The Apocalyptic Luther
In the year 1540/41, Luther concluded a little-known work he had been working on for about four years, his Supputatio Annorum Mundi (“computation of the years of the world”). In the form of a table with short comments, Luther here pulls together a theologically shaped history of the world. His overview covers the time from the creation of the world and the fall into sin to the year 1540 A.D. – 5500 years after the creation of the world, in Luther’s counting.
At this age of the world, he expected the end of the world to come very soon. He was led to this conclusion by, among other things, an apocryphal word of the prophet Elijah he had come to know first from a 1532 chronicle by John Carion (1499-1537/8), inspired by Melanchthon, then also from a chronicle by the Jewish convert to Christianity, Paul of Burgos (1351-1435) called Scrutinium Scripturarum (“search of the scriptures”). This word – it now prefaces Luther’s chronicle – reads: “The world will stand six thousand years: for two thousand years it is empty; for two thousand years the law; for two thousand years the Messiah.” Therefore, living in the year 5500 A.M. brought him very close to the supposed end of the world, especially since Luther believed that – as the “three days” between Jesus’ death and resurrection are also not three full days – the last millennium would be shorter than 1000 years.
In what follows, we seek to shed some light on three important elements of Luther’s apocalyptic view of world history, namely, the seventy weeks revealed by the angel Gabriel in Dan. 9; the four kingdoms in Dan. 2; 7; and the millennium mentioned in Rev. 20. After this, we seek to arrive at an evaluation of Luther’s attempt to write history with the bible in hand.
 The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9
As becomes apparent especially in the 1545 print of Luther’s chronicle, the 70 Weeks mentioned in Dan. 9:24 play a central role in Luther’s computation of world history: they establish the precise time of the death of the promised Messiah, which makes this text, in Luther’s view, into the greatest of all prophecies:
From this book we see what a splendid, great man Daniel was in the sight of both God and the world. First in the sight of God, he above all other prophets had this special prophecy to give. That is, he not only prophesies of Christ, like the others, but also reckons, determines, and fixes with certainty the times and years. Moreover he arranges the kingdoms with their doings so precisely and well, in the right succession down to the fixed time of Christ, that one cannot miss the coming of Christ unless one does it wilfully [sic], as do the Jews.
At the beginning of chapter nine (Dan.9:2), Daniel had referred to the revelation given to Jeremiah concerning the end of Jerusalem’s desolation under the Babylonian yoke after seventy years (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10, cf. Zech. 1:12; 7:5). 2 Chr. 36:20-23 links the end of the seventy years to the decree made by the Persian king Cyrus who had overthrown the Neo-Babylonian Empire under Nabonidus in 539 BCE and allowed the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (see Ezra 1.). Obviously, this is less than 70 years since the destruction of the temple, today typically dated in about 586 BCE (3394 A.M., in Luther’s counting). However, 2 Chr. 36 need not be read in such a way that the first years of Cyrus’ rule over Babylonia (i.e., 539 BCE) would already be the end of the 70 years of desolation. According to Luther, Daniel’s words in the first year of “Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede” (Dan. 9:1-2) suggest that these years had just then passed, namely, according to his chart, in 3464/91 A.M. As Luther saw it based on Dan. 5:30-31; 6:28 (and in agreement with the Carion-Melanchthon chronicle), this first Darius is not the king known today, based on Greek sources, as Darius I the Great who ruled between about 522 and 485 BCE. Rather, he is an elderly Persian king who ruled together with Cyrus for two years, after which Cyrus ruled alone.
Therefore, as Luther sees it, right at the end of the 70 years spoken of by Jeremiah, Gabriel appears to Daniel and brings a new revelation concerning the 70 Weeks (Dan. 9:24-27). According to Gabriel, the 70 Weeks would begin “from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem” (9:25). Which “word” does the angel have in mind? According to Luther, this is not the decree issued by Cyrus mentioned in 2 Chr. 36; Ezra 1 and reissued by Darius according to Ezra 6:1-12, so that the temple would finally be finished in the sixth year of Darius (Ezra 6:15, 3514 A.M.). Yet it is also not the permission Nehemiah received “in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes” (Neh. 2:1, 4f., 9, 3528 A.M.), which specifically aims at the rebuilding of Jerusalem, as Luther had thought at first. Instead, Luther, in agreement with the Carion-Melanchthon chronicle, establishes it as a decree issued in the second year of this king, known to Luther also as Darius, that is, in 3510 A.M. While in principle being open to be corrected on his calculation of the years of the world, Luther at this point digs in his heels; he has made up his mind.
The word marking the beginning of the 70 Weeks is then not just a royal word, but first and foremost a divine word, issued by the Lord through Haggai and Zechariah (cf. Hag. 1:1; Zech. 1:1). Based on Ezra 6:14, where the prophets Haggai and Zechariah are mentioned, Luther seems to have concluded that the reissuing of the Cyrus decree (it had met with opposition) by Darius took place in the king’s second year, since this is the earliest date found in those prophets, relating to prophecies concerning the temple that had still not been rebuilt by the returnees. It seems then that the king reissued the old decree at just the time when Israel’s prophets called their people to finish the work begun earlier. Luther looks to John 2:20 to determine the time it took to build the second temple and arrives at 46 years.
The second year of King Darius Artaxerxes Longimanus is, in Luther’s computation, 3510 A.M, the 490 years would thus end in 4000 A.M., at the beginning of the fifth millennium, when, according to the saying Luther believed to be from Elijah, the Messianic age, the two last millennia of the world, began. In Luther’s computation, Christ’s birth had occurred in the year 3960 A.M., the “30th year of Herod and the 42nd of Augustus.” His baptism therefore took place in 3990 A.M., while his death, resurrection, and the sending of the Spirit occurred in 3994 A.M., thereby inaugurating the last, the seventieth week.
What would happen during this period of time? According to Dan. 9:24, these 490 years are decreed for Daniel’s people and Jerusalem “to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.” The following verses Dan 9:25-27 subdivide these 70 Weeks into units of seven, 62, and one. What are they all about? According to Luther, the first seven weeks (49 years) were dedicated to the complete rebuilding of Jerusalem that, until Nehemiah came to Jerusalem in the 20th year of Artaxerxes (Neh. 2; that is, after about 2.5 weeks), had not made much progress like the temple earlier. The time between the conclusion of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the end of the 69th week (483 years in total) would be a time of waiting for the appearance of the Messiah. He would then atone for sins and bring everlasting righteousness. But he would also “seal both vision and prophet” and anoint a most holy place.
