Chapter 16 Natural Philosophy and Scripture in Isaac Newton’s Principia mathematica

In: The Philosophers and the Bible
Franco Giudice
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In the Principia mathematica there is only a reference to the Bible. It is in the Scholium to Definitions placed at the beginning of the work, where Newton explains why in the study of natural phenomena it is necessary to distinguish between absolute and relative quantities. Although Newton states that this distinction is fundamental in order to correctly understand both physics and the Bible, in the Principia he does not clarify at all what kind of relationship exists between natural philosophy and interpretation of the Bible. Through a thorough analysis of some of his manuscripts, in this chapter I aim to show what the meaning of this relationship was, and how, according to Newton, the scriptural passages concerning the motions of celestial bodies could be reconciled with his system of the world.

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The Philosophers and the Bible

The Debate on Sacred Scripture in Early Modern Thought

Series:  Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, Volume: 333