Harold Camping Should Read Isaac Newton Before Proclaiming Doomsday

COMMENTARY | 89-year-old Harold Camping predicted that the Rapture would happen May 21, 2011. The Rapture is the belief that those who follow Christ, both physically dead and alive, will meet Christ in the air when he returns a second time. It did not happen, and Camping is beside himself. Clearly, his intentions were in the right place, even though his belief system was in the wrong time.

Ever since Christ mentioned that he will return again, approximately 1,978 years ago, his followers have eagerly been awaiting his return. New Testament evidence suggests that the writers of the letters had the hope and belief that Christ would return within their lifetime and this hope fueled them and other believers to endure the immense suffering they were experiencing under the Roman government.

Since then, many of Christ’s followers have predicted specific dates for the second coming. The most notable is Sir Isaac Newton. Newton was one of history’s giants; some historians rank him in the same vein as Christ himself and Mohammad as far as historical impact. Newton was a devoted follower of Christ and believed the Bible to be the divine revelation of God. As a scientist and devout Christian, Newton began working on the issue of when Christ would return. Starting in the 1670s and concluding his research around 1727, the year of his death, Newton came up with the year A.D. 2060 as the year of Christ’s return. How did he come up with this date?

Stephen D. Snobelen in an article titled “Statement on the Date 2060,” wrote:

“Newton, like many historicist prophetic commentators of his age, believed that the prophetic time periods 1260, 1290, 1335 and 2300 days actually represent 1260, 1290, 1335 and 2300 years using the ‘day-for-a-year principle(p.1)’.”

“For Newton these time periods (especially the 1260 years) represent the time span of the apostasy of the Church (for Newton this means the Trinitarian Church, chiefly the Catholics). Thus, he looked in history for the likely date when the apostasy formally began (one sign of this for him was the date when the papal church obtained temporal power). From there it was a simple matter of adding the time period to the beginning date. Newton looked askance at ‘date-setting’, and for this reason he rarely wrote out the end date for a time period once he had settled on a beginning date. There is a small number of exceptions, and the date 2060, found twice in the Yahuda MSS at Jerusalem, is one of them. The date 2060 is also significant because in addition to the rarity of end dates in Newton’s writings, the calculation giving the 2060 date comes from fairly late in his life and is asserted with uncharacteristic vigour(p.1).”

Snobelen goes on to write, “Newton considered several commencement dates for the formal institution of the apostate, imperial Church. Since Newton believed that the 1260 years corresponded to the duration of the corruption of the Church, he added 1260 to 800 A.D. and arrived at the date 2060 for the ‘fall of Babylon’ or cessation of the apostate Church. It seems that Newton believed the fall could perhaps begin somewhat before the end of the 1260-year period and continue for a short time afterward. Whatever the precise chronology, Newton believed that sometime shortly after the fall of the corrupt (Trinitarian, Catholic) Church, Christ would return and set up a 1000-year Kingdom of God on earth. On page 144 of his Observations (1733), Newton cited Daniel 7:26-27 as evidence of this (p.1).”

Maybe Camping needs to read Newton before he makes another prediction. The Bible clearly teaches that Christ will return, and if one reads Matthew 24 and sees that some of the signs are wars, rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, one can deduce that we are nearing end times. Camping’s heart and motivation is in the right place, but clearly his calculations are in the wrong time.


Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times “Harold Camping is at the heart of a mediapolypse” May 21, 2011

Stephen D. Snobelen Statement on the Date 2060