The last septennium, the last week of years is described in Dan. 9:27: Here we learn that the Messiah will “strengthen the covenant for many” during this time, which Luther applies to the evangelical proclamation of the apostles since Pentecost, obviously as Christ’s mouthpieces (cf. Acts 5:31). Moreover, in the middle of this week (that is, after 3½ years), the Messiah will end sacrifice and offering. What is meant here? Luther, in his chronicle, refers the end to sacrifice and offering to the council of the apostles recorded in Acts 15 when “by a public decree the law was abolished and freedom from the law was promulgated.” In other words, he does not refer the ending of sacrifice to the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. If Christ’s birth marks “the first year of salvation,” the council of Jerusalem would have happened in 37 AD (3998 A.M.) three years after the death of the Messiah which Luther dates in 34 AD.
Modern scholars date the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus about 465-424 BCE. The second year of this king would thus be 463 BCE; adding 490 years to this would lead to the year 27 A.D., the last week beginning in the year 20 A.D. On the other hand, taking his 20th year (Nehemiah’s arrival in Jerusalem) as point of departure would lead one to the year 45, the last week beginning in 38 A.D. Given the uncertainty of dating Persian kings at this time, it would perhaps be better to calculate the other way around: take the dates of Christ as point of departure, that he was baptized in about 30 A.D. (Luke 3:23) and died in about 33 A.D., then the beginning of the 70 Weeks would have to be around 450 BCE. Who is to say that Artaxerxes did not reign first since 452 BCE, if the decree referred to in Dan. 9:25 is indeed the one issued by Darius Artaxerxes in his second year?
While Luther thus makes his calculations based on the traditional assumption that the Hebrew expression in Dan. 9:24 שבועים שבועים(shavu'im shiv'im) means “seventy weeks,” namely “of years,” some modern scholars assert that this assumption is not tenable. Some allege – incorrectly – that Daniel 9 is the only instance of the masculine plural form שבועים (shavu'im) in the OT, which is adduced to support the claim that the meaning cannot be “weeks,” that is, any specific, calculable amount of time; rather, it is said that, in a symbolic way common in apocalyptic literature, “seventy sevens represents the complete period of considerable duration assigned to the rebuilt Jerusalem.”
 The Four Kingdoms and Beasts in Daniel 2 and 7
In his computation of the years of the world, Luther notes briefly for the year 3377 A.M.: “Daniel interprets the dream of Nebuchadnezzar concerning the statue, in the second year of his reign (Dan. 2), to comfort the captives.” To be sure, he does not discuss it as elaborately as the messianic prophecy concerning the 70 Weeks; after all, it was just political prophecy. Nonetheless, a study of the chronicle reveals that Luther carefully marked the transitions between the four kingdoms mentioned in the interpretation of the dream by Daniel, counting the kings of each. As can be seen from his 1530 Preface to Daniel, Luther identifies the kingdoms as follows:
The first kingdom is that of the Assyrians or Babylonians; the second, that of the Medes and Persians; the third, that of Alexander the Great and the Greeks; the fourth, that of the Romans. Everyone agrees on this view and interpretation; subsequent events and the histories prove it conclusively.
Accordingly, after letting the Assyrian-Babylonian kingdom begin with Nimrod (Gen. 10:8) in his chronicle, Luther marks the beginning of the Persian kingdom as well as the end of the Persian kingdom and the beginning of the Greek kingdom of Alexander. The kingdom of the Romans he lets begin with Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE) and then counts the rulers of this empire up until Constantine VI of Byzantium (771-797). Then he begins a new count with Charlemagne, the first ruler of the German kingdom. This count he continued to his own day, 1540 A.D., 5500 A.M.
What does this mean? His Preface to Daniel explains, based on Dan. 2:42-43:
Just as in the human body the toes separate while projecting from and belonging to the foot, so also was the Roman empire split, as Spain, France, England, and other parts came out of it. Nevertheless it has continued to grow and, like a plant, has been transplanted or (as they say) transferred [translatum] from the Greeks to the Germans. Yet this has occurred in such a way that its nature as iron was retained, for the empire still has its estates, offices, laws, and statutes as of old.
In other words, Luther here joins those who claim that, as Pope Leo III consecrated Charlemagne as Roman Emperor in 800 A.D., the Roman “kingdom” was transferred from the Greeks (and Romans) to the Germans. This took place while Byzantium was ruled by a woman, Empress Irene, the mother of the last emperor counted by Luther, Constantine VI. Thus, the imperial throne was technically vacant. The transferal of the empire (translatio imperii) explains why Luther, on the one hand, notes the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, but, on the other hand, does not appear to ascribe any major significance to this event: as was commonly held in the West, the Greek empire had lost its theological significance already 650 years earlier. Its fall was therefore in a sense inevitable: it was just a matter of time before it would be overrun by the Muslim Turks and become their capital, Istanbul.
What else can be said about this German empire? It will be weaker than the ancient Roman empire due to both weak rulers and inner discord. However, since there is still some of the old iron in there, it is also true that
the Roman empire is to be the last, and that no one will be able to destroy it save Christ alone and his kingdom. Therefore, even though many monarchs may have risen against the German empire and the Turks may rage against it, and even though all such enemies may perhaps win an occasional battle, they are nevertheless unable to conquer an iron root or plant like this, or to destroy it. It must remain until the Last Day, no matter how weak it may be. For Daniel does not lie, and up until now experience—with respect to both the popes themselves and the kings—has borne this out.
In other words, since Daniel only speaks of four kingdoms prior to the second advent of Christ (Dan. 2:44-45), there must be a permanent continuation of the last kingdom since Christ evidently has not returned to destroy all earthly kingdoms. For Luther, this continuation is the Holy Roman Empire. This means that Luther saw himself and his contemporaries included in the biblical prophecies concerning the end-times in a very concrete way. Being featured prominently in God’s plan of history means also that the German kingdom was dependent on God’s providence alone.
The vision of the four beasts and especially of the ten horns of the last beast (Dan. 7:19-26) provides greater historical detail for Luther concerning the time immediately before the end of the world. He identifies the ten horns of the fourth beast (the Roman Empire) as the successor states established on the territory of this kingdom. The small horn that would knock down three of the previous horns, according to Luther, is Mohammed, the prophet of Islam: he will wage war against the saints, but not accomplish more than to conquer three kingdoms before the end of the world and God’s final judgment will come. In Luther’s count, these were Egypt, Asia, and Greece. Says Luther: “Certainly we have nothing to wait for now except the Last Day, for the Turk will not knock off more than these three horns.” Indeed, Luther believed that the end of the age was upon him.
 The Millennium in Revelation 20 and the Papacy
In his 1522 Preface to the Revelation of St. John, Luther stated that he did not consider this book to be apostolic or prophetic. He therefore left everybody free to think about it as they wished. However, at the beginning of the 1530 (and final) Preface to the same book, Luther develops a classification of various kinds of prophecy: the two basic classes are prophecy as interpretation of Scripture (Luther here references 1 Cor. 12; 14) and prophecy as foretelling future events. The latter class is subdivided in prophecy in words (e.g., the Messianic prophecies of the OT); prophecy in words and images (e.g., Joseph interpreting dreams); and prophecy in images only that need to be interpreted in order to be no longer “a concealed and mute prophecy” but to be profitable to the readers (e.g., Revelation, referencing Acts 2:17 (Joel 2:28), see also 1 Cor. 14:5).
