Maimonides, Stonehenge, and Newton’s Obsessions

Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton

by Rob Iliffe

Oxford University Press, 536 pp., $34.95

Philosophers and theologians during the age of the scientific revolution commonly believed that God reveals himself through both the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature. Both books are coy with their secrets, but they can be coaxed out by the truly wise. These secrets can never really conflict because they were written by the same author. What many take as the conflict between religion and science during that age is a later invention of the Enlightenment. In the 16th and 17th centuries the issue was more about who had the authority to reconcile scripture with nature. 

Although Sir Isaac Newton, the greatest scientist of the age, spent as much time and intellectual energy on scripture as he did on nature, he kept this work a closely guarded secret. Indeed, Rob Iliffe begins his comprehensive new book on Newton’s religious thought, Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton, with an exchange of letters between Newton and Robert Hooke, the secretary of the Royal Society. Hooke asked Newton about his views on recent scientific work, and Newton replied that he had become disillusioned with such work and was concentrating on his “other studies.” 

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About the Author

Matt Goldish holds the Samuel M. and Esther Melton Chair in Jewish History at the Ohio State University. He is the author of Judaism in the Theology of Sir Isaac Newton (Kluwer) and several other works.


gershonhepner on June 22, 2018 at 1:46 pm

The fact Sir Isaac Newton was an anti-Trinitarian
led him to read the writings of the famous son on Maimon,
and not regard the lamb of God as Mary's airy-fairy 'un,
a triple crown of God, the Holy Spirit and a triman.

This opinion he from all his colleagues carefully concealed.
Unlike the law of gravity it would by them have been repeated.
While he was influenced , as Maynard Keynes observed, by Maimon's son,
he thought like Jews, taught by the first verse of the Shema, that God is one.

Harder to see than Schrödinger's cat or Eliot 's Macavity,
He's less explicable that is the law of gravity,

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