Catalogue Entry: THEM00099

Various drafts and copies of the Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture and related material

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Ms. 361(4), New College Library, Oxford, UK


ff. 2-41 'An historical account of two notable corruptions of Scripture in a Letter to a Friend', in English with Greek and Latin citations, c. 25,000 words. At the top of the first page, in Thomas Pellet's hand: 'No. 30'. Copy of two letters of 14 November 1690 written by Newton to John Locke on 1 John 5:7 and 1 Timothy 3:16 respectively: in this version they read as one continuous text. A crucial document for the study of Newton's theology, in particular his anti-Trinitarianism. It is a painstaking and extremely detailed collation of these two verses, both widely regarded as clear evidence for Trinitarianism, as they appear in surviving early Bibles in various languages and as they are quoted by various Fathers. Newton's conclusion is that the wording was altered, by accident or design, in the fourth or fifth century.

Locke sent a copy of the original letters to Jean Le Clerc. On 11 April 1691 Le Clerc suggested that the original author read Simon's Histoire critique du texte du Nouveau Testament (Rotterdam, 1689), which Newton did, leading him to incorporate new information from Simon and from Burnet's Travels into this version of the text. The document was published in 1754 from a manuscript in the Remonstrants' Library and then more accurately by Horsley in 1785 (Horsley, 5: 493-550). Printed from this manuscript in NC, 3: 83-129. Cf. the expanded Latin translation of the first letter in Yahuda Var. 1 Ms. 20.

ff. 43-8 Copy of part of the above, in another hand, c. 2,500 words. Probably a printer's copy made in preparation for Horsley's edition.

ff. 49v-68 'The third Letter.' First version (draft A), in Newton's hand, of another letter sent to Locke soon after the earlier texts, in English with Latin and Greek citations, c. 8,000 words. This deals with other allegedly Trinitarian passages in Scripture which Newton believed to be corrupt. Printed in NC, 3: 129-44.

ff. 70-83 Second version (draft B), with a few changes, of the 'Third Letter', begun by Newton and completed by Conduitt (ff. 80-3), apparently copying from draft A. Possibly connected with Hopton Haynes's translation of the letter into Latin in 1709. In the section written by Newton, the variant readings between drafts A and B are all noted in Conduitt's hand on the facing pages.

ff. 85-101 Copy of draft B of the 'Third letter' in Horsley's hand, including copies of Conduitt's notes of the variant readings.

ff. 104-5 'Another Letter Written to a friend who had perused the former Letters': revision of the beginning and end of the 'Third Letter'. Newton's hand, c. 800 words. Printed in NC, 3: 144-6.

ff. 107-8 Much neater copy of the above in another hand.

f. 109 Partial copy in the same hand.

ff. 112-14 Another copy in Horsley's hand.

ff. 117-21 Earlier drafts of parts of the first letter, in Newton's hand, c. 5,000 words.

This bundle also contains another 117 leaves of later material relating to Newton and Newtoniana, including a codicil to Catherine Conduitt's will concerning his papers (f. 139, 26 June 1737, printed in Brewster (1855), 2: 341), 18th-19th century correspondence of the Ekinses, Horsley, David Brewster and others about the whereabouts and ownership of the papers, and press cuttings about the erection of the Newton monument in Grantham in 1858 and the publication of Brewster's biography (1855).


New College Mss. 361.1-4 comprise the Ekins papers given to New College in 1872.

© 2023 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

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