Given that so many have, in vain, tried their hand at interpreting Revelation’s images and visions, how should one proceed to arrive at a certain, correct interpretation that benefits the church? Luther’s advice is this:
Since it is intended as a revelation of things that are to happen in the future, and especially of tribulations and disasters that were to come upon Christendom, we consider that the first and surest step toward finding its interpretation is to take from history the events and disasters that have come upon Christendom till now, and hold them up alongside of these images, and so compare them very carefully. If, then, the two perfectly coincided and squared with one another, we could build on that as a sure, or at least an unobjectionable, interpretation.
This methodology presupposes that the Seer John was granted veiled information concerning actual historical events that would occur as end-time tribulations oppressing Christendom in the future, giving this particular time its particular signature (see Matt. 16:3). Luther was then looking for the point of comparison between the images and the events. With this relatively simple methodology in hand, Luther runs through the entire book, chapter by chapter.
From the opening letters to the seven congregations, Luther gleans the insight that the word “angel” throughout the book is to mean “bishops and teachers in Christendom.” Beginning with Rev. 6, the end-time tribulations are addressed, first focusing on the persecutions by the temporal government, while in Rev. 7-10 spiritual persecutions and tribulations are addressed. Here, by means of the “good” and “evil” angels mentioned in Rev. 7 and Rev. 8, Luther distinguishes between faithful teachers, specifically “the holy fathers” – he mentions Spiridion of Cyrus, Athanasius, Hilary, and the Council of Nicea – and the four arch-heretics: First, Tatian and the Encratites and all works righteous teachers, as works righteousness is the first and foremost deviation from the pure gospel of grace. Second, Marcion and the Montanists, but also the enthusiasts of Luther’s day, as those who extol their own spirituality above God’s biblical word. Third, Origen as head of those who corrupt scripture with their own reason and philosophy. And fourth, Novatus, the Cathars, and Donatists who denied repentance. In the (Catholic) clergy of his time, Luther saw a combination of all four chief heresies. Rev. 9 provides Luther with the prediction of three more arch-heresies, Arius, Mohammed, and finally the papacy: all these would combine bodily and spiritual persecutions of the church.
The images concerning the papacy are further extended by Luther: not only do the popes rule by spiritual power, as indicated by the bitter scroll in chapter 10; they also rule by the sword, indicated by the images in Rev. 13: the first beast is the empire (Rev. 13:1-10); the beast with the two horns (Rev. 13:11-18) is the papacy, laying hold of the two swords (spiritual and secular authority), resulting in “the papal empire and the imperial papacy.” Rev. 13:3, 12, 15 Luther sees as references to the bestowal of the Roman Empire on the German kings by the pope in 800 A.D. mentioned earlier in the discussion of Daniel 2. Summarizing this section of Revelation concerning future woes, Luther writes:
Here, now, the devil’s final wrath gets to work: there in the East is the second woe, Mohammed and the Saracens; here in the West are papacy and empire, with the third woe. To these is added for good measure the Turk, Gog and Magog, as will follow in chapter 20[:8]. Thus Christendom is plagued most terribly and miserably, everywhere and on all sides, with false doctrines and with wars, with scroll and with sword. That is the dregs, the final plague.
This again clearly shows that Luther believed to live under the “final wrath” of the devil, the “final plague,” during the last years of this world prior to the second coming of Christ. This is further corroborated by Luther’s brief comments on Rev. 20 in this same 1530 preface: Luther definitely is no amillennialist, that is, one who believes in only a symbolic millennium designating the undisclosed duration of the time of the church between the first and second coming of Christ. He is also not a pre-millennialist in that he does not teach a second coming of Christ prior to the literally understood millennium. Closest to Luther is, in a sense, post-millennialism in that it, at least in some of its forms, teaches a return of Christ after a literal millennium. However, Luther not only believes that the millennium is already past; he is, therefore, also free from the 19th-century optimism, that is, an increasing defeat of Satan, typically held by modern-day post-millennialists. These two features of Luther's "post-millennialism" are also something that set him apart from Lutheran Pietists in Germany who -- beginning with Johann Jakob Schütz (1640-1690), Philip Jakob Spener (1635-1705), and especially Johann Wilhelm Petersen (1649-1727) and his wife, Johanna Eleonore Petersen (1644-1724) -- based on Rev. 20 believed in the future coming of "better times" for the church and who, especially in their radical forms, devoloped a quite elaborate post-millennial eschatology, including the destruction of the papacy and a return of the Jews to Jerusalem.
Specifically, Luther taught that Satan now is on the loose again, after he had been held captive for about 1000 years, beginning at about the time Revelation was written. Satan also brings Gog and Magog, the Turks and Tartars, with him: “After the Turks, the Last Judgment follows quickly.” That is to say, after a literal millennium of relative peace for the church, its arch-enemy is now cut loose and brings all sorts of woes with him, the last one being the Turkish-Muslim threat to the church. Luther thus sees himself as living in the “little while” mentioned in Rev. 20:3 (cf. Rev. 20:7-8). There was therefore no room for the inner-worldly optimism of modern post-millennialists.
The end of this millennium of relative peace (1000 A.D., 4960 A.M.) during the last years of Emperor Otto III (980-1002) is carefully and clearly marked in Luther’s chronicle. Luther comments: “Since this millennium is ended, Satan now is set loose, and the Roman bishop becomes the antichrist, also by power of the sword.” These remarks are correlated to the relative past and the relative future. As to the past, Luther notes on Pope Gregory I (590-604) and Boniface III (607) that Gregory was the last bishop of the church of Rome, while all subsequent bishops would also be popes, that is, the primates of the universal church. During his short papacy, Boniface requested this title from – or had it at least confirmed by – the Greek Emperor Phocas (602-610).
As to the years past 1000 A.D., it is noteworthy that Luther had the names of most popes printed upside down. This practice begins with Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) who forced King (later Emperor) Henry IV (1056/84-1105) by means of excommunication to back down in the controversy concerning the investiture of bishops in the German Empire. It is with Gregory VII, then, that Luther sees the popes put the “third woe” afflicting the church and mentioned above into practice, not just by spiritual power, but also by wielding the secular sword. This negative view of Gregory, that was probably shared by many in the German church before Luther, is underlined by the fact that Luther renders Gregory’s name at birth, Hildebrand, in a telling way as “Hellebrand,” that is, “hell fire” and that he calls him “the mask of the devil” (larva Diaboli).
