Over the next few days, the news spread around the globe and was covered in newspapers (making the front pages in Israel and Canada on 23 and 24 February respectively), on the radio, on TV and on a plethora of Internet news sites.
The story was covered on the Internet in all the major European languages from English, French and Spanish to Hungarian, Romanian and Russian.
The public was therefore challenged to re-conceptualize Newton in all his complexity.
The media has perpetuated a myth that science and religion are inherently in conflict (the fact is, sometimes they are; but religion has also often stimulated the development of science).
The story about Newton predicting the Apocalypse in 2060 is the sort of thing that one would expect to see on the covers of the tabloids. Ironically, the tabloids did not cover the story (perhaps because this story, although counter-intuitive to many people, is authentic).
I was asked to make myself available to the media because some of my academic research on Newton’s prophecy and heretical theology was used in the documentary and since I was not only interviewed for the documentary both in Jerusalem and Cambridge, but am also shown with the manuscript containing the 2060 date in Jerusalem.
Although the 2060 date was not news to the small community of scholars who study Newton’s theology, this was the first time the wider public became aware of Newton’s prophetic views.
Reviewing footage of two Canadian television news items on the 2060 story, I was struck by its placement in the midst of images of U. troops and helicopters arriving in Kuwait, along with statements about the pending war from presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer.
It is clear that whether we are religious or secular, we are living in “apocalyptic” times.
Curiously a couple months after the 2060 story broke, Sir Martin Reese, one of today’s leading scientists, published a book entitled Our final hour (Our final century in the UK) in which he argues that the human race has only a fifty-fifty chance of surviving the 21st century.
Apocalypticism is not the exclusive domain of the lunatic fringe.
And then there are concerns about the degradation of our environment and fears of a coming eco-apocalypse.
In the context of these troubling realities, a dramatic story about the greatest scientist of all time predicting “the end of the world” carried with it added potency and poignancy.
I tried to use this unexpected opportunity to fill in more details about Newton’s theological and prophetic thought, and to point out that Newton’s apocalyptic thought was not just doom and destruction.