bound by time as are humans,
allowing Him to see the "end from the beginning". Thus, to use Newton's
own words, he was convinced that "the holy Prophecies" of the Scripture
are nothing else than "histories of things to come" (Yahuda MS 1.1,
folio 16 recto). At the same time, biblical prophecy is written in
highly symbolic language that requires skilled interpretation. Newton
rose to this challenge as he attempted to discover the future of the
world in the words of the prophets.

Why did Newton only rarely add up the prophetic numbers?

Because he was wary of prophetic date-setting. Newton was worried
that the failure of fallible human predictions based on divine prophecy
would bring the Bible into disrepute. Ironically, in one of the two
times Newton wrote down the 2060 date, he railed against date-setters
(see below). Newton may have been aghast if he had known his prediction
would be broadcast around the world in the twenty-first century. His
calculations about the 2060 date were private musings made on a scrap of
paper not meant for the public. Ironically, the media coverage of the
2060 date has made Newton look like a date-setter.

The logic of Newton's apocalyptic calculations

Newton, like many historicist prophetic commentators of his age,
believed that the prophetic time periods 1260, 1290, 1335 and 2300 days
actually represent 1260, 1290, 1335 and 2300 years using the
"day-for-a-year principle". For Newton these time periods
(especially the 1260 years) represent the time span of the apostasy of
the Church (for Newton this means the Trinitarian Church, chiefly the
Catholics). Thus, he looked in history for the likely date when the
apostasy formally began (one sign of this for him was the date when the
papal church obtained temporal power). From there it was a simple matter
of adding the time period to the beginning date. However, things are
rarely so simple with Newton. As already mentioned, Newton looked
askance at "date-setting", and for this reason he rarely wrote out the
end date for a time period once he had settled on a beginning date.
There is a small number of exceptions, and the date 2060, found twice in
the Yahuda MSS at Jerusalem, is one of them. The date 2060 is also
significant because in addition to the rarity of end dates in Newton's
writings, the calculation giving the 2060 date comes from fairly late in
his life and is asserted with uncharacteristic vigour. Finding
the commencement date was of great importance to Newton, since once he
added the prophetic time periods to this date, he was able to determine
when the great apocalyptic events of the end of the world were going to
occur. Although Newton believed there would be wars and
cataclysms around the time of the end, for him this period was also the
storm before the calm. Newton's prophetic faith therefore has a positive
element. The prophetic time periods

    [*]The time period 1260 days appears in Daniel 7:25 (as "a time and
    times and the dividing of time" [=a year, two years and a half year]),
    Daniel 12:7 (as "a time, times, and an half" [=a year, two years and a
    half year]), Revelation 11:3 (1260 days), Revelation 12:6 (1260 days)
    and Revelation 13:5 (42 months)
  • The time period 1290 days appears in Daniel 12:11.
  • The time period 1335 days appears in Daniel 12:12.
  • The time period 2300 days occurs in Daniel 8:14.

How did Newton arrive at the date 2060?

This did not involve the use of anything as complicated as calculus,
which he invented, but rather simple arithmetic that could be performed
by a child. Beginning in the 1670s and continuing to the end of his life
in 1727, Newton considered several commencement dates for the formal
institution of the apostate, imperial Church. Earlier commencement dates
include 607 and 609 A.D. As Newton grew older, he pushed the time of
the end further and further into the future. In Yahuda MS 7 Newton twice
gives 800 A.D. for the beginning of "the Pope's supremacy". The year
800 is a significant one in history, as it is the year Charlemagne was
crowned emperor of Rome in the west by Pope Leo III at St. Peter's in
Rome. Since Newton believed that the 1260 years corresponded to the
duration of the corruption of the Church, he added 1260 to 800 A.D. and
arrived at the date 2060 for the "fall of Babylon" or cessation of the
apostate Church. It seems that Newton believed the fall could perhaps
begin somewhat before the end of the 1260-year period and continue for a
short time afterward. Whatever the precise chronology, Newton believed
that sometime shortly after the fall of the corrupt (Trinitarian,
Catholic) Church, Christ would return and set up a 1000-year Kingdom of
God on earth. On page 144 of his Observations (1733), Newton cited
Daniel 7:26-27 as evidence of this: But the judgment
shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion to consume and to
destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness
of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of
the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Newton espoused a premillenarian eschatology and thus held that Christ would return to earth to establish the Millennium.

Two examples of the date 2060 in Yahuda MS 7.3 (Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem)

7.3g, folio 13 verso:

then the time times & half a time are 42 months or 1260 days or
three years & an half, recconing twelve months to a yeare & 30
days to a month as was done in the Calendar of the primitive year. And
the days of short lived Beasts being put for the years of lived [sic]
kingdoms, the period of 1260 days, if dated from the complete conquest
of the three kings A.C. 800, will end A.C. 2060. It may end later, but I
see no reason for its ending sooner. This I mention not to assert when
the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash
conjectures of fancifull men who are frequently predicting the time of
the end, & by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as
often as their predictions fail. Christ comes as a thief in the night,
& it is not for us to know the times & seasons wch God hath put
into his own breast. Comments: This excerpt
demonstrates that Newton was not only reluctant to set dates, but that
he was convinced the end would not come in his lifetime. He took
seriously biblical passages that assert that no-one except God knows the
time of the end. Nevertheless, this excerpt shows that even Newton was
fascinated with the prophetic conundrum of the date for the return of
Christ and the beginning of the Millennium. Finally, although Newton's
statement was meant to demonstrate that the time of the end was several
centuries away from his perspective, history has now caught up with his
predictions, which helps explain the current interest in his apocalyptic

7.3o, folio 8r:

Prop. 1. The 2300 prophetick days did not commence before the rise of the little horn of the He Goat.

