Luther's Chronicle or Calculation of the Years of the World
This translation is based on the German text in Dr. Martin Luthers Sämmtliche Schriften, herausgegeben von Dr. Joh. Georg Walch. Bd. 14, Neue revidirte Stereotypausgabe, St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House 1898, Cols. 484-491. The critical edition of the Latin original is found in volume 53 of the Weimar Edition, pages 22-182.)
First Edition 1541
Newly Translated from the Latin
The remarks of him, of whom one said, he was the student of the prophet Elijah:
(Burgensis in Part I, Distinctio 3, Chap. 4 Scrutinii.)
The World Will Exist for 6000 Years.
Two Thousand Empty.
Two Thousand of the Law.
Two Thousand of the Messiah.
These are the six days of the week before God.
The seventh day is the eternal Sabbath.
Ps. 90:4 and 2 Pet. 3:8: A thousand years are as a day.
I prepared this calculation of the years of the world for my personal use, not that it should be a chronicle or book of history, but that I would have it as a table before my eyes, in order to examine the times and years of the histories which are recounted in the Holy Scriptures, when I myself would want to recall how many years the patriarchs, judges, kings, and princes lived or ruled, or after what period of time they followed each other. There is therefore no reason for me either to praise or disparage [this calculation] with many words. For to me it was not a concern as to what kind of, or how much, use it may yield to others, especially since so many chronicles or histories are available and are multiplied daily. I am satisfied with the fruit which I derived from this calculation in the process of calculating. Let those, who wanted it to be published – then I made a copy of it to see for those asking – or those, who will read it, see whether they are doing something which is worth the effort, when they themselves read it. It really does not matter to me whether it remains or disappears, and it really is not a great concern whether or not it gives others satisfaction.
The  chronicle of [Johannes] Carion and Philip [Melanchthon] is clearly the first, and a very good example, of the calculation, which I am also following, in which the entire course of the years is divided very beautifully into six millennia. One thing I dared in the history of Joram, of the kings of Judah, under Elijah and Elisha, where I counted twenty years more than all other writers of chronicles have done. This should be my fault or diligence; the reason will be given at its place.
For the chronicle of Eusebius, which is taken from the Septuagint, which in Genesis chap. 5 (as Jerome in the “Hebrew Questions” recounts) translates ‘two hundred’ instead of ‘one hundred’ (perhaps because they took the singular MEATH for the plural MEOTH), introduced this error—the others I ignore—to all chronicles before our time, so that they have 1249 years too many. In fact, having exceeded the sixth millennium, which they call the sixth age, they count the aforementioned years as the seventh millennium, which they call the seventh age. But about Eusebius is less to complain, who in reality, as Jerome writes, was an admirable and very diligent man; we complain about all other historians, and they complain among themselves, that they have no support for the exact calculation of the years. Therefore, having set these things aside, in this work I have wanted to take this calculation primarily out of the Holy Scriptures, upon which we certainly and trustingly can and should base ourselves. The Scriptures, however, have it in the following manner:
Sections of the Calculation of the years from the creation of the world:
- 1656 [years] up to the flood. Genesis 5.
- 367 [years] up to the call of Abraham. Genesis 11 & 12.
- 430 [years] up to the exodus from Egypt. Exodus 12. Galatians 3.
- 480 [years] up to the temple of Solomon. 1 Kings 6.
- 158 [years] up to the end of the line of Solomon. 2 Kings 11 & 2 Chronicles 23.
- 291 [years] up to the captivity of Zechariah [Jechanja]. 2 Kings 24 until the end.
- 11 [years] of Zedekiah. 2 Kings 24.
- 70 [years] of the devastation of the Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 36. Ezra 1.
- 46 [years] up to the beginning of the [seventy] weeks in the second year of Darius. John 2:20.
- 483 [years] or 69 weeks until the death and resurrection of Christ. Daniel 9. 7 years of the last week, in which the covenant is strengthened and the law is done away with in the middle of the week. Daniel 9. The years of Christ which follow are in and of themselves clear.
Otherwise also in this way:
- 1656 [years] up to the flood. Genesis 5.
- 292 [years] up to the birth of Abraham. Genesis 11.
- 425 [years] up to the birth of Moses.
- 80 [years] up to the Exodus from Egypt.
- 480 [years] up to the temple of Solomon.
- 158 [years] up to king Joash and the end of the line of Solomon.
- 291 [years] up to the captivity of Zechariah.
- 11 years of Zedekiah until the destruction.
- 70 years of the devastation until Cyrus.
- 46 years until the second year of Darius, that is the beginning of the [seventy] weeks.
- 483 years or 69 weeks until the death of Christ.
- 7 years of the last week.
I have absolutely no doubt at all concerning all of these sections of the calculation. Therefore the sum as well can not be placed into question, except for one part, of which is from the end of the destruction to the beginning of the [seventy] weeks, or from Cyrus up to the second year of Darius, about which I want to say a few things, which persuade me.
