Sir Isaac Newton on the Bible
Dr. A. Zahoor
In 1690, Sir Isaac Newton (died 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"When they got the Trinity; into his edition they threw by their manuscript, if they had one, as an almanac out of date.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."
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 signify 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."
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.
A. Wallace, “Anti-Trinitarian Biographies,” Vol. III, 1850.