1. Account suspended
    Joined
    26 Aug '07
    Moves
    38239
    12 Oct '09 20:423 edits
    Isaac Newton’s Search for God

    POPULAR tradition has it that the fall of an apple started Sir Isaac Newton on the way to discovering the universal law of gravitation. Whatever may be the truth of this tradition, there is no question about Newton’s remarkable powers of reason. Concerning his renowned scientific work the Principia, we are told: “The whole development of modern science begins with this great book. For more than 200 years it reigned supreme.”1

    Celebrated as were Newton’s scientific discoveries, he himself humbly acknowledged his human limitations. He was modest. Shortly before his death in 1727 he said of himself: “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”2

    Newton appreciated that God is the Source of all truth, and in line with the deep reverence he had for his Creator, he appears to have spent even more time searching after the true God than he did in searching out scientific truths. An analysis of all that Newton wrote reveals that out of some 3,600,000 words only 1,000,000 were devoted to the sciences, whereas some 1,400,000 were on religious topics.3

    NEWTON WRESTLES WITH THE TRINITY DOCTRINE
    In his writings, Newton gave much attention to the doctrine of the Trinity. One of his most outstanding contributions to the Biblical scholarship of the time was his work An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture, first published in 1754, twenty-seven years after his death. It reviewed all the textual evidence available from ancient sources on two Bible passages, at First John 5:7 and First Timothy 3:16.

    In the King James Version Bible, First John 5:7 reads:
    “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”

    Using early Church writers, the Greek and Latin manuscripts and the testimony of the first versions of the Bible, Newton proved that the words “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one,” in support of the Trinity doctrine, did not appear in the original inspired Greek Scriptures. He then traced the way in which the spurious reading crept into the Latin versions, first as a marginal note, and later into the text itself. He showed that it was first taken into a Greek text in 1515 by Cardinal Ximenes on the strength of a late Greek manuscript corrected from the Latin. Finally, Newton considered the sense and context of the verse, concluding, “Thus is the sense plain and natural, and the argument full and strong; but if you insert the testimony of ‘the Three in Heaven’ you interrupt and spoil it.”4

    The shorter portion of this dissertation was concerned with 1 Timothy 3:16, which reads (King James Version):
    “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
    Newton showed how, by a small alteration in the Greek text, the word “God” was inserted to make the phrase read “God was manifest in the flesh.” He demonstrated that early Church writers in referring to the verse knew nothing of such an alteration.

    Summing up both passages, Newton said: “If the ancient churches in debating and deciding the greatest mysteries of religion, knew nothing of these two texts, I understand not, why we should be so fond of them now the debates are over.”5 In the two hundred years and more since that treatise was compiled by Isaac Newton, only a few minor corrections have been necessary to the evidence he adduced. Yet it was only in the nineteenth century that Bible translations appeared correcting these passages. Part of Newton’s original manuscript in his own handwriting is illustrated on the next page by courtesy of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, England.

    Why did Newton not publish these findings during his lifetime? A glance at the background of the times may explain this. Those who wrote against the doctrine of the Trinity were still subject to persecution in England. As late as 1698 the Act for the Suppression of Blasphemy and Profaneness made it an offense to deny one of the persons of the Trinity to be God, punishable with loss of office, employment and profit on the first occasion, and imprisonment for a repetition. Newton’s friend William Whiston (translator of the works of Josephus) lost his professorship at Cambridge for this reason in 1711. In 1693 a pamphlet attacking the Trinity was burned by order of the House of Lords, and the next year its printer and author were prosecuted. In 1697 Thomas Aikenhead, an eighteen-year-old student charged with denying the Trinity, was hanged at Edinburgh, Scotland.6, 7, 8

    WHY NEWTON REJECTED THE TRINITY
    Through his scientific studies Newton came to have a high regard for the ‘Book of Nature’ and saw in it the evidence of design by God, the great Author. He also believed that the Bible was the revelation of God, and that it was always in harmony with the testimony of creation.9
    The Bible was Newton’s touchstone for testing teachings and doctrine. In discussing the creeds of the Church, Newton made this position very clear. On the basis of the eighth of the Thirty-nine Articles dealing with the Nicene, Athanasius and Apostles Creeds, he said of the Church of England:
    “She doth not require us to receive them by authority of General Councils, and much less by authority of Convocations, but only because they are taken out of the Scriptures. And therefore are we authorised by the Church to compare them with the Scriptures, and see how and in what sense they can be deduced from thence? And when we cannot see the Deduction we are not to rely upon the Authority of the Councils and Synods.”