In John 2:20 the Jews say to Christ: “This temple was built in 46 years, and you will destroy it in three days?” Through these words it is sufficiently certain that more than 46 years went by between the first year of Darius and Cyrus, and the completion of the temple. For from the seventh chapter of Ezra [6:15] it is clear that the temple was completed, not in the second year of Darius or the forty-sixth year after Cyrus, when the Word of God went out through Haggai and Zachariah at the beginning of the weeks, but in the sixth year of Darius. So there are four years in addition to the forty-six mentioned, and there are fully fifty years from Cyrus until the completion of the temple. This circumstance alone raises a question concerning those four years, otherwise all is certain and sure. This question arises because of the uncertainty of the years of the Persian kings. For historians disagree with each other, not only concerning the years of Cyrus, but also of Darius and others.
I will (foolishly) offer my thoughts concerning these four years in public; let him who wants to or can suggest and judge better. Daniel, in the 5th and 6th chapters, lets Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian reign each by himself alone, when he says [5:31] that Darius the Mede followed Belshazzar in the Chaldean kingdom, and he does not then add Cyrus. The same idea is also to be found, when he says [Dan. 6:28]: “Daniel was mighty in the reign of Darius, and also in the reign of Cyrus, the Persian.” Not as though it would thereby be false that Cyrus had ruled at the same time as Darius, as it is the way of the Scriptures, when one reads that the sons reigned with the fathers; rather, that one must make a distinction between the government of Cyrus with Darius, and the government of Cyrus alone. I say this for this reason, because it appears necessary to me at this place that the first year of Cyrus (2 Chronicles. 36 [v. 22] and Ezra 1[v.1]) be understood as the first year that Cyrus reigned alone after Darius. In this way two years will be eliminated from the four years, which are too many, and only two years remain in question, which I would like to eliminate in this way:
Since in great empires and kingdoms, especially when they are new, one’s plans happen slowly and with great resistance, before they are put into practice, it just could have happened that the edict of Cyrus was sent out only toward the end of the first year, so that one year thereby is eliminated. Accordingly it appears as necessary, that at least one year transpired as well for the outfitting of the Jews, in which they, after the edict was issued, prepared themselves for the return, rather for taking possession of Jerusalem, so that one could say, that it would have gone well and they themselves worked very quickly, if they, at the end of the second year, or in the third year of Cyrus, began to build. So the remaining two years disappear, and the text in John 2, that the temple was built in 46 years, remains. Of course, I know what I myself could also say against it, but that does not bother me that much.
Those who wish to do so are able to include the two years of Darius the Mede in the seventy years of the devastation, but I would rather place them after the seventy years. For after Belshazzar was killed, and his kingdom was transferred to Darius the Mede, the Jews were then actually freed and the prophecies of Jeremiah fulfilled. This is why during these two years there was made a great effort to send the Jewish people, already freed everywhere, back to their land; this is where Daniel and his men labored much.
However, let those who do not like this offer something better or demand everything in the harshest way: we will say that it is insignificant if the entire calculation is sure and there remains doubt in only two or four years. For if until the end of the world all occurs as described, except for two or four years, the faith and the church are in no great danger; we shall be able to ignore four years with a good conscience in so great a thing, that is, in the course of the entire world.
Only of that do I want to remind him, who lets himself be reminded, that I hold fast and unmovingly to the opinion that the beginning of the weeks is clearly to belong in no other place than in the second year of Darius Longimanus, so that he knows that he himself makes fruitless effort who thinks to dispute or argue with me over this subject. After all, I have (as I said) made this calculation for myself alone, and am ready to tolerate with the greatest equanimity, if someone else works out another for himself or for others. I base myself upon the Holy Scriptures alone. That is why I am obligated to reject, although very regrettably, Philo, who at one place places within the weeks of Daniel eighteen years too many. And it really does not matter to me where Alexander, Antiochus Epiphanes, the Maccabees and others are placed; however, I place them, but I am not very concerned, whether in the right place or differently, in that for me the years of the weeks hold undamaged and entirely sure their course among them.
So will I also be obligated to deviate from Metasthenes by twelve years. For if the calculation of Metasthenes and the number of the Assyrian kings should be affirmed, it necessarily would follow that Sanherib came to Jerusalem in the second year of Hiskia, which is impossible. For in the sixth year of Hiskia, Salmanasser took all of Israel away to Assyria, 2 Kings 17 [18:9-12], and Sanherib first came to Jerusalem in the fourteenth year of Hiskia, 2 Kings 18[:13]. This point convinced me not to despise the historians altogether, but to prefer the Holy Scriptures to them. I used them [the historians] in such a way that I would not be forced to contradict the Scriptures. For I believe that the God who speaks truth speaks in the Scriptures, but that in the histories very good people offer their best diligence and reliability (but as human beings), or at least that the copyists may have erred.