Newton and the Temple

posted May 21, 2010, 11:14 AM by Professor Katz
There are only three drawings among the many pages that comprise the manuscripts of Sir Isaac Newton.  We might expect them to be sketch maps of the stars, or diagrams illustrating the laws of gravitation.  In fact, they are detailed plans of the Temple of Solomon, based on the measurements given in the Book of Ezekiel, chapters 40-46.
Newton had a theory: when Moses installed a perpetual flame in the desert tabernacle of the Hebrews, he was in fact restoring the original biblical religion, that of Noah, now purged of Egyptian superstition.  When the Jews finally built their temple under Solomon, they worshipped in a sanctum that reproduced God's creation, for it had a fire in the centre, representing the sun, and was further illuminated by lamps around it, symbolizing the planets.  In other words, the Temple in Jerusalem was a sort of divine planetarium, and after its destruction, knowledge of the true arrangement of the heavens disappeared.
The plans of the Temple appeared as three plates between pages 346-347 of Newton's book, The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended (London, 1728).  We know that Newton was working on the manuscript only a few days before his death, and it was published the following year.