    His conclusion was even more emphatic:

    “Even General Councils have erred and may err in matters of faith, and what they decree as necessary to salvation is of no strength or authority unless they can be shown to be taken from the holy Scripture.”10

    Newton’s principal reason for rejecting the Trinity was that when he sought to verify the statements of the creeds and the councils he found no support in Scripture for the doctrine.

    In weighing this evidence, Newton firmly held that reasoning should be used. He argued that nothing created by God was without purpose and reason, and Bible teachings would be sustained by similar application of logic and reason.

    Speaking of the apostle John’s writings, Newton said: “I have that honour for him as to believe that he wrote good sense; and therefore take that sense to be his which is the best.”11 So, as a second reason for rejecting the Trinity teaching, Newton declared: “Homoousion [the doctrine that the Son is of the same substance as the Father] is unintelligible. ’Twas not understood in the Council of Nice, nor ever since. What cannot be understood is no object of belief.”12

    Dealing with this same aspect of the Trinity is a Newton manuscript entitled “Queries Regarding the Word Homoousios.” It reveals a third reason for his denial of the Trinity. This teaching was not part of early Christianity.

    Queries twelve to fourteen all highlight the doctrine’s lack of original first-century character:

    “Query 12. Whether the opinion of the equality of the three substances was not first set on foot in the reign of Julian the Apostate [361-363 C.E.], by Athanasius, Hilary, etc.?

    Query 13. Whether the worship of the Holy Ghost was not first set on foot presently after the Council of Sardica? [343 C.E.]

    Query 14. Whether the Council of Sardica was not the first Council which declared for the doctrine of the Consubstantial Trinity?”13
  2. Account suspended
    Joined
    26 Aug '07
    Moves
    38239
    12 Oct '09 20:433 edits
    In another manuscript, now preserved in Jerusalem, Newton summed up the only answer to such questions. “We are commanded by the Apostle (2 Timothy 1:13) to hold fast the form of sound words. Contending for a language which was not handed down from the Prophets and Apostles is a breach of the command and they that break it are also guilty of the disturbances and schisms occasioned thereby. It is not enough to say that an article of faith may be deduced from scripture. It must be exprest in the very form of sound words in which it was delivered by the Apostles.” 14

    So on the basis of Scripture, reason and the authentic teaching of early Christianity, Newton found that he could not accept the doctrine of the Trinity. He believed strongly in the supreme sovereignty of Jehovah God, and the proper position of Jesus Christ, neither derogating him as the Son of God nor elevating him to the position occupied by his Father.15 In discussing with John Locke the passage of Daniel 7:9, he wrote, “Whence are you certain that ye Ancient of Days is Christ? Does Christ anywhere sit upon ye Throne?”16

    His own conclusion here is obvious, and the clarity of his thought regarding the relationship of the Father with the Son is always evident in Newton’s writings. So elsewhere he makes the point that prayer can be made to “God in the name of the Lamb, but not to the Lamb in the name of God.”17

    Perhaps the best summary of Isaac Newton’s Scriptural arguments for his repudiation of the Trinity is found in fourteen ‘Argumenta,’ written in Latin, giving Bible citations for many of them. Numbers four to seven are particularly interesting:

    “4. Because God begot the Son at some time, he had not existence from eternity. Proverbs 8:23, 25.
    5. Because the Father is greater than the Son. John 14:28.
    6. Because the Son did not know his last hour. Mark 13:32, Matt. 24:36, Rev. 1:1, 5:3.
    7. Because the Son received all things from the Father.”18

    A perusal of Newton’s religious writings cannot fail to impress the reader with their thoroughness, and a realization of his long and deep meditation, his scholarly ability and grasp of the original Bible languages. His conclusions regarding the Trinity therefore merit our respect and consideration, even though he did not feel constrained to make them public during his lifetime.

    Today, when much more evidence is available than Newton had access to, we too should make investigation of our beliefs as he did, always seeking to reason first on the evidence of God’s Word. This will build in us a strong faith fully in harmony with the teaching of original Christianity.




    References
    1. The Encyclopædia Britannica, 1971 ed., Vol. 16, p. 420.
    2. The World Book Encyclopedia, 1973 ed., Vol. 14, p. 308.
    3. The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, edited by H. W. Turnbull, F.R.S., Cambridge 1961, Vol. 1, p. XVII.
    4. An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture, by Sir Isaac Newton, Edition of 1830, London, p. 60.
    5. Ibid., p. 95.
    6. Our Unitarian Heritage, by Earl M. Wilbur, Boston 1925, pp. 289-294.
  3. Standard membermenace71
    Can't win a game of
    38N Lat X 121W Lon
    Joined
    03 Apr '03
    Moves
    140180
    12 Oct '09 21:10
    Very interesting to say the least. I'm not sure I have the intellectual ability to understand the original languages but I do respect what Newton had to say on this subject. I do want to look at and research this more. I don't want to offend God in throwing away the trinity but I also really do want to know truth. Curious that the laws of England could put a man to death for not believing in the trinity.




    Manny
  4. SubscriberBaard
    gene vessel
    outside a box
    Joined
    12 Nov '06
    Moves
    47911
    12 Oct '09 21:10
    The above explains why Isac Newton did most of his scientific work before the age of 26.

    Baard
  5. Account suspended
    Joined
    26 Aug '07
    Moves
    38239
    12 Oct '09 21:561 edit
    Originally posted by menace71
    Very interesting to say the least. I'm not sure I have the intellectual ability to understand the original languages but I do respect what Newton had to say on this subject. I do want to look at and research this more. I don't want to offend God in throwing away the trinity but I also really do want to know truth. Curious that the laws of England could put a man to death for not believing in the trinity.




    Manny
    intellectual intesmectual! Manny, a word is a word, sure you can grasp the ideas, all one needs is a interlinear translation, its not rocket science or playing the Najdorf Sicilian!
  6. Standard memberBosse de Nage
    Zellulärer Automat
    Spiel des Lebens
    Joined
    27 Jan '05
    Moves
    83887
    13 Oct '09 07:151 edit
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    intellectual intesmectual! Manny, a word is a word, sure you can grasp the ideas, all one needs is a interlinear translation, its not rocket science or playing the Najdorf Sicilian!
    What if one language has a concept not contained in the other?

    What's the English for 'shekinah'?

    I've read about Newton's revelatory research myself. He more or less arrived at the Arian position. What conclusion do you draw from this?
  7. Account suspended
    Joined
    26 Aug '07
    Moves
    38239
    13 Oct '09 08:551 edit
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    What if one language has a concept not contained in the other?

    What's the English for 'shekinah'?

    I've read about Newton's revelatory research myself. He more or less arrived at the Arian position. What conclusion do you draw from this?
    mmm, it seems to me, that the concept itself, in this case the shekina, can be readily explained through its function i.e. it was a reminder of Gods presence.

    However it appears that in some instances translators have used conjecture and thus when we read the translated text we come upon inaccuracy. For example take the case of the Urim and the Thummim, which are translated from Hebrew 'ha'urim we'eth hattummim'. These were apparently some objects that were employed in the case of decision making rather like throwing lots, however translators have sought to translate them through conjecture, thus we get renderings like,

    the explanation (manifestation) and the truth - Septuagint
    the light and the perfection - Syriac
    the doctrine and the truth. - Vulagate

    Thus its only when we consider the function, in the case of the Urim and the Thummim which were used in delivering sacred pronouncements, that we reach a true understanding, therefore it seems that the original term is best left preserved and its meaning derived as described.

