In 1704, Isaac Newton Predicts the World Will End in 2060

in Religion, Science | October 14th, 2015

Newton Letter

We have become quite used to pronouncements of doom, from scientists predicting the sixth mass extinction due to the measurable effects of climate change, and from religionists declaring the apocalypse due to a surfeit of sin. It’s almost impossible to imagine these two groups of people agreeing on anything other than the ominous portent of their respective messages. But in the early days of the scientific revolution—the days of Shakespeare contemporary Francis Bacon, and later 17th century Descartes—it was not at all unusual to find both kinds of reasoning, or unreasoning, in the same person, along with beliefs in magic, divination, astrology, etc.

Yet even in this maelstrom of heterodox thought and practices, Sir Isaac Newton stood out as a particularly odd co-existence of esoteric biblical prophecy, occult beliefs, and a rigid, formal mathematics that not only adhered to the inductive scientific method, but also expanded its potential by applying general axioms to specific cases. Yet many of Newton’s general principles would seem totally inimical to the naturalism of most physicists today. As he was formulating the principles of gravity and three laws of motion, for example, Newton also sought the legendary Philosopher’s Stone and attempted to turn metal to gold. Moreover, the devoutly religious Newton wrote theological treatises interpreting Biblical prophecies and predicting the end of the world. The date he arrived at? 2060.


Newton seems, writes science blog Another Pale Blue Dot, “as confident of his predictions in this realm as he was in the rational world of science.” In a 1704 letter exhibited at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, above, Newton describes his “recconing”:

So then the time times & half a time are 42 months or 1260 days or three years & an half, recconing twelve months to a yeare & 30 days to a month as was done in the Calendar of the primitive year. And the days of short lived Beasts being put for the years of lived [sic] kingdoms, the period of 1260 days, if dated from the complete conquest of the three kings A.C. 800, will end A.C. 2060. It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner.

Newton further demonstrates his confidence in the next sentence, writing that his intent, “though not to assert” an answer, should in any event “put a stop the rash conjectures of fancifull men who are frequently predicting the time of the end.” Indeed. So how did he arrive at this number? Newton applied a rigorous method, that is to be sure.

If you have the patience for exhaustive description of how he worked out his prediction using the Book of Daniel, you may read one here by historian of science Stephen Snobelen, who also points out how widespread the interest in Newton’s odd beliefs has become, reaching across every continent, though scholars have known about this side of the Enlightenment giant for a long time. Snobelen appears in the BBC documentary Newton: The Dark Heretic (above), which has further brought the public a wealth of scholarly detail about Newton’s alchemy and prophecy.

For a sense of the exacting, yet completely bizarre flavor of Newton’s prophetic calculations, see another Newton letter at the of the post, transcribed below.

Prop. 1. The 2300 prophetick days did not commence before the rise of the little horn of the He Goat.

2 Those day [sic] did not commence a[f]ter the destruction of Jerusalem & ye Temple by the Romans A.[D.] 70.

3 The time times & half a time did not commence before the year 800 in wch the Popes supremacy commenced

4 They did not commence after the re[ig]ne of Gregory the 7th. 1084

5 The 1290 days did not commence b[e]fore the year 842.

6 They did not commence after the reigne of Pope Greg. 7th. 1084

7 The diffence [sic] between the 1290 & 1335 days are a parts of the seven weeks.

Therefore the 2300 years do not end before ye year 2132 nor after 2370.

The time times & half time do n[o]t end before 2060 nor after [2344]

The 1290 days do not begin [this should read: end] before 2090 [Newton might mean: 2132] nor after 1374 [sic; Newton probably means 2374]

The editorial insertions are Professor Snobelen’s, who thinks the letter dates “from after 1705,” and that “the shaky handwriting suggests a date of composition late in Newton’s life.” Whatever the exact date, we see him much less certain here; Newton pushes around some other dates—2344, 2090 (or 2132), 2374. All of them seem arbitrary, but “given the nice roundness of the number,” writes Motherboard, “and the fact that it appears in more than one letter,” 2060 has become his most memorable dating for the apocalypse.

It’s important to note that Newton didn’t believe the world would “end” in the sense of cease to exist or burn up in holy flames. His end times philosophy resembles that of a surprising number of current day evangelicals: Christ would return and reign for a millennium, the Jewish diaspora would return to Israel and would, he wrote, set up “a flourishing and everlasting Kingdom.” We hear such statements often from televangelists, school boards, governors, and presidential candidates.