Thus, the Antichrist has now fully come to sit in God’s temple and exercise his power in an unrestrained manner (cf. 2 Thess. 2:3-7). He will last until he is destroyed by Christ with the breath of his mouth (2 Thess. 2:8), an event which Luther, in his comments on Rev. 14, sees taking place already by the preaching of the truth of the gospel. Interestingly, Luther includes Bernard of Clairvaux into his chronicle and gives the dates of his birth (1090), his becoming a monk and abbot, and his death (1153). It is well-known that Luther appreciated this monk, although he conceded that Bernard naively believed, e.g., in the primacy of the pope. As a saint, Bernhard would be one of those angels preaching the truth of the eternal gospel against the Antichrist whom Luther mentioned in his comments on Rev. 14.
Luther sees the end of the papacy announced by the “Western Schism” (1378-1417): According to Rev. 16:19 – the split of Babylon in three parts – it was a sure sign of the eventual overthrow of the papacy. This schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414-1418), “the council of Satan,” in 1414 when Martin V was made pope and when John Hus, the “holy martyr of Christ … with his fellow martyr, Jerome of Prague,” was killed (1415).
To this martyr, Hus, Luther connects his own work against the papacy. He does so after reporting the occurrence of end-time signs (cf. Luke 21:11) around 1500 A.D., among which he also counts the syphilis that had first then come to Europe, reportedly “from the new islands discovered in the west” – that is, America – along with other signs in the sky, on earth, and in the water: “these make the hope certain that that blessed day is imminent.” For the year 1517, two years before Charles V succeeded his father Maximilian I as Roman Emperor in 1519, Luther notes: “The papal indulgencies attacked by Luther, in the year 102 after the death of John Hus, which is almost the 1000th year of the papacy confirmed by Phocas.” Luther thus relates his work of proclaiming the gospel to Hus – already Hus (and Wycliffe) had spoken out against indulgencies – as well as to the emergence, or the confirmation, of the primacy of the papacy in 607. Luther’s reference to the century that had elapsed between 1415 and 1517 was not accidental: as early as 1531, Luther interprets himself in light of a prophecy made by Hus in 1414. Given that Luther, when he sent this computation to the printer in 1540/41, believed the end of the world to be at hand, the 95 Theses of 1517 – along with the Augsburg Confession of 1530 – appear among the final blasts of Christ’s mouth against the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:8) before the Last Day.
It is noteworthy that, biographically, Luther began to view the papacy as the Antichrist after the 1519 Leipzig Disputation with John Eck. A gifted debater, Eck managed to force Luther to admit that not only the pope, but also the councils can err. He did so be having Luther agree with a number of statements made by John Hus that were condemned by the Council in Constance. This way of arguing had special relevance in Leipzig, since the university there was founded in 1409 in the course of the Husite conflict in Bohemia. Commenting on the theses of the disputation after the event, Luther points out that, if the pope alone claims -- at least in the eyes of his supporters -- the right to interpret the Scriptures, then he must be the Antichrist spoken of by Paul in 2 Thess. 2:4 as sitting in the temple of God, that is, the church. Beginning in 1519, therefore, Luther begins to understand himself more and more as the eschatological uncoverer of the papacy as the Antichrist (cf. 2 Thess. 2:8). And from the beginning of this view, there is a close connection to John Hus.
 Summary and Evaluation
What is one to make of all this? A number of features stand out.
 Bible Historically Accurate
There is, first of all, Luther firm adherence to the bible also for historical data. As far as it covered historical events, Luther bowed to its authority and did not correct it based on historical-scientific research conducted by fallible humans. To be sure, 16th-century research might not have been as impressive as the libraries filled with historical-scientific exploits today. But it was the most impressive it had ever been up to that point in time. In other words, Luther did not know any research that was more advanced than basically what was known to him. He sided with the scriptures nonetheless and did not condense them to some a-historical core that would not conflict with the prestigious historical books of his day or of our day. What does this mean today? As seen, Luther would be more than ready to be corrected, if one pointed out to him mistakes in his calculation of the biblical dates and times. Yet, in order to convince Luther, this would have to be done based on the bible itself. In other words, one may or may not agree with all of Luther’s individual dates, but among his followers there should be no disagreement as to the basic approach to the scriptures and to writing the history of the times covered by the bible.
 Bible Contains Historical Information about the Future
There is, secondly, Luther’s firm belief that the scriptures, in its various forms of literal or figurative prophecy, also contained reliable historical information about the future all the way to the end of the world (and beyond). Luther interprets this kind of historical prophecy also with history books in hand to see where and how a given prophecy is fulfilled. This, in turn, gives not only inevitability, but also a certain transparency to history: To be sure, God’s hidden workings in history, for the most part, remain hidden also for the Christian. And yet, here and there, based on God’s word and solid historical knowledge, the believer is able to perceive God’s activity in history that fulfills the prophecies one by one – chiefly the ones concerning the divine-human Messiah and Savior of mankind – and thus drives the history of the world toward Judgment Day, the end of time, history, and this fallen world.
Perhaps one could, in analogy to Luther’s statements on the perspicuity of scripture, speak of a perspicuity of world history: Luther did not mean to say that literally everything in the bible is clear, but that the main thing – Christ and the gospel – is clear. So in history, assuming its perspicuity does not mean that the believer is able to make sense out of every individual occurrence (or come up with the exact date of the end of the world). This is not granted to us by God’s word (Acts 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:1-2). But as far as the light of the scriptures goes, there is also perfect clarity in history: even though God’s word and the church are always on the side that seems to lose, God still has and will come through for his pure word as well as for his true church. What is now the church militant under the cross, a crass minority ever since the fall and harassed by powerful spiritual and political enemies such as a politicized papacy and the Muslims, will then be the church triumphant filling the new heavens and earth with her eternal praises of God and the Lamb.
 Living at the End of Time
A third feature that stands out in Luther’s reading of history is obviously that he believed himself to live at the end of time, within the last half-millennium of this old world. Before writing off Luther’s timeframe for the end of the world too quickly, one should remember that the second half of Luther’s sixth millennium has not fully expired yet. There are still about 30 years left, about the time of Christ’s earthly life.
Yet one problem with Luther’s chronology, which could be interpreted as suggesting the closeness of the end of the world (cf. Dan. 2:44-45), is that the end of the fourth and last kingdom found in Dan. 2; 7 has already occurred. As seen above, Luther identified it as the ancient Roman Empire that was later continued in the Holy Roman Empire. However, this empire ended in 1806, when Napoleon, not the Turks, forced the last emperor, Francis II, to dissolve the empire. However, he stayed on as emperor of Austria-Hungary. The last ruler of this entity, Charles I, stepped down in November of 1918, pressured by the Western Allies. Then the fourth kingdom identified by Luther ended (at the latest). Its immediate successor state, the Republic of Austria, would, according to Luther’s implicit criteria, not constitute a valid continuation of the Holy Roman Empire because it is not a monarchy. Analogously, Luther had the fourth, the Roman kingdom begin when Julius Caesar became the sole ruler of the state, not while Rome was still a republic. This agrees well with Luther’s negative attitude toward constitutional-democratic forms of government where the citizenry – not other rulers or, rather, God – acted as judge and overlord of their rulers.
