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 ḥazi 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.