As many people have argued, despite Newton’s conception of his scientific work as a bulwark against other theologies, it ultimately became a foundation for Deism and Naturalism, and has allowed scientists to make accurate predictions for hundreds of years. 20th century physics may have shown us a much more radically unstable universe than Newton ever imagined, but his theories are, as Isaac Asimov would put it, “not so much wrong as incomplete,” and still essential to our understanding of certain fundamental phenomena. But as fascinating and curious as Newton’s other interests may be, there’s no more reason to credit his prophetic calculations than those of the Millerites, Harold Camping, or any other apocalyptic doomsday sect.

Related Content:

Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Staggering Genius of Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton Creates a List of His 57 Sins (Circa 1662)

Sir Isaac Newton’s Papers & Annotated Principia Go Digital

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Comments (12)

  1. Massimo Nardotto says . . .
    October 15, 2015 / 8:09 pm

    I present to the community a more accurate way to calculate an eventual End of Time on Earth.

    In the Bible, especially in the books of Exodus 14.19 to 21 and the Apocalypse of John, is presented indirectly the number 216.

    In Number Theory, Euler’s Phi Function of 666 is still equal to 216 and 6*6*6 is equal to 216 too.

    216 is also the only natural number that can not be written as a sum of zero or a prime number and a triangular number.

    216 is also the value for which the surface and volume of a cube coincide.

    But 216 is above all the number of digits in the following numerical matrix, derived from the Fibonacci sequence in module 9, for each natural form 9:

    1 1 2 3 5 8 4 1 3 7 9 8 8 8 7 6 4 1 5 6 2 8 1 9
    2 2 4 6 1 7 8 5 6 2 7 9 7 7 5 3 8 2 1 3 4 7 2 9
    3 3 6 9 6 6 3 3 9 3 6 9 6 6 3 3 9 3 6 9 6 6 3 9
    4 4 8 3 2 5 7 4 3 1 5 9 5 5 1 6 7 4 2 6 8 5 4 9
    5 5 1 6 7 4 2 6 8 5 4 9 4 4 8 3 2 5 7 4 3 1 5 9
    6 6 3 3 9 3 6 9 6 6 3 3 9 3 6 9 6 6 3 3 9 3 6 9
    7 7 5 3 8 2 1 3 4 7 2 9 2 2 4 6 1 7 8 5 6 7 2 9
    8 8 7 6 4 1 5 6 2 8 9 1 1 1 2 3 5 8 4 1 3 7 8 9
    9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9

    By treating this matrix with an algorithm that highlights all the possible configurations through the symmetries between pairs of natural, you are obtained 30 binary images.

    30 in binary is equal to 11110.

    The conjecture is the following: let x (y) is the ordinal position of a term of the matrix repeated n times. Let y be the sum of terms that precede the element x including x itself.
    Compute the value of x (11110), that is the position of the digit for which the sum of itself with all the terms that precede it is equal to or greater than 11110.

    It is obtained that x = 2028.

    So, if the position of the terms of the matrix correspond to Earth years, since the coming of Jesus Christ, the system would not be possible since 2028AC.

    Consider now the fundamental equation π (x + y) (t-xy) = k, where k is the largest number palindrome known to be square of a number and sum of two twin primes: 69696. Let π equal to approximation in excess of the value of pi greek calculated by Archimedes of Syracuse for a polygon of 96 sides: 22/7. And t is the Earth year which corresponds to a combination of the values of x and y.

    For example for t = 2012, the values of x and y are 38 and 46.

    The equation determines a parabola for which the time t–> t (x, y) reaches its summit in the year 2028AC, with values of x and y equal to 42.


  2. Colin says . . .
    October 24, 2015 / 4:11 pm

    The prophecy was not for the end of the world but the presence (2nd Coming) of Jesus. He would continue God’s kingdom from when the last king (Zedekiah) was removed & killed by the Babylonians.
    This would end the times of the Gentiles but he would rule amidst his enemies, cleanse the heavens as we wait for the Kingdom to come on the earth as it is in heaven.

    If you would like to know more ask any one of Jehovah’s witnesses.