NT scholar Albert Schweitzer criticized his fellow liberal exegetes prior to WWI for suppressing the apocalyptic elements in the proclamation of the historical Jesus, a process, however, which for Schweitzer and others already started in the NT-times after the eschatological expectations of the historical Jesus had not been fulfilled. By the time of the early 20th century, everything was integrated into Western Protestantism’s idea of progress that foresaw a seamless and gradual improvement of the conditions and a transition of the world into the kingdom of God. These cultured men preached the kingdom of God; instead, WWI came with its own set of apocalyptic horrors.
However, also Schweitzer’s call did not produce the kind of concrete, eschatological-apocalyptic reading of history with the bible in hand seen in Luther. The hermeneutical presuppositions of Schweitzer and his contemporaries were, obviously, by and large no longer those of Luther. NT scholar Rudolf Bultmann, e.g., spoke of eschatology only in existentialist-anthropological terms, since the cosmological and cosmic aspects of the NT appeared to him as outdated mythological disguises of man’s timeless self-understanding.
In general, apocalyptic literature like Daniel and Revelation is today not seen as prophetic revelation from the one true God (Acts 1:7; Is. 44:7-8; 48:3-16) concerning concrete historical events or persons that are to come before the end and that can be identified by a careful study of history as it actually happened, thereby furnishing “signs of the times” for the believers (Matt. 16:3). Rather, it is either regarded as consisting of vaticinia ex eventu, that is, texts posing as real prophecies, while they really were written after the “prophesied” events already occurred to give credibility to a pseudonymous end-times tract. Or it is regarded as consisting of speculative human imagination of what needs to happen in the future to enable marginalized individuals (or nations) to cope with a present sense of loss of trust in God’s righteousness (theodicy): somehow good will win out over evil eventually, even though it does not look like it at the moment. The historical reliability of the prophecy is, therefore, viewed as decreasing the farther one moves away from the time it was uttered or penned down: while the author, for the early stages of the “end-time” events, might have had concrete historical figures or events in mind – e.g., this or that pagan king he knew and hated as a persecutor of the true saints – there remain only blurry symbols without any concrete historical contents in the remote future. After all, how should, e.g., a first-century Jew have known what would happen at the time of Luther, hundreds of years later? As the revelations concerning the end times are no longer seen as objective and concrete, though often figurative, revelations of things to come, they thus appear to be no more than wishful thinking: the desperate or hopeful but always bright projections of frightened minds on a dark but empty sky.
Furthermore, it seems that, even if apocalyptic texts in the bible are not seen as merely expressing human longings for a better future, but as actual divine revelation, modern interpreters are hesitant to engage in the concrete apocalyptic interpretation of history seen in Luther. While the truth of the texts is affirmed, the interpretation appears then often symbolic-abstract. A comparative study of the interpretation of, e.g., the millennium mentioned in Rev. 20 could demonstrate this. A question for this type of symbolic interpretation is obviously that raised by “messianic prophecies.” Reading Luther, one does not notice a qualitative difference in his approach to, say, Gen. 49:10, Dan. 9:24-27, or Rev. 20. As seen above, Luther does not in principle distinguish between prophetic and apocalyptic genres of literature that is common today among critical students of the bible; the only difference in foretelling prophecy he recognizes is one of degree: more or less figurative. Therefore, all three examples speak of concrete historical events and persons, not of abstract “blessings” or vague hopes. If this concreteness is denied for non-messianic prophecies, can it be maintained for the messianic ones?
 Theology of History
What is finally remarkable about Luther’s historical approach to the bible is that it informs a well-developed theology of history that interprets and classifies historical events based on the scriptures rightly understood. The scriptures, centered in the gospel of God’s free grace in Jesus Christ, thus provide Luther with answers to the meta-historical questions as to, e.g., the deep structure, meaning, and goal of history. Since these answers (and questions) are not evident in history itself, their existence and validity is often rejected today. Materialism, chance, evolutionary development, and the notion of an “open history” determined only by free human agents dominate the writing of history as interpretation of individual events. Left by itself, reason really can judge no differently. However, it cannot do without raising and answering meta-historical questions, thereby creating super-natural powers of its own. The same is true about (church) histories written by theologians with a different theology: as the latter might center, not in the gospel of justification by grace through faith, but in sanctification, in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, in the state of Israel, in the United States, in Russia, or in mystical experiences, it will also yield a different view of history. The validity of a historical account therefore will have to be tested theologically, that is, by scripture. Studying the “apocalyptic” Luther along the lines drawn here can therefore be helpful in defining and articulating a specifically Lutheran theology of history.
In this context it is noteworthy that the apocalyptic, the “eschatological Luther” is supplemented by the “protological Luther.” This is to say, Luther’s theology of history is not only shaped by the biblical revelations concerning the end times, but, perhaps more profoundly, already by the biblical account of man’s fall into sin and God’s promise of grace in Christ. On the first couple of pages of his chronicle, that is, during the first few centuries of the fallen world till about the flood, Luther outlines the establishment of the two basic and permanent antagonistic forces in the world: the church of God and the church of the devil. While the church of God is established by the promise of the Seed of the woman, the protoevangel (Gen. 3:15) – hence Luther calls it also “the church of the Seed” – the church of the devil is established by “Cain the apostate” (cf. Hebr. 11:4). The true church is therefore in existence prior to the false church, even though, as Luther points out in his Genesis Lectures, the false church, marked by false doctrine, enjoys glory before the world and persecutes the true church, while the true church, marked by sound doctrine centered in the gospel, is, like Christ, hidden under shame and the cross. Commenting on Gen. 4:16 in his computation, dated by Luther to 231 A.M., he notes that this verse signifies that the proclamation of the gospel concerning the Seed had success, perhaps even gaining some converts from the Cainite church.
Interestingly, it appears that, up until the flood, Luther uses, albeit not fully consistently, the two main columns of his table to distinguish between sin and grace, death and life, devil and God, church of Cain and church of God by placing the former in the left column (it also contains pertinent comments to events on the right side) and the latter in the right column: The fall is recorded in the left column, as is Cain’s murder of Abel; the offspring of Seth, members of the true church, are recorded in the right column. Luther’s overview of the leaders of the respective churches following the death of Adam in 930 A.M. is also arranged accordingly.