    It appears that Newton was a man of originality and independence of thought, indicative of true genius, although i do think that there is evidence that he absorbed ideas from his predecessors, especially in the case of Robert Hooke. We in our time have somehow thought of science and religion as being enemies, irreconcilable, however, i would offer some conjecture of my own, in that Newtons science, was a confirmation of his religious beliefs.
  8. Standard memberBosse de Nage
    Zellulärer Automat
    Spiel des Lebens
    Joined
    27 Jan '05
    Moves
    83887
    13 Oct '09 09:13
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    mmm, it seems to me, that the concept itself, in this case the shekina, can be readily explained through its function i.e. it was a reminder of Gods presence.
    [...]
    It appears that Newton was a man of originality and independence of thought, indicative of true genius, although i do think that there is evidence that he absorbed ideas from his pred ...[text shortened]... some conjecture of my own, in that Newtons science, was a confirmation of his religious beliefs.
    Far more than that, surely.

    I don't want to discuss the shekinah here (though a blackbeetle thread on the subject would be interesting) -- just wanted to point out that interlinear translations are very handy only serve as a starting point.

    As for Newton, he sought to know the mind of God, first as written in the book of nature (he cracked that one), then as written in the Word of God -- he was convinced that Revelation contained some sort of operating formula that he could discover.

    I doubt Newton would have distinguished between science and religion -- they were called natural philosophy and theology in his day, an important semantic difference; any interpretation of his work must be cognisant of this fact.
  9. Account suspended
    Joined
    26 Aug '07
    Moves
    38239
    13 Oct '09 09:39
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    Far more than that, surely.

    I don't want to discuss the shekinah here (though a blackbeetle thread on the subject would be interesting) -- just wanted to point out that interlinear translations are very handy only serve as a starting point.

    As for Newton, he sought to know the mind of God, first as written in the book of nature (he cracked that ...[text shortened]... n important semantic difference; any interpretation of his work must be cognisant of this fact.
    yes its incredibly interesting, he really sought to search for and find as you say Bosse, 'the mind of God.' i have myself not read what he made of the book of revelation, although its understandable to see, why its interpretation may appeal to an inquisitive mind.

    If the beetle can draw himself away from his sorrow (last time we spoke he was lamenting the loss of a piece, in terms that can only be described as a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, he appeared as lady Macbeth, haunted by the spectre of his last move), then his clarity of thought would be most enlightening, to be sure.
  10. Standard memberBosse de Nage
    Zellulärer Automat
    Spiel des Lebens
    Joined
    27 Jan '05
    Moves
    83887
    13 Oct '09 09:54
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    yes its incredibly interesting, he really sought to search for and find as you say Bosse, 'the mind of God.' i have myself not read what he made of the book of revelation, although its understandable to see, why its interpretation may appeal to an inquisitive mind.

    If the beetle can draw himself away from his sorrow (last time we spoke he was l ...[text shortened]... spectre of his last move), then his clarity of thought would be most enlightening, to be sure.
    The beetle and his sorrow, that is something I would like to paint.
  11. Standard memberblack beetle
    Black Beastie
    Scheveningen
    Joined
    12 Jun '08
    Moves
    14510
    13 Oct '09 10:01
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    yes its incredibly interesting, he really sought to search for and find as you say Bosse, 'the mind of God.' i have myself not read what he made of the book of revelation, although its understandable to see, why its interpretation may appeal to an inquisitive mind.

    If the beetle can draw himself away from his sorrow (last time we spoke he was l ...[text shortened]... spectre of his last move), then his clarity of thought would be most enlightening, to be sure.
    Hi Bosse!

    Hey Rabbie, ye lang leggedy beastie, a loss of a piece is merely a loss of a piece -when he felt the death near to him, Archilochus just got rid of his shield and run like the wind away from the danger singing happily:
    -- “A barbarian waves now my shield since I was obliged to leave that perfectly good piece of equipment behind under a bush. But I got away, so what does it matter?
    Life seemed somehow more precious. Let the shield go; I can buy another one equally good.”
    So my trusty feer next time I ‘ll enjoy the Immortal Game I ‘ll be more careful😀

    Well Shekinah is simply Malkut, the 10th sephira; however for the orthodox Jews is “the cloud of glory which rested on the Mercy throne in the Holy of Holies”. Thus for the Western yogi Shekinah is the veil of Ein Sof, and for the Eastern Mulaprakriti -the Parabrahmic root, the abstract deific feminine principle with undifferentiated substance. This is the reason why Mulaprakriti/ Akasa is “the root of Nature” (Prakriti) or Matter.
    So for the yogis Shekinah is just a symbol for Malkut/ Matter; the variations are based there
    😵
  12. Standard memberblack beetle
    Black Beastie
    Scheveningen
    Joined
    12 Jun '08
    Moves
    14510
    13 Oct '09 10:02
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    The beetle and his sorrow, that is something I would like to paint.
    Paint it black😵
  13. Hmmm . . .
    Joined
    19 Jan '04
    Moves
    22131
    14 Oct '09 03:06
    Originally posted by black beetle
    Hi Bosse!

