Catalogue Entry: THEM00002

Theological Notebook

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 2, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Custodial History

Bought at the Sotheby sale for £70 by the London dealer Gabriel Wells and sent to Keynes on 24 July 1936. Keynes payed an unknown price for it on 3 August 1936, although Yahuda had asked Wells about the availability of the lot only two days earlier.

Sotheby Lot



The contents are written on 107 pp. starting from the front of the book and 25 pp. (on 42 sheets, of which about half have been left blank for subsequent additions) starting from the back. Between these two sections a large portion (over half) of the notebook is left unused.

On the inner back cover, in Thomas Pellet's hand: 'Sep. 25 1727 Not fit to be printed Tho: Pellet.' To the left of this, in Newton's hand: 'Fr Massam at Oats Highlaver Parish near Harlow'. On the flyleaf, a single entry under the heading 'Sentences': 'A man may imagin things that are fals but he can onely understand things yt are true, for if ye things be fals, the apprehension of them is not understanding'. On the back of this is a table of contents which refers not to the entries that follow it but to those beginning at the other end of the notebook. Below this is a list of historical writers, mostly with the dates and in some cases with the location of their works. Against some of the names is the note 'Trin. Coll.', followed in some cases by a shelf-mark.

The entries from this end of the notebook proceed as follows. 'Interpretations' (f. I) has exegetical notes on Revelation in Latin. The subsequent entries are in English and consist primarily of citations from the Authorized Bible under the following headings: 'Mores Gentium' (f. II); 'Religio Ethnica. Idololatria' (f. V); 'Deus Pater' (f. XI); 'Deus Filius' (f. XII); 'Christi Incarnatio' (f. XIV); 'Christi Passio, Descensus, et Resurrectio' (f. XVII); 'Christi Satisfactio, & Redemptio viri' (f. XXII); 'Spiritus Sanctus Deus' (f. XXIV), 'Of the holy ghost his nature and gifts' (f. XXV); 'Angeli boni et mali' (f. XXVII); 'Prædestinatio' (f. XXXI).

Several pages consist only of headings to which no text has been added: 'Religio Ethnica. Dij Gentium' (f. IV); 'Religio Ethnica. Ritus gentiles' (f. VIII); 'Religio christiana/ Deus. Attributa dei' (f. X); 'Christi vita et Miracula' (f. XV); 'Christi Resurrectio et Ascensus' (f. XVIII), 'Christi Resurrectio' (f. XIX); 'Christi Ascentio' (f. XX); 'Christi adventus secundus' (f. XXI); 'Christi Intercessio' (f. XXIII); 'Homo. Status Naturæ et Gratiæ' (f. XXIX); 'Liberum arbitrium' (f. XXXII); 'Electio' (f. XXIII); 'Benevolentia Dei in Hominem' (f. XXXIV); 'Hominis officium et Qualificatio' (f. XXXV); 'Vitia' (f. XXXVIII); ' Vitia' (f. XXXVIII); 'Mors & Resurrectio' (f. XXXIX); 'Vltimum Iudicium' (f. XXXX); 'Remissio Peccatorum' (f. XXXXI); 'Status futurus' (f. XXXXII).

Beginning at the other end on the verso of the first leaf is a fragmentary, untitled entry in English on the question of whether Christ had the freedom to commit sin, making reference to Matthew 26:53-4. On the next page is a short Latin quotation from St Jerome and a list of 'Authores notandi'; neither of these leaves is numbered.

The earliest entries do not feature in the table of contents at the other end of the book (see above): they are headed 'Out of ye Ld Falkland's discours of infallibility' (p. 1); 'Out of ye Iesuites Answer' (p. 1); 'The Ld Falklands Reply' (p. 1); 'Out of ye Lord ffalkland's Reply' (p. 5); 'Out of the Ld George Digbie's letter to Sr Kenelm Digby' (p. 8); 'Out of Sr Kenelms answer' (p. 8); 'Out of the Ld Digbies reply' (p. 8); 'Observations upon Athanasius's works' (p. 13). The first twelve pp. are mainly in English; from the entry on Athanasius onwards the document is mainly in Latin.

The table of contents (which is accurate except where indicated below) ignores these and refers to Newton's own pagination, which is by side rather than folio and begins on p. 17: 'Antichristo 17. [On p. 19 the repeated heading 'De Antichristo' is deleted and replaced by 'On 1 Iohn 5.7, 8'; this was used as the basis of the start of the first letter to Locke of November 1690 ('Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture', cf. New College, Oxford, Ms. 361(4)).] De Millennio ac die Iudicij 21. De Innovationibus & earum authoribus 25 Miscellanies 29. De Trinitate 33. De Monachis 37. Interpretationes sacrarum literarum ex veteribus 41. De Bestia bicorni 43 De Politia Ecclesiastica 47 [altered from '44': the entry is in fact on p. 47]. De Meretrice et cornu parvo 45 De Politia Ecclesiastica 47. De Athanasio 49 [this section is in fact entitled 'De Athanasio, & Antonio']. De hist. Eccl. sub Constantino et Constantio 51 [in the text, the title reads 'Ad Historiam Ecclesiasticam sub Constantino & Constantio spectantia']. De eadem sub Valente et Theodosio, 55. [The page following p. 56 is numbered 55 again and Newton's pagination remains astray by two throughout the rest of the document.] De eadem post Theodosium, 65 [in the text, the title reads 'Historia Ecclesiastica post Tempora Theodosij']. De Arrianis et Eunomianis et Macedonianis 67. De Hæresibus et Hæreticis 71. De patribus, scriptoribus, concilijs & auctoritate ecclesiastica 69 [last two entries in that order, p. 69 presumably having been overlooked when the index was first written].' Unmentioned in the index and presumably written after it was completed are the following sections: 'Ex Petavij Dogmatîs Theologicis Tract.1' (p. 75); 'De Synodo Serdicensi & Ariminensi' (p. 77); 'De Trinitate' (pp. 79-82); 'De nominibus Dei' (pp. 83-4); 'De Deo uno' (pp. 85-9, but 87-8 are blank); 'De Bestia Bicorni' (p. 91); 'Interpretationes sacrarum literarum' (pp. 93-4); 'Variantes Lectiones sacrarum literarum notandæ' (p. 99); 'Ex historia Ingulphi edit. Oxonijs 1684' (p. 101, title and text in Humphrey Newton's hand); 'De Homousio, usia, hypostasi, substantia & personis' (p. 103).

The note on the cover can be dated to the period 1689-90, when Newton frequently attended the house of Sir Francis Masham at Oates (where he often met and discussed theological issues with Locke), but it is not necessarily contemporaneous with the rest of the document. The notebook certainly post-dates works referred to in the list of historical writers at the back ('Epistola Consularis in qua Collegia 70 Consulum ab A.C. 29 ad AC. 229, in vulgetis fastis hactenus perperam descripta corriguntur. Authore Henrico Novis Veronensi. Bononiæ apud Anton. Pisarium A. 1683') and in the list of 'Authores notandi' at the front (the second volume of Knorr von Rosenroth's Kabbala Denudata (1684: H873)). Humphrey Newton, whose hand appears on p. 101, was Newton's amanuensis between 1684 and 1690.

Somewhat arbitrarily selected excerpts and summaries published in McLachlan, Theological Manuscripts, 127-41.

© 2024 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL -

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