In his Genesis Lectures, Luther points out that “Augustine treats this story [of Cain and Abel] in a similar way in his book The City of God.” There Augustine distinguishes the city of man, whose representative is Cain, from the city of God, whose representative is Abel (XV,1). The former has its beginning, on earth, in man’s fall into sin (XIV,1); after the fall, everyone is thus first a member of the city of man (XV,1), marked by, at best, using God to enjoy the things of the world and not, as it should be, using the things of the world to enjoy God (XV,7). Characteristically, Augustine defines the membership of the two cities ultimately based on his notion of double predestination (XV,1), while Luther focuses, as seen, on true and false doctrine, gospel and no gospel, faith and unbelief – the former thus hones in on the invisible church, while the latter has the visible but hidden church in mind. One would have to examine Augustine’s and Luther’s theology of history more closely, but it appears already at this point that the theological specifics of both men result in different historiographies.
In summary, studying Luther’s thoroughly theological, apocalyptic-eschatological view of history yields interesting results that probe into areas today often left by Lutherans to the likes of the popular Left Behind author Tim LaHaye. There seems to be a significant curiosity regarding these matters that should not, and need not, be pushed out of the church to be satisfied elsewhere by adopting some sort of agnosticism concerning the metaphysics of history. At the very least, “Luther’s” view of history can point his present-day followers to the critical dates in church history that are often overlooked because those producing history textbooks today are often not aware of what is always true.
- ↑ Text: WA 53:22-171. The introduction by F. Cohrs (ibid., 1-17) offers valuable historical background information, also as to Luther’s extra-biblical sources. To determine the terminus a quo of the chronology project, Cohrs points to Luther’s remarks in the Genesis lectures on Gen. 5:1 (AE 1:333f.): “It is worthwhile to make a chart of the facts as Moses relates them, for the purpose of learning which patriarchs lived together with which other patriarchs, and for how long a time, something which I myself have done in my leisure time.” Cohrs dates these words to January 1536. Luther's introduction to his chronicle is available on LutheranWiki for the first time in English.
- ↑ See Cohrs in WA 53:10-13. Ultimately, this saying goes back to the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a.b and, more closely, Avodah Zarah 9a).
- ↑ WA 53:22. Sanhedrin 97a.b reads: “The world will continue for six thousand years, the first two thousand of which were a chaos [Tahu, see Gen. 1:2], the second two thousand were of wisdom, and the third two thousand are the days of the Messiah, and because of our sins many, many years of these [Messianic years] have elapsed, and still he has not come.” Avodah Zarah 9a reads: “The world will continue for six thousand years, the first two thousand of which were a chaos (Tahu), the second two thousand were of Torah, and the third two thousand are the days of the Messiah, and because of our sins many years of these have elapsed, and still he has not come. Let us see from what time the two thousand of Torah are reckoned. Shall we assume it to be the time when the Torah was given to Israel? Two thousand years have not elapsed as yet since. We must therefore say that it means the time mentioned in [Gen. 12:5]: ‘And the persons that they had obtained in Charan.’ And it is known by tradition that Abraham was then fifty-two years of age. And from his fifty-second year until the Torah was given, 448 years elapsed, and that number will complete the number of 2,000 which were less at the time the Tana taught about the 2,000 years of wisdom.”
- ↑ Cf. WA 53:171, where Luther lets Friday start “on the night when He was betrayed” (cf. the pattern begun in Gen. 1:5, cf. AE 1:20).
- ↑ See the material in addition to the 1541 print in WA 53:24-27.
- ↑ Thus the 1530 Preface to Daniel (AE 35:313f.), cf. also AE 47:229ff. from 1543. Luther documents this missing out on the real Messiah by the Jews in his chronicle by giving the dates of various spurious messiahs that arose (or were to arise) in Judaism after Christ’s life and death on the cross, cf. WA 53:120-130 (Bar Kochba, d. 138, see also AE 47:234-237: the fervent belief in Bar Kochba by the Jews just a few years after the end of the sacrifice in the temple mentioned in Dan. 9:27 proves to Luther that even the Jews have to agree to his own messianic interpretation of Dan. 9), 132 (advent of the messiah according to “those from the house of Elijah” in 420), 155 (advent of the messiah according to the calculation of one Rabbi Cahadras in 1092), 159 (advent of the messiah according to Rabbi Moses Maimonides in 1224), 164 (advent of the messiah according to the calculation of two medieval rabbis in 1359). On the traditional Jewish interpretation of the passage by Rashi (messianic!), see M. L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 3:88-91.
- ↑ The print of Luther’s chronicle only assigns 215 years to Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, in spite of Ex. 12:40. Even though Luther, in his original manuscript, rejects Lyra’s assumption of only 210 years in Egypt in favor of the biblical 430 years, the print of his chronicle reverts more to Lyra’s calculation, see WA 53:65 (with note b that offers an excerpt from Lyra), 68. Accordingly, the exodus took place, in the counting of the print, in 2453 A.M. Therefore, Solomon’s temple, begun 480 years after the exodus from Egypt (1 Kings 6:1), is dated by Luther to 2933 A.M. instead of 3148 A.M., had full credit been given to Ex. 12:40. – If this temple is destroyed in 3394 A.M., add to this 70 years and one arrives in 3464 A.M. as the time when Jerusalem’s desolation would be ended.
- ↑ See Luther in WA 53:103: “Desolation of Jerusalem, of 70 years, Dan. 9, 2 Chr. 36, lest you be deceived by those who invent 52 years of desolation.” 52 years of desolation would come close to the year 539 BCE.
- ↑ WA 53:103: “Daniel, adducing Jeremiah, says that the 70 years of desolation are completed (completos esse),” cf. ibid., 106: “The end of the captivity and the beginning of the reign of the Persians. In the first year of Darius (and Cyrus), Daniel hears from the angel the 70 Weeks, because he sees that the 70 years of desolation are competed (impletos) …” Luther’s German bible translation of Dan. 9:2 from 1545 merely states that the years of desolation should be 70.
- ↑ See WA 53:106.
- ↑ See WA 53:106 and the excerpt from the chronicle WA 53:109. However, elsewhere Luther states that the “first year of Cyrus” mentioned in 2 Chr. 36; Ezra 1, is the first year of his solo reign (WA 53:26).
- ↑ See WA 53:175: “Daniel receives a new revelation after the 70 years were finished, when the word ending the captivity had already gone out.”
- ↑ As will be briefly discussed below, Luther assumes with the tradition that these weeks are year weeks: one week equals seven years. Seventy such weeks result in 490 years.
- ↑ In his original manuscript, the begin of Longimanus’ reign was dated for 3492 A.M., thus 16 years earlier than in the print; accordingly, the begin of the 70 Weeks is established for the 20th year of Longimanus, that is, Nehemiah’s permission to go to Jerusalem. Yet later, in the 1545 print, this is discussed critically at the time of the later, corrected 20th year of Longimanus, 3528 A.D: the letters given to Nehemiah are no more than a permission, not to be confused with the divine decree by Haggai and Zechariah (WA 53:107f.).
