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William Whiston

1667-1752. Church historian, mathematician, and translator. Son of the manse, he entered Clare Hall, Cambridge, in 1686, where he studied mathematics, became friendly with Newton, and was appointed a fellow in 1693. In 1698 he became vicar of Lowestoft, but in 1703 returned to Cambridge to succeed Sir Isaac Newton* as Lucasian professor of mathematics, on Newton's own recommendation. Unlike the cautious Newton, however, Whiston tactlessly vented his doubts in public, with the result that after four or five years of legal proceedings he was finally expelled from the university in 1710 on a charge of Arianism.* He suffered intensely as a result and thereafter lived in considerable poverty. Barred from the Anglican Communion, he at first held meetings in his home, but later (1747) joined the Baptists.

He regarded the Reformation as only half-completed: it showed the way back to the church of Augustine's time but not to the NT. He believed that when the works of the anti-Nicene fathers were translated, the way would be opened for a restoration of primitive Christianity, and to this end he worked unceasingly. He held that the miracle-gifts of the Holy Spirit were withdrawn from the church when the papists introduced alleged wonder- working relics, and he sought in his writings to establish the connection historically. Like Newton, he repudiated both the Athanasian Creed* and infant baptism. In his earlier days at least Whiston often seemed to write as Newton's mouthpiece; only on some aspects of prophecy did they differ sharply, but his intellectual level is set at a far lower level than Newton's. He wrote much on science and religion, but many of his ideas are unacceptable today. Of his piety and passionate desire to follow Christ whatever the consequences there can be no doubt; his Arianism, if mistaken, was based only on his understanding of Scripture. Today he is chiefly remembered as the translator of Josephus.*

See his Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. W... written by himself (1733).