Introduction to Isaac Newton's book

By Sir Isaac Newton
London 1733

Reprinted by:
The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine
2251 Dick George Road
Cave Junction, Oregon 97523
(c) September, 1991

by Arthur B. Robinson

Isaac Newton was the greatest scientist who has ever lived. It is, in fact, generally accepted that he is probably the greatest scientist who ever will live, since no one, no matter how brilliant, will again be in such a unique historical position.

Isaac Newton was born on Christmas day in 1642 and died in 1727. His most famous work, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, was published in 1687.

His discoveries span all aspects of the physical world with special emphasis on experimental and theoretical physics and chemistry and on applied mathematics. He invented virtually the entire science of mechanics and most of the science of optics. During this work, he invented such mathematics as he needed or as interested him including the discipline known as calculus.

Isaac Newton was both an experimental and theoretical scientist. He personally constucted the models and machinery with which he carried out extensive experiments in chemistry and physics. For example, when he invented the reflecting telescope, he first built a brick oven. In that oven he carried out metallurgical experiments to formulate the composition of the mirror. He then made the mirror with which he constructed the telescope.

Of unequaled mental ability during his entire adult life until his death at age 85, Newton's powers are legendary. It is often told, for example, how later in his life a problem in mathematical physics posed by the great mathematician Bernoulli, was forwarded to Newton from the Royal Society. The problem, to determine the curve of minimum time for a heavy particle to move downward between two given points, had baffled the famous 18th Century mathematicians of Europe for over six months. Receiving the problem in the afternoon, Newton solved it before going to bed.

Although the solution was sent to Bernoulli anonymously, he is said to have exclaimed upon reading it, "tanquam ex ungue leonem - as the lion is known by its claw" in reference to his recognizing Newton's method.

In addition to his scientific work (Newton would have said as a part of his scientific work.), he devoted a substantial portion of his enormous energy to the study of the Bible and Biblical texts and history. He read the Bible daily throughout his life and wrote over a million words of notes regarding his study of it.

Isaac Newton believed that the Bible is literally true in every respect. Throughout his life, he continually tested Biblical truth against the physical truths of experimental and theoretical science. He never observed a contradiction. In fact, he viewed his own scientific work as a method by which to reinforce belief in Biblical truth.

He was a formidable Biblical scholar, was fluent in the ancient languages, and had extensive knowledge of ancient history. He believed that each person should read the Bible and, through that reading, establish for himself an understanding of the universal truths it contains.

Newton's strong belief in individual freedom to learn about God without restraints from any other individual or church or government, once almost cost him to give up his position as Lucasian Professor at Cambridge. The matter was resolved when King Charles II made the exceptional ruling that Isaac Newton would not be required to become a member of the Church of England.

Regarding both science and Christianity, Isaac Newton spent his life in intense scholarship, but he left the publication of his work to Providence. Much that he wrote has still never been published.

His (and the world's) greatest scientific work, the Principia, was ly after his friend, Edmund Halley, accidentally learned of the existence of Part I which Isaac Newton had written 10 years earlier and put in a drawer. Halley convinced him to finish PartsII and III and allow Halley to publish the work.

Only one book of Newton's about the Bible was ever published. In 1733, six years after his death, J. Darby and T. Browne, published Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John.

In 1988, having learned of this book in the rare books card catalogue of the Library of Congress, I asked to read it. I was astonished when, a few minutes later, I was handed Thomas Jefferson's personal copy. (The book is in excellent condition and has Thomas Jefferson's initials on pages 57 and 137. Two hundred and fifty years ago it was common practice for printers to label the page signatures with capital letters at the bottom of the actual text. Jefferson would turn to the "J" signature and add a "T" before the "J" and then turn to the "T" signature and add a "J" after the "T." In this way he identified his personal books.)

With his prodigious knowledge of ancient history and languages and his unequaled mental powers, Isaac Newton is the best qualified individual in this millenium to have written about the prophecies. His study of the book of Daniel began at the age of twelve and continued to be a special interest throughout his life. Moreover, hewrites of the prophecies with a modesty that indicates that he, himself, is in awe of the words he has been given an opportunity to read.

Isaac Newton concluded that it is intended that Revelation will be understood by very few until near the end of history, the time of judgment, and the beginning of the everlasting kingdom of the Saints of the Most High.

Isaac Newton states his belief that these books of prophecy were provided so that, as they are historically fulfilled, they provide a continuing testimony to the fact that the world is governed by the Providence of God. He objected to the use of the prophecies in attempts to predict the future.

