Isaac Newton’s Thoughts on the Jerusalem Temple

July 22 2019

In addition to his famed contributions to physics, mathematics, and astronomy, Isaac Newton pursued investigations into alchemy, astrology, theology, and scriptural exegesis. He invested particular significance in the biblical Temple, even studying a Latin translation of the section in Moses Maimonides’ legal code dealing with Temple regulations. Describing Newton’s manuscript “Notes on the Temple,” Sharon Cohen writes:

The manuscript was written between 1675 and 1685, and includes text in Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Throughout the manuscript we can clearly see several instances in which Newton uses Hebrew script. For example, he analyzes the use of the Hebrew root r-ts-f and its modifications ritspah and ritspat, which can mean “sequence,” “floor,” or “flooring.” The Aramaic phrase ta azi and ta sh’ma also appear in Hebrew script. These talmudic expressions mean “come and see” and “come and hear,” respectively. All of the Hebrew script appears alongside Latin translations and explanations.

In the left column, near the top of the page, we can see a Hebrew biblical verse, complete with vowel notations, [which translates as] “Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.” According to a midrash, when Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, he heard the angels speaking this verse to God.

Also in the left column of the page, we see commentaries from a Spanish Jesuit on the descriptions of the Temple that appear in the Book of Ezekiel. To Newton, the Temple was significant for three main reasons. First, Newton . . . believed that the Temple in Jerusalem, and the courtyard surrounding it, was a model of the heliocentric solar system, with the raised altar (located in the center) representing the sun. Second, Newton’s interest in the architecture of the temple was fueled by his belief that the Temple would serve as the “site of revelation” for the apocalypse. In addition, he believed that the Temple would be rebuilt in Jerusalem, with even greater magnificence than the original, at the onset of the Millennial Kingdom—that is, Christ’s reign on earth.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Christian Hebraists, Moses Maimonides, Science, Temple

Understanding the Background of the White House Ruling on Anti-Semitism and the Civil Rights Act

Dec. 13 2019

On Wednesday, the president signed an executive order allowing federal officials to extend the protections of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to Jews. (The order, promptly condemned for classifying Jews as a separate nationality, did nothing of the sort.) In 2010, Kenneth Marcus called for precisely such a ruling in the pages of Commentary, citing in particular the Department of Education’s lax response to a series of incidents at the University of California at Irvine, where, among much elase, Jewish property was vandalized and Jewish students were pelted with rocks, called “dirty Jew” and other epithets, and were told, “Jewish students are the plague of mankind.”

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, U.S. Politics