Catalogue Entry: THEM00205

Part I, Chapter XI: Of the Times of the Birth and Passion of Christ

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John (London: 1733).

[Normalized Text] [Diplomatic Text]

[1] I observe, that Christ and his forerunner John in their parabolical discourses were wont to allude to things present. The old Prophets, when they would describe things emphatically, did not only draw parables from things which offered themselves, as from the rent of a garment, 1 Sam. xv. from the sabbatic year, Isa. xxxvii. from the vessels of a Potter, Jer. xviii, &c. but also when such fit objects were wanting, they supplied them by their own actions, as by rending a garment, 1 Kings xi. by shooting, 2 Kings xiii. by making bare their body, Isa. xx. by imposing significant names to their sons, Isa. viii. Hos. i. by hiding a girdle in the bank of Euphrates, Jer. xiii. by breaking a potter's vessel, Jer. xix. by putting on fetters and yokes, Jer. xxvii. by binding a book to a stone, and casting them both into Euphrates, Jer. li. by besieging a painted city, Ezek. iv. by dividing hair into three parts, Ezek. v. by making a chain, Ezek. vii. by carrying out houshold stuff like a captive and trembling, Ezek. xii, &c. By such kind of types the Prophets loved to speak. And Christ being endued with a nobler prophetic spirit than the rest, excelled also in this kind of speaking, yet so as not to speak by his own actions, that was less grave and decent, but to turn into parables such things as offered themselves. On occasion of the harvest approaching, he admonishes his disciples once and again of the spiritual harvest, John iv. 35. Matth. ix. 37. Seeing the lilies of the field, he admonishes his disciples about gay clothing, Matth. vi. 28. In allusion to the present season of fruits, he admonishes his disciples about knowing men by their fruits, Matth. vii. 16. In the time of the Passover, when trees put forth leaves, he bids his disciples learn a parable from the fig tree: when its branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh, &c. Matth. xxiv. 32. Luke xxi. 29. The same day, alluding both to the season of the year and to his passion, which was to be two days after, he formed a parable of the time of fruits approaching, and the murdering of the heir, Matth. xxi. 33. Alluding at the same time, both to the money-changers whom he had newly driven out of the Temple, and to his passion at hand; he made a parable of a Noble-man going into a far country to receive a kingdom and return, and delivering his goods to his servants, and at his return condemning the slothful servant because he put not his money to the exchangers, Matth. xxv. 14. Luke xix. 12. Being near the Temple where sheep were kept in folds to be sold for the sacrifices, he spake many things parabolically of sheep, of the shepherd, and of the door of the sheepfold; and discovers that he alluded to the sheepfolds which were to be hired in the market-place, by speaking of such folds as a thief could not enter by the door, nor the shepherd himself open, but a porter opened to the shepherd, John x. 1, 3. Being in the mount of Olives, Matth. xxxvi. 30. John xiv. 31. a place so fertile that it could not want vines, he spake many things mystically of the Husbandman, and of the vine and its branches, John xv. Meeting a blind man, he admonished of spiritual blindness, John ix. 39. At the sight of little children, he described once and again the innocence of the elect, Matth. xviii. 2. xix. 13. Knowing that Lazarus was dead and should be raised again, he discoursed of the resurrection and life eternal, John xi. 25, 26. Hearing of the slaughter of some whom Pilate had slain, he admonished of eternal death, Luke xiii. 1. To his fishermen he spake of fishers of men, Matth. iv. 10. and composed another parable about fishes. Matth. xiii. 47. Being by the Temple, he spake of the Temple of his body, John ii. 19. At supper he spake a parable about the mystical supper to come in the kingdom of heaven, Luke xiv. On occasion of temporal food, he admonished his disciples of spiritual food, and of eating his flesh and drinking his blood mystically, John vi. 27, 53. When his disciples wanted bread, he bad them beware of the leven of the Pharisees, Matth. xvi. 6. Being desired to eat, he answered that he had other meat, John iv. 31. In the great day of the feast of Tabernacles, when the Jews, as their custom was, brought a great quantity of waters from the river Shiloah into the Temple, Christ stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth in me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water, John vii. 37. The next day, in allusion to the servants who by reason of the sabbatical year were newly set free, he said, If ye continue in my word, the truth shall make you free. Which the Jews understanding literally with respect to the present manumission of servants, answered, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, ye shall be made free? John viii. They assert their freedom by a double argument: first, because they were the seed of Abraham, and therefore newly made free, had they been ever in bondage; and then, because they never were in bondage. In the last Passover, when Herod led his army thro' Judea against Aretas King of Arabia, because Aretas was aggressor and the stronger in military forces, as appeared by the event; Christ alluding to that state of things, composed the parable of a weaker King leading his army against a stronger who made war upon him, Luke xiv. 31. And I doubt not but divers other parables were formed upon other occasions, the history of which we have not.

[2] Joseph. Antiq. lib. 3. c. 10.

© 2022 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 -

Privacy Statement

  • University of Oxford
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • JISC