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Confessionalisation and Erudition in Early Modern EuropeAn Episode in the History of the Humanities$
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Nicholas Hardy and Dmitri Levitin

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266601

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266601.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 24 May 2022

Becoming Heterodox in 17th-Century Cambridge

Becoming Heterodox in 17th-Century Cambridge

The Case of Isaac Newton

(p.301) 9 Becoming Heterodox in 17th-Century Cambridge
Confessionalisation and Erudition in Early Modern Europe

Dmitri Levitin

Scott Mandelbrote

, Nicholas Hardy, Dmitri Levitin
British Academy

This chapter charts Isaac Newton’s path to heterodoxy by contextualising a crucial, but previously unknown, piece of evidence: the ‘Determination’ upon Newton’s 1677 Cambridge theology disputation conducted by the Regius Professor of Divinity, Joseph Beaumont. This Determination provides the earliest secure evidence of Newton’s engagement with theology. The Determination (printed and translated as an Appendix) is important in itself, but its witness allows us to go further and to propose that the university context proved crucial for shaping the way in which Newton conducted his theological reading. The essay begins by charting the transformations in Cambridge theological pedagogy in the half century before Beaumont and during the period of his dominance after the Restoration. It emphasises in particular the rise of an obsession with ante-Nicene Christian antiquity at the University, partly in response to inter- and intra-confessional dispute. The second half of the essay shows that much of Newton’s early theological writing can be read as a response to these developments, and to the world of orthodox theology that existed around him.

Keywords:   Newton, heterodoxy, scholarship, Cambridge, universities, antitrinitarianism, universities

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