Date of Award

2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

College

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Religion, Church History PhD

First Advisor

Jerry Moon

Second Advisor

Denis Fortin

Third Advisor

Denis Kaiser

Abstract

Throughout his life, Sir Isaac Newton was deeply dedicated to the science of decoding biblical apocalyptic writings. To understand and appreciate Newton's prophetic scheme, it will be advantagous to have a certain grasp of what sources and ideas might have influenced him. No comprehensive study before this one has helped us see Newton from that perspective. A survey of the development of canonical apocalyptic hermeneutic and interpretation, beginning before the time of Christ and ending with Newton, shows that four distinct systems of hermeneutics had developed by that time. Historicism was the earliest and the preferred system among Protestants until the mid-1800s. The idealist hermeneutic, introduced by Augustine hundreds of years after the beginning of historicism, was a non-historical Catholic alternative to historicism until preterism and futurism were introduced by the Jesuits toward the end of the sixteenth century, about 50 years before the birth of Isaac Newton. This dissertation views Newton as standing in a long succession of interpreters of biblical apocalyptic literature. Newton interpreted the Book of Daniel strictly according to the historicist canon. The Book of Revelation was different and a much bigger challenge for him.

This study shows that Newton's interpretation of biblical apocalyptic was thoroughly Protestant and completely legitimate in the Protestant context of his time. His interpretation was neither sensational nor unique. The study concludes with an analysis and evaluation of Newton's scientific and theological approach to apocalyptic and the exceptional breadth of the branches of knowledge that he employed to substantiate his prophetic system. The main contribution of this dissertation, the major thesis of the work, is a proposed comprehensive definition of historicism, verified from the survey of the development of canonical apocalyptic interpretation, and its match to a significant degree with Newton's own historicist system. One major purpose of this dissertation is to synthesize and define Isaac Newton's hermeneutic of prophetic interpretation, showing that Newton owed at least as much to the ancient apocalyptic tradition as he owed to any contemporary expositors—an observation with significant implications, though rarely mentioned by Newtonian researchers.

The study concludes by showing that Newton followed a seven-step methodological approach. From Newton's methodology and his own stated rules of interpretation are synthesized nine characteristic principles of his hermeneutic. Evaluating these nine principles and assessing Newton's overall contribution conclude this study.

Subject Area

Newton, Isaac, 1642-1727; Prophecies; Apocalyptic literature ; Bible--Prophecies--Criticism, interpretation, etc

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