- ↑ See WA 53:107, 109. See also Luther’s 1530 Preface to Daniel (AE 35:303).
- ↑ See WA 53:26.
- ↑ Cf. AE 22:245f. (on John 2:20). This verse would thus not be about the Herodian temple renovations begun in 19 BCE, but about the first building of the second temple; otherwise, there would have been three temples altogether.
- ↑ The difference of four years (3514 – 46 = 3468, not 3464, see above) is discussed in WA 53:25ff.
- ↑ See WA 53:125.
- ↑ WA 53:124. As an additional proof for the truthfulness of the Messianic claim of Jesus, Herod is important for Luther in that this Idumean king of Israel brought an end to the Judaic-Davidic dynasty, an event which, according to Luther’s interpretation of Gen. 49:10, would precede the advent of the Messiah “Shiloh” (Luther translates the enigmatic שילה as “Held,” hero) whom the nations would follow, see WA 53:122 and AE 47:181-192; AE 8:238-245.
- ↑ See WA 53:125. In his 1530 “Preface to Daniel,” Luther has Christ’s baptism as reference point for the end of the 69th week, cf. AE 35:304, but see ibid., 305 where it is Christ’s death.
- ↑ See WA 53:175.
- ↑ See WA 53:125, 176.
- ↑ Cf. on this expression D. Judisch, An Evaluation of Claims to the Charismatic Gifts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978), 62f. Additionally see Mohammed's title in the Quran as "seal of the prophets," Quran 33:40.
- ↑ See WA 53:125, 176.
- ↑ WA 53:125, see 53:177. The 1530 Preface to Daniel (AE 35:305), due to Luther’s earlier reference to Christ’s baptism as the beginning of the last week, let the temple sacrifices be abolished with Christ’s death in the middle of the last week. Yet Luther here also mentions the speedy progress of the preaching of Christ and the apostles, based on the word in Dan. 9:27: “he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week.”
- ↑ WA 53:124.
- ↑ Cf., e.g., C. F. Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, tr. M. G. Easton (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949), 339, writes that “the idea of year-weeks has no exegetical foundation” and, paraphrasing Kliefoth and Hofmann, states that the expression in question designates “an intentionally indefinite designation of a period of time measured by the number seven, whose chronological duration must be determined on other grounds.”
- ↑ The singular is שבוע (shavua'). The more common plural of this masculine noun is the feminine form שבעות (shavu'ot). – In Dan. 10:2-3 the masculine plural form is used twice more in the book of Daniel. There it clearly means “weeks.” This being the only other occurrence of a form of the noun in this book, the masculine plural form could therefore simply be Daniel’s special way of speaking; thus, no hints as to a different meaning should be derived from this form.
- ↑ Judisch, Evaluation of Claims, 57. While Judisch belongs to those interpreters who, like Luther, find the fulfillment of this prophecy in the death of Jesus Christ and in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. (cf., ibid., 57-59), Keil asserts that this prophecy covers the entire time from Daniel to the end of this world (Commentary on Daniel, 349, 376).
- ↑ WA 53:102.
- ↑ AE 35:295.
- ↑ See WA 53:50.
- ↑ See WA 53:106.
- ↑ See WA 53:114.
- ↑ See WA 53:122. Caesar’s successor is interestingly introduced by Luther in this way: “Augustus, with his successors ruler of the fifth millennium up until the papacy, the devil of the last millennium together with Mohammed” (WA 53:123). See part 3 below.
- ↑ See WA 53:147.
- ↑ AE 35:295.
- ↑ Cf., however, his 1545 comments (AE 41:371): “Whether the pope transferred the Roman Empire from the Greeks to us Germans—this is quite plainly a crude, obvious lie, which everyone can see and grasp.” Not surprisingly, the pope is not mentioned in Luther’s chronicle at this important juncture in history.
- ↑ See WA 53:147: “Constantine [ruled] ten [years] with his mother Irene; the son [ruled] five years after driving out the mother; the mother returns for three years.” Constantine died of the wounds he sustained when he was captured and blinded by rebels loyal to his mother.
- ↑ See WA 53:168.
- ↑ Cf. Luther’s famous 1524 comments on the gospel as “a passing shower of rain” (AE 45:352-353): “Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk.”
- ↑ From early on, the conquest of Constantinople, the chief city of the Christian Roman Empire, had been a chief goal of Muslim expansion, first by the Arabs, then, beginning in the 11th century, by the Turks (Seljuk and Ottoman). The fact that Constantinople resisted for so long, for about six centuries, secured for its conquest a place in Muslim eschatology, while the Greeks expected a final victory over the Turks and the restitution of their city after 1453, cf. N. M. El Cheikh, Byzantium Viewed by the Arabs (Cambridge, Mass.: HCMES, 2004), esp. 64-71, 215.
- ↑ AE 35:296. Published in 1530, Luther in this text certainly especially thinks of the Turks besieging Vienna in 1529.
- ↑ See AE 35:296: “If the kingdom is to endure, it must find its strength and victory in God’s providence alone,” not in human alliances.
- ↑ The beginning of his ministry is recorded for the year 630 A.D. in Luther’s chronicle, WA 53:143; it also records the growth of the Ottoman Empire beginning in about 1300 A.D. (WA 53:161f.) as well as the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 A.D. by Mehmed (Mohammed) II (WA 53:168) and his three successors until the time of Luther: Bayezid II, Selim I, and Suleiman II (WA 53:169f.).
- ↑ AE 35:300.
- ↑ See AE 35:398.
- ↑ See AE 35:399f.
- ↑ AE 35:401.
- ↑ AE 35:401. The 24 Elders in Rev. 4-5 are equally to be considered the bishops and teachers of the church (all in unity), as they preach and pray before God.
- ↑ AE 35:402.
- ↑ AE 35:402-404.
- ↑ AE 35:404f.
- ↑ AE 35:405.
- ↑ AE 35:406. See above under 2.
- ↑ See AE 35:295.
- ↑ The rest of Revelation, beginning in Rev. 14, contains “almost exclusively images of comfort, telling of the end of all these woes and abominations” (AE 35:407).
- ↑ AE 35:406f.
- ↑ Cf. J. Wallmann, Der Pietismus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2005), 85-87, 143, 146-149. According to F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics (St. Louis: CPH, 1953), 3:528, Petersen taught a final conversion of all Jews that ever lived, assuming a resurrection of all Jews who died in unbelief. It is noteworthy, however, that Petersen and his wife, beginning in 1694 and inspired by a tract by English [Behmenist], [Jane Leade] (1624-1704), believed in universalism, that is, they held that all people would eventually be saved (Wallmann, 149f.).