    Hey Rabbie, ye lang leggedy beastie, a loss of a piece is merely a loss of a piece -when he felt the death near to him, Archilochus just got rid of his shield and run like the wind away from the danger singing happily:
    -- “A barbarian waves now my shield since I was obliged to leave that perfectly good piece of equipment behind under a bus ...[text shortened]... o for the yogis Shekinah is just a symbol for Malkut/ Matter; the variations are based there
    😵
    Well, shekinah is also the indwelling presence of YHVH—by which I do not mean (as you know, dear beetle) the god of supernatural dualism. 🙂

    The point (and I think Bosse’s point) is that such terms from a polysemous language such as Biblical Hebrew cannot be simply and accurately translated into another language without leaving some of their meanings behind. This is why traditional rabbinical hermeneutics is geared against what rabbi and scholar Marc-Alain Ouaknin called the “idolatry of the one ‘right’ meaning”.

    This applies to QBLH as well. My own approach would be gestaltic. Ein Sof refers, not to the whole, but to the implicate expressive ground. The sephirot represent the dynamics via which the world of assiyah (manifestations) is ultimately coherently expressed.

    That malkhut is also called shekinah is another way of saying that the fundamental coherence of the implicate expressive ground, and the dynamics by which that coherence is expressed (here, the sephirot), are represented in the coherent nature of the manifestations (figures/forms), and their inter-relationships. The same principle is expressed in the Shiva-Shakti-Spanda language of Kashmiri Shaivism (which, despite its theistic symbolism, is every bit as non-dualistic as Advaita Vedanta, Taoism—or QBLH).

    The whole (the all-in-all-without-another, the totality that has no edge: because it is the totality) includes both the implicate ground and the figures/forms/manifestations. The idea that the implicate ground is also expressive is what makes the whole view metaphysical, and not just epistemological. (And that may be my own metaphysical “leap”.) It also stands against both (1) a strict “monism” in which the manifestations are simply delusions, and (2) a kind of additive “pantheism” in which the whole is just the non-expressive sum of all the parts. (At least that is how those terms are sometimes used, which is why I prefer the term “non-dualism”.)

    To say that the implicate ground is expressive is not to say that it is consciously so (that would be an additional metaphysical leap). The main conclusion to be drawn from the coherence of the manifestations is just that the implicate expressive ground (the Tao—and, frankly, I now prefer the Taoist way of approaching it) is coherent.
  14. Standard memberblack beetle
    Black Beastie
    Scheveningen
    Joined
    12 Jun '08
    Moves
    14510
    14 Oct '09 03:34
    Originally posted by vistesd
    Well, shekinah is also the indwelling presence of YHVH—by which I do not mean (as you know, dear beetle) the god of supernatural dualism. 🙂

    The point (and I think Bosse’s point) is that such terms from a polysemous language such as Biblical Hebrew cannot be simply and accurately translated into another language without leaving some of their meani ...[text shortened]... essive ground (the Tao—and, frankly, I now prefer the Taoist way of approaching it) is coherent.
    A variation accurate to the hilt; I am very glad to hear of yours and to see that you are well my dear vistesd. And enjoying your comments is like coming home.

    Be well😵
  15. Hmmm . . .
    Joined
    19 Jan '04
    Moves
    22131
    14 Oct '09 03:58
    Originally posted by black beetle
    A variation accurate to the hilt; I am very glad to hear of yours and to see that you are well my dear vistesd. And enjoying your comments is like coming home.

    Be well😵
    Thank you, old friend. I hope that you and your beloved Maria are both well.
Back to Top