  3. I.K.Chapman says . . .
    October 25, 2015 / 5:29 pm

    Dear Colin, with all due respect, I allow myself to say: articles like this one, may be scientifically interesting, but in my view, “unnecessary” to be published. Why? Because it insecure people, it makes them afraid…regardless of faith and religion. Our world as we know it, and inhabit ENDS one day. Each time we might meet hit by a 20 kilometers large meteorite, at any time could be the 3rd world war break out and we are wiped out by our nuclear weapons, at any time a global super-earthquake -like never seen before- could trigger volcanic eruptions and destroy us and our atmosphere…and so on.
    It does not matter WHAT & WHEN Anyway, the end of our planet, the human species will be, because when the time comes, we can not do anything about it or prevent it, right? Again, last but not least does not count on what a person believes, what religion he belongs, if he send his prayers to God, Jehova, Allah, Shiva or Buddha- God/Jehova has countless names and it’s just that every religion is each alone on one side of a diamond…the other sides does not see you and you can’t see ’em. However considering the entire diamond, you can see everything is ONE.
    I respect Jehova’s Witnesses, have allowed to know a bible study with enthusiasm by one of your brothers and a sister. Although I am not converted, however, believe in something that is prophesied in EVERY religion: that one dayJesus will return to the earth- since I’m a physicist, I see Jesus, however, rather than force of nature/universe, not as a human appearance ;-)
    My appeal last but not least: Please do not publish such article ms under religious aspects- whether like the authors served the Bible/the “Bible Code” as a source…at least any result depends on mathematics and/or Science (Sir Newton or Nostradamus as well for example!). Thank you very much, warm greetings I.K.C

  4. sandip chor says . . .
    July 19, 2016 / 2:35 am

    i really didnt like the vway to interprety the wor

  5. Pancreas Pastelli says . . .
    July 28, 2016 / 6:36 am

    We may we be heard of hark herald angels in summertime consuming the almighty flame of truth. We herald from a community of conundrums refusing to behold the benefit of all faith and unity. Release thee from catalysms and ungodly knowledge and re-envelop the world like it used to be before the downfall and downtrodden ment of the man family. hark to before when trouble didnt exist. harken to the shadows where the true family awaits its final curtain in the eventual uplifting and all consuming brain functions it symbolises with rich vein shifting signs and solutions of infamy and perpetual kindness. enjoy you dinner and surroundings it will only get worse.

    signed from above.

  6. Brendan Maloney says . . .
    August 1, 2016 / 5:17 am

    As usual in alarmist journalism, this story’s headline is inaccurate. Newton wrote that the end would come in 2060 or LATER. In that he is almost certainly correct.

  7. Negative_plasmahealer says . . .
    August 28, 2016 / 12:00 am

    What you have failed to unveil is what still is not know to the majority. Newton uncovered God’s works. You will never come to know God by having only one select study. This is why Newton studied many things, astrology,language,mathematics,chemistry, theology, elements, properties of behavior,etc. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.Revelatuon 1:8
    All things are a reflection of me.
    For life is in the blood and my sequence gives structure in my name. Which is written in the book of life. My name is found in all matter and my instructions, are inherited.

  8. Musa Khan says . . .
    September 27, 2016 / 7:32 pm

    A fearing message for all human should not post this publicly like this we all know that world will be end one day.

  9. Darcy says . . .
    November 2, 2016 / 6:56 am

    “There’s no more reason to credit…”

    On the contrary.

    “Lke the light of dawn that grows
    brighter until the full light of day.” Pv 4:18
    Newton (his Daniel and the Apocalypse 1733 book) and the Mllerites were right in many aspects. Newton (I don’t think he’s setting 2060 as the specific final year) was wrong here about the “commence of the 2300 days/years”, but the millerites have got it right. The millerites mistake was basically to apply the right date of a prophecy in 1844 (not refuted and got by deep and solid study) to the wrong event. The Seventh Day Adventists know that. Historicism makes possible a very consistent time-frame of prophecy-fulfillment due to the successful part of the task Newton, the Millerites and others have done in correctly unveiling some specific points in Scriptures. Btw, the millerites incomplete understanding was even predicted in Revelation, chapter 10, which warns after their disappointment: “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.”
    “Prophesy again”. That’s what SDAs have done. Not setting a day for Jesus to return, but proclaiming the three final messages of warning from Revelation 14:6-12 before Christ comes.
    “The one who is testifying to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Ap. 22:20.

  10. Joe says . . .
    November 6, 2016 / 9:08 am

    Bible doesn’t mean nothing to us in American, it was copy and paste by Tom Jefferson… American bible is a total joke, we all on death row the question is when

  11. Joe says . . .
    November 6, 2016 / 9:10 am

    Go read your unless bible can’t take it with you in the after life

  12. Jim says . . .
    November 17, 2016 / 9:45 am

    Man I didn’t even read all that! We can each find mathematical truths to quantify our beliefs. I’ve come to believe if I search long enough, I find what I’m looking for. My truth is simple: the end of time comes when I die. So, I should enjoy the day and “damn the torpedoes”!

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