Isaac Newton’s Thoughts on the Jerusalem Temple

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.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

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

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood