Important handwritten religious manuscript by Isaac Newton, one page, 7.5 x 3, no date. Newton weighs in on a central tenet of Christianity, researching the origin of the doctrine of the trinity, writing in full: "The Council of Nice in decreeing the son to be ὁμοούσιος consubstantial to the father, understood that the father & son were two substances. For so the word ὁμοούσιος implies. But Hosius who (a - Athanas) published the Nicene Creed translated it unius substantiæ, & this translation gave occasion to some of the Latins to take the father & son for one single substance, & to the Greeks of this opinion to translate unius substantiæ by μιᾶς οὐσίας and μιᾶς ὑποστάσεως & to the western bishops in the Council of Serdica to declare that μίαν εἶναι ὑπόστασιν ῆν ἀντὸι ἀιρετικὸι οὐσίαν προσαγορεύουσιν, τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, that there is but one hypostasis of the father & son & holy Ghost." In fine condition.
This significant autograph statement illuminates the core of Newton’s religious heresy. Newton held a view of the Trinity at variance with the Church of England—a heretical view punishable by death—and he here articulates the basis for his theological perspective. Newton believed that the ancient Church had corrupted the true doctrine of Christ, and the present document shows Newton demonstrating that the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity is based in a mistranslation of a key term of the Nicene Creed. A cornerstone text of Christian faith, the Nicene Creed was drafted in 325 AD as the result of a council convened by the Emperor Constantine. The Council of Nicea had a primary objective of settling the disputed questions of the relationship and difference of Christ the Son and God the Father. Many of the terms used in the Nicean debates were drawn from pre-Christian philosophy, and their precise meaning was unclear to many of the clerics attending the Council. Newton here records how the Greek term homoousios, used in the Creed to describe the relationship of Christ and God, was erroneously translated as “one in substance” rather than as “consubstantial” (or “similar in substance”).
Scholars now increasingly recognize the importance of Newton’s theological views for an understanding of the whole man and his science. Newton himself kept his heretical religious views secret, and his heirs suppressed his manuscripts on theology for 200 years after his death—and they are only now beginning to see the light of day. The present document superbly testifies to Newton’s critical mind and philosophic acumen; its use of Greek writing is uncommon. A central document for our understanding of Newton’s view of God.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.