On page 251, for example, he writes:

"The folly of Interpreters has been, to fortel times and things by this Prophecy, as if God designed to make them Prophets. By this rashness they have not only exposed themselves, but brought the Prophecy also into contempt."

Through these 323 pages, he traces human historysince the writing of the prophecies. He shows that, according to his scholarship and at his time in the early 18th Century, part of the prophecies had been fulfilled and part remained to be fulfilled. In accordance with his evaluation, this is still true in 1991.

Decorated (as are his scientific works) with interesting asides such as derivations of the exact dates of Christmas and Easter and of the number of years during which Jesus taught, and permeated with a depth of scholarship that no longer exists amongmodern scholars, this book by Isaac Newton may be the most important work of its kind ever written.

The central message of this book for modern readers may not be so much in what it says but in what it is. During his entire life, Isaac Newton continually compared his experimental and theoretical understanding of science with his reading of the Bible. He found the content of these two sources of truth to be so completely compatible that he regarded every word in the Bible to be as correct as the equations of mathematics and physics.

Therefore, throughout this book, Isaac Newton takes each word of the Prophecies to be exactly correct. He never doubts the content. He only seeks to understand it.

He never strays from his determination not to present predictions of the future based upon the Biblical Prophecies. On pages 113 and 114, he does give an identification of the last horn of the Beast and a numerical evaluation of his reign. He also gives the approximate time of the beginning of this reign, but does not add the numbers or make a prediction.

Addition of these numbers, however, places the time of judgment and the beginning of the everlasting reign of the Saints of the Most High approximately in the time period between the years 2000 and 2050.

Are there errors in Isaac Newton's evaluation of the Prophecies? He would reply that he would not have written this evaluation unless he beieved it to be without error, but that it is the obligation of Christians to study the Bible and to reach their own conclusions.

In recent years it has become fashionable to say that Newton's laws of motion contained an error (the error of assumption that mass is a constant), and that this was corrected by Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity. As Petr Beckmann has pointed out in his book, A History of Pi, this error never existed.

In the Principia Newton writes,

"Lex I. Corpus omne perseverare in statu suo quiescendi vel movendi uniformiter in directum, nisi quatenus illud a viribus impressis cogitur statum suum mutare."

"Lex II. Mutationem motus proportionalem esse vi motrici impressae, & fieri secundum lineam rectam qua vis illa imprimatur."

"Lex III. Actioni contrariam semper & aequalem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse aequales & in partes contrarias dirigi."

These are the famous three laws of motion. In translation, the second law reads "The change of momentum is proportional to the motive force impressed; and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impressed." Newton defines momentum as follows: "The quantity of momentum is the measure of the same, arising from the velocity and quantity of matter conjointly."

Or, in the symbolic terms of Newton's calculus, F = d(mv)/dt Newton did not know whether or not mass was constant, and he was too careful a scientist to assume so by placing it outside the differential. During the next 200 years, physicists assumed, for convenience, that mass was constant and began to write F=ma or F=m dv/dt. It is this later day shortcut which proved to be incorrect, not Isaac Newton's original law.

Isaac Newton said of himself near the end of his life, "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, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

To Dr. Bentley, he had written, "When I had written my Treatise about our system, I had an Eye upon such Principles as might work with considering Men, for the Belief of a Deity, and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose."

Isaac Newton's pebbles and shells formed the basis forthe scientific revolution and the industrial revolution which created our current civilization. This demonstration of the incredible power of his discoveries is, however, itself minor in comparison with their role in 17th and 18th century miracles that serve as a continuing testimony of the literal truth of the Bible and of the remarkable creations of the Lord.

In my own scientific work, I also have continually compared the Bible with the findings of modern experimental science. Like Isaac Newton, I do not know of any verified scientific facts that are inconsistent with the literal truth of every aspect of the Bible.

I am grateful to have had an opportunity to read Isaac Newton's book about the Prophecies and am publishing this reprint so that others may have this experience.

Thanks are due to the Manley Foundation and Dr. Richard Pooley who helped finance this reprint; to Bruce Tippery who gave essential help with its production; and also to Andy Hopkins whose similar and independent desire to reprint this book is hereby fulfilled.

This reprint has been made as an exact photographic duplicate of Thomas Jefferson's personal copy. This reprint is dedicated to my wife, Laurelee, whose death in November 1988 delayed it for these past two years, but whose life caused me to undertake it.

As Isaac Newton wrote in the second edition of the Principia:

"The true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being. His duration reaches from eternity to eternity; His presence from infinity to infinity. He governs all things."

Arthur B. Robinson
Cave Junction
July, 1991

By Permission