2 Those day [sic] did not commence a[f]ter the destruction of Jerusalem & ye Temple by the Romans A.[D.] 70.

3 The time times & half a time did not commence before the year 800 in wch the Popes supremacy commenced

4 They did not commence after the re[ig]ne of Gregory the 7th. 1084

5 The 1290 days did not commence b[e]fore the year 842.

6 They did not commence after the reigne of Pope Greg. 7th. 1084

7 The diffence [sic] between the 1290 & 1335 days are a parts of the seven weeks.

Therefore the 2300 years do not end before ye year 2132 nor after 2370.

The time times & half time do n[o]t end before 2060 nor after [2344]

The 1290 days do not begin [this should read: end] before 2090 [Newton
might mean: 2132] nor after 1374 [sic; Newton probably means 2374]

Comments: These calculations are written on a letter-slip addressed to "Sir Isaac
Newton", and thus dating from after 1705, when Newton was knighted. In fact, the shaky
handwriting suggests a date of composition late in Newton's life. The manuscript fragment
contains a number of interesting features, including the remnants of the red wax seal and a
series of mathematical calculations. Thus, this sheet exhibits both mathematical calculations
and calculations for the end of the world. It is this manuscript fragment that is shown at the
end of the BBC 2 documentary Newton: the dark heretic. When viewing the Yahuda
manuscripts in Jerusalem on 9 December 2002, the day before the Jerusalem footage was shot for
the documentary, I selected this manuscript as one of a series of worthy candidates to film.
My reasons were as follows: not only does this letter slip show a date in Newton's hand that
is relevant to us today, but it is also visually interesting with its red wax seals,
mathematical calculations and prophetic chronology, all of which helps provide an insight into
the range of Newton's thought. Of course, only one thing emerged from this manuscript in the
documentary: the date 2060 A.D.

Did Newton believe the world would end in 2060?

No, not in a literal sense. For Newton, 2060 A.D. would be more like a new beginning. It would be the
end of an old age, and the beginning of a new era—the era Jews refer to the Messianic age and the era
premillenarian Christians term the Millennium or Kingdom of God.

What did Newton believe would happen around the time of 2060?

Newton was convinced that Christ would return around this date and
establish a global Kingdom of peace. "Babylon" (the corrupt Trinitarian
Church) would also fall and the true Gospel would be preached openly.
Before the Second Coming, the Jews would return to Israel according to
the predictions made in biblical prophecy. The Temple would be rebuilt
as well. Slightly before, or around the time of Christ's return, the
great battle of Armageddon would take place when a series of nations
(the "Gog and Magog" confederacy of Ezekiel's prophecy) invade Israel.
Christ and the saints would then intervene to establish a worldwide
1000-year Kingdom of God on earth. Citing the prophet Micah Newton
believed this Kingdom would usher in a time of peace and prosperity, a
time when people would "beat their swords into plowshares, and their
spears into pruninghooks" and when "nations shall not lift up a sword
against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Micah 4:3).
Although the documentary chose not to focus on this message of hope,
Newton did believe that there would be a positive outcome to the war and
destruction that would take place at the end of time. Newton took
seriously the prophetic vision of world peace found in Isaiah 2 and
Micah 4�a vision that sees Jerusalem as the beginning of peace. It is
thus perhaps appropriate that the largest collection of Newton's
prophetic papers now resides in Jerusalem.

Why are his theological and prophetic beliefs important to our understanding of Newton?

Newton was not a "scientist" in the modem sense of that term.
Instead, he was a "natural philosopher". Practised from the Middle Ages
to the eighteenth century, natural philosophy included not only the
study of nature, but also the study of God's hand at work in nature.
Newton was committed to a notion of natural philosophy that saw the
discovery of God and His attributes as its chief end. For this reason,
any serious study of Newton's natural philosophy must include an
understanding of his theological views. For example, Newton's famous
concepts of absolute space and time were fundamentally based on his
notion of God's omnipresence and eternal duration. It is also clear from
his private manuscripts that Newton believed the ideal natural
philosopher would also be a priest of nature. For Newton, there was no
impermeable barrier between religion and what we now call science.
Throughout his long life, Newton laboured to discover God's truth -
whether in Nature or Scripture. Although he recognized disciplinary
distinctions, Newton believed that truth was one. Thus, Newton's study
of Nature and Scripture were in a certain sense two halves of a whole:
the discovery of the mind of God.

More information on Newton's attempts to date "the end of the world"

Further details on Newton's end-time calculations can be found on pages 391-393 of my paper
"Isaac Newton, heretic" (1999) and pages 106-108 of my paper "�The mystery of this restitution
of all things'" (2001). Both these essays are available on this website in pdf format. More elaborate
studies of Newton's eschatology will appear in my paper "'At the sounding of the seventh trumpet': Newton,
the Apocalypse and the end of time" and in my forthcoming book Isaac Newton, heretic.Writings on Newton by Stephen David Snobelen

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use and is allowed for purposes of criticism, news reporting, teaching
and parody.

Added: Jun-15-2013 Occurred On: Jun-15-2013
By: waterlawman
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