The world famous 17th-century scientist Isaac Newton, who discovered gravity and revolutionarized mankind's understanding of physics, may also have been the first Christian Zionist, secret writings have revealed.
A new exhibition
at the Hebrew University's Jewish National and University Library, Newton's Secrets, which display original writings, drawings, and maps dating back 300 years, reveal startling views held by Newton, which stray far from the scientifically pure image traditionally associated with him.
"Tis said that they who sleep in the dust shall rise again some to reward and some to punishment and Daniel himself in person is named for one of those who shall then rise again. At that time is also predicted the end of the King of the North, the fall of the great apostasy, the return of the Jewish captivity and the great tribulation," reads one letter by Newton.
Other diagrams show sketches of the Jerusalem Temple, which Newton believed would be rebuilt following the Jewish return to Israel.
"This is the secret side to Newton's life. The main reason why this story is so great is because no one could have imagined that Newton would be a believer in biblical prophecy. Now, for the first time, the general public is finding out about what Newton scholars have known for a couple decades," Professor Steven Snobelen, a curator of the exhibition, told Ynetnews.
Snobelen, of King's College in Halifax, Canada, is a passionate student of Newton's theological works, and gave a detailed tour of the scientist's writings on display in Jerusalem.
"Newton believed in prophecy. He thought God controls all of reality, time, and history," he said. "He believed in prophecies in the Old Testament that talked about the Jews' return to Israel… thinking the return would happen past the 17-18 th centuries.
Many Christians thought Jews would all convert to Christianity and that Jerusalem would rebuilt spiritually. Newton has more respect for the Jews, and thought they would return physically," Snobelen added.
The numerous documents produced by Newton on display included Hebrew writing complete with vowel markings. "Newton learned some Hebrew. He would be thrilled to know that his work has been translated into Hebrew and on display in Jerusalem," Snobelen said.
Newton thought the rebuilding of Jerusalem would take place in the late 19th century, and that the Temple would be rebuilt in the 20th or 21st century, Snobelen added. "History has kind of caught up with his predictions," Snobelen said, adding: "If Newton discussed how to put satellites in space and a man on the moon, why should he be wrong about this?"
Newton's radical Protestant theology and belief that a Jewish return to Israel was linked with the return of the Christian deity, Jesus, made him one of the first ever Christian Evangelical-style figures in history, Snobelen said.
Newton also believed that Islam was used by God to punish the corrupt Catholic church, which he likened to "a prostitute."
Using a time chart, also on display at the exhibition, visitors can see the process of how Newton reached the conclusion that world would end in 2060, in accordance with apocalyptic writings found in the New Testament. The modern Evangelical movement is also known for the importance it attaches to apocalyptic Christian verses.
"He believed in the coming battle of Armageddon and identified the target of the number 666 from the apocalypse," Snobelen said.
"This is a radically different image of Newton than what people think. Scientists are also human beings, and when you go into your laboratory you don't leave your religious beliefs behind," he said.
"Newton didn't see a barrier between science and religion. Some people want to see a barrier, but for Newton only two things existed everywhere: God and gravity," he added.