Dr. A. Zahoor

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In 1690 Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) wrote a manuscript on the corruption of the text of the New Testament concerning I John 5:7 and Timothy 3:16. It was entitled, "A Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture." Due to the prevailing environment against criticism, he felt it unwise to profess his beliefs openly and felt that printing it in England would be too dangerous. Newton sent a copy of this manuscript to John Locke requesting him to have it translated into French for publication in France. Two years later, Newton was informed of an attempt to publish a Latin translation of it anonymously. However, Newton did not approve of its availability in Latin and persuaded Locke to take steps to prevent this publication.

Below are excerpts from "A Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture".

Newton on I John 5:7

Newton states that this verse appeared for the first time in the third edition of Erasmus's New Testament.

"When they got the Trinity; into his edition they threw by their manuscript, if they had one, as an almanac out of date. And can such shuffling dealings satisfy considering men?....It is rather a danger in religion than an advantage to make it now lean on a broken reed.

"In all the vehement universal and lasting controversy about the Trinity in Jerome's time and both before and long enough after it, this text of the "three in heaven" was never once thought of. It is now in everybody’s mouth and accounted the main text for the business and would assuredly have been so too with them, had it been in their books.

"Let them make good sense of it who are able. For my part, I can make none. If it be said that we are not to determine what is Scripture what not by our private judgments, I confess it in places not controverted, but in disputed places I love to take up with what I can best understand. It is the temper of the hot and superstitious art of mankind in matters of religion ever to be fond of mysteries, and for that reason to like best what they understand least. Such men may use the Apostle John as they please, but I have that honour for him as to believe that he wrote good sense and therefore take that to be his which is the best." [1]

Newton on I Timothy 3:16

"In all the times of the hot and lasting Arian controversy it never came into play....they that read "God manifested in the flesh" think it one of the most obvious and pertinent texts for the business."

"The word Deity imports exercise of dominion over subordinate beings and the word God most frequently signifies Lord. Every lord is not God. The exercise of dominion in a spiritual being constitutes a God. If that dominion be real that being is the real God; if it be fictitious, a false God; if it be supreme, a supreme God." [1]

Newton also wrote a discussion on two other texts that Athanasius had attempted to corrupt. This work has not been preserved. He believed that not all the books of the Scriptures have the same authority.

Issac Newton was born in Lincolnshire in 1642 and educated at Cambridge. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1672, and was a member of the Gentleman's Club of Spalding. Newton became Warden of the Royal Mint in 1696, where he was instrumental in fixing the gold standard. Newton was elected President of the Royal Society in 1703. Sir Isaac Newton held unitarian views and was a follower of Arius.

1. A. Wallace, "Anti-Trinitarian Biographies," Vol. III, pp. 428-439, 1850.

Other Related References
2. Alton, "Religious Opinions of Milton, Locke, and Newton," 1833.
3. Green, "Sir Isaac Newton's Views," 1871.
4. Newton, "Sir Isaac Newton Daniel," 1922.
5. MacLachlan, "The Religious Opinions of Milton, Locke, and Newton," 1941.
6. Channing, W.E., "The Character and Writing of Milton," 1826.
7. M. `Ata ur-Rahim, "Jesus: A Prophet of Islam," 1983.

Some other famous Unitarians in Christianity are: Milton (1608-1674), John Locke (1632-1704), John Biddle (1615-1662), Michael Servetus (1511-1553), Francis David (1510-1579), Lelio Francesco Maria Sozini (1525-1562), Fausto Paolo Sozini (Socianus, 1539-1604), Thomas Emlyn (1663-1741), Theophilus Lindsey (1723-1808), Joseph Priestly (1733-1804), and William Ellery Channing (1780-1842). Among the most famous early Unitarians in Christianity are: Arius (250-336 A.D.), Iranaeus (130-200), Tertullian (160-220), Origen (185-254), Diodorus, and Lucian (d. 312). Their biographies are contained in References 1 and 7.

Below is a brief account of a famous physician and a scientist, before and after Newton, who had strong religious opinion on the Trinity.

Michael Servetus (1511-1553), born in Spain, received a degree in Medicine from Toulouse in 1534. He was one of the first European to write about the principle of the circulation of the blood [see earlier work by Ibn Al-Nafis (1213-1288)]. Servetus wrote three important works: 'The Errors of Trinity' (1531), 'Two Dialogues on Trinity' (1531), and 'The Restoration of Christianity'. Luther publicly condemned him in 1539. Servetus followed the views held by the early apostles who belonged to the Antiochene school of Christianity, and he supervised the printing of a Bible in 1540. Servetus corresponded with Calvin for more than twenty years. As a result of bitter conflict, Calvin had him arrested in Milan, and after a quick trial Servetus was burned to the stakes. Servetus is regarded by many as the "founder of modern Unitarianism." [7]

Theophilus Lindsey is known as the organiser of the first Unitarian congregation in England. On April 17, 1774, Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Priestly attended the first Unitarian service conducted by Lindsey in London. Jospeh Priestly is known as the discoverer of Oxygen. Priestly's main contribution to the unitarians in England was comprehensive argument, both historical and philosophical, in support of the unity of God. Joseph Priestly produced his most important and influential work, 'History of the Corruptions of Christianity' in two volumes. Priestly affirmed the humanity of Jesus, but denied the immaculate conception. He also denied the validity of the doctrine of Trinity. Priestly's house was burned by a mob and so was a hotel where the mob mistakenly thought Priestly was present. His book was publicly burned in Holland. Joseph Priestly sailed for America with Benjamin Franklin in 1794, where they opened some of the first Unitarian churches in and around Philadelphia [7].

For another perspective on Sir Isaac Newton's activities, visit an external link Isaac Newton.

Links from Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200 (Real Audio Format):

RA 200.K27 Later Unitarians I - Servetus
RA 200.K28 Later Unitarians II - Francis David
RA 200.K29 Later Unitarians III - Sozini and Socianus
RA 200.K30 Later Unitarians IV - John Briddle
RA 200.K31 Later Unitarians V - Emlyn and Lindsey
RA 200.K32 Later Unitarians VI - Joseph Priestly
RA 200.K33 Later Unitarians VII: William Channing

RA 200.K22 Deification of Jesus: Its Evolution IV - Early Unitarians
RA 200.K23 Deification of Jesus: Its Evolution V - Early Unitarians (cont)
RA 200.K24 Deification of Jesus: Its Evolution VI - The Council of Nicaea (325)
RA 200.K25 Deification of Jesus: Its Evolution VII - Other Major Councils
RA 200.K26 Deification of Jesus: Its Evolution VIII - Later Councils

Full Series K: Jesus: Beloved Messenger of Allah


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Footnotes Last Updated: February 2, 2000.

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