- ↑ Cf. AE 35:409.
- ↑ WA 53:152, cf. ibid., 123.
- ↑ WA 53:142; cf. AE 41:90f., 290f.
- ↑ The views of Gregory VII concerning the supreme position of the pope in the church and vis-à-vis the political authorities are succinctly expressed in his famous 1075 Dicatus Papae. See esp. axioms 8, 12, and 19.
- ↑ Cf. WA 53:154.
- ↑ Cf. AE 35:407.
- ↑ Cf. WA 53:155-157.
- ↑ Take as an example Luther’s 1539 comment on Bernard as upholder of the primacy of the Scriptures over human traditions (AE 41:20): “St. Bernard declares that … he conceived his ideas from Scripture and pondered them under the trees. He adds that he regards the holy fathers highly, but does not heed all their sayings, explaining why in the following parable: he would rather drink from the spring itself than from the brook, as do all men, who once they have a chance to drink from the spring forget about the brook, unless they use the brook to lead them to the spring. Thus Scripture, too, must remain master and judge, for when we follow the brooks too far, they lead us too far away from the spring, and lose both their taste and nourishment, until they lose themselves in the salty sea, as happened under the papacy.” Luther also believed that Bernhard, even though a monk, did not believe in his monasticism in the hour of his death, but in Christ, see, e.g., AE 41:125: “In the end, when [the saints] realized that their new holiness and monkery could not stand the test against sin and death, they crawled and were saved in the ancient Christian faith, without such new holiness—as the words of St. Bernard testify in many places.”
- ↑ Take as an example Luther’s 1521 comments that include Bernard and other medieval figures: “And although there are many such errors on the part of the saints [like upholding the papacy], yet they were not aware of them but clung to a simple, unsophisticated Christian faith; which is why God forgave them their errors” (AE 36:190, cf. 39:268; on Bernard’s naïve monasticism: 44:288f., 290f., 383).
- ↑ Beginning with Michael Stiefel in 1522 and Johann Bugenhagen’s funeral sermon for Luther in 1546, Luther himself came to be seen by his followers as the angel with the eternal gospel (Rev. 14:6), cf. R. Kolb, Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero: Images of the Reformer, 1520-1620 (Grand Rapids: Baker; Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 1999), 29, 35.
- ↑ Cf. WA 53:165f.
- ↑ Cf. WA 53:167.
- ↑ Cf. WA 53:169.
- ↑ Cf. WA 53:170. See also WA 53:40: The manuscripts (not the prints) note on the interval between Adam’s death and Noah’s birth (126 years): “as if Joh. Hus was 126 [years] before Luther” and, respectively, “as if Luther was born 126 years after Hus.” Hus’s year of birth is unknown (c. 1369), but it could be about 126 years before Luther’s (1483).
- ↑ AE 34:104: “St. John Huss prophesied of me when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia, ‘They will roast a goose now (for “Huss” means “a goose”), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing, and him they will endure’” (cf. AE 13:415f. from 1526). Justus Jonas, in a funeral sermon for Luther in 1546, alludes to the same prophecy (Kolb, Martin Luther, 34, cf. ibid., 83f.).
- ↑ By 1541, at the latest, this council had become "the council of Satan" for Luther, as seen above.
- ↑ Cf. V. Leppin, Martin Luther (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2006), 144-150.
- ↑ In the late 19th century, after the re-formation of the German Empire under Prussian dominance without Austria in 1871, the Prussian rulers of the Hohenzollern Dynasty sought legitimacy as successors of the Holy Roman Empire also by tapping into the 16th-century legend of the sleeping emperor, Frederick I Barbarossa (1152-1190) of the medieval Staufer Dynasty: They built a monument in the Kyffhäuser Mountains in Thuringia -- not far from Frankenhausen, the site of the 1525 battle involving the peasants led by Thomas Münzer -- that displays both Frederick I and William I, the first Prussian-German emperor. The original legend of the sleeping emperor developed around Frederick’s celebrated polymath grandson, Frederick II (1212-1250), and was first later applied to Barbarossa (the legend is traced from its earliest elements in the 7th century A.D. -- the time of the Muslim conquest of Syria -- and the chiliastic speculations of Joachim of Fiore in the 13th century to the 19th century by B. Gloger, Kaiser, Gott und Teufel: Friedrich II. von Hohenstaufen in Geschichte und Sage (Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, 1970), 187-236). Beginning in 1900, the German veterans’ association was called “Kyffhäuser Federation.” Luther does not take recourse to legends of this sort: as seen above, for him the German kingdom rested in God’s hands, not in those of sleeping emperors.
- ↑ Cf. AE 46:113-115, where he criticizes the French constitution and the deposition and exile of Danish king Christian II (he was opposed to the reformation!) by his subjects in 1523 who were aided by the city of Lübeck. Luther did not mean this as a blank check for the sovereigns to do as they please: they remained bound by divine and human laws. Yet he held that sovereigns could be judged only by God as the only Lord of lords.
- ↑ E.g., the post-war art of Otto Dix in the early 20th century (see his 1924 War-cycle or his 1929/32 triptych by the same name) is no less end-times than the famous right panel (hell) in Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights from the early 16th century.
- ↑ Cf. only the remarks by conservative Lutheran commentator Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: New Testament II (St. Louis: CPH, 1922) 647: “The Book of Revelation is not a history of events given in chronological order, but a series of visions dealing with the chief dangers and principal blessings which would come upon the Church of Christ.” The millennium is defined accordingly as a “definite space of time” whose length is unknown to man but “definitely determined with God.” It would be the time of the relatively successful spread of the gospel among the nations. While Kretzmann frequently quotes Luther elsewhere in his commentary, the Reformer’s concrete eschatology is notably absent in this section of Kretzmann’s work; instead, he tacitly follows Augustine who defines the millennium as the present time of the church (cf. City of God XX,7-9). Cf. P. Althaus, Die Theologie Martin Luthers, 7th ed. (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1994), 350f. on Luther’s interpretation of Rev. 20 in comparison to earlier and later exegetes.
- ↑ Cf., e.g., D. Little’s 2007 article “Philosophy of History” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: while not rejecting “ontological” questions per se, Little asserts that history is made and determined exclusively by men.
- ↑ Cf. WA 53:28-46.
- ↑ WA 53:41.
- ↑ WA 53:28. It is true that, for Luther, the true church in reality goes back to paradise itself (see AE 1:103, on Gen. 2:16-17). In his chronicle, however, Luther focuses on the world after the fall into sin.
- ↑ See note 1 above, where it was noted that Luther’s chronicle very likely grew out of his Genesis Lectures.
- ↑ Cf. AE 1:252-255, 259, 291. Luther identified the papacy as one form of the false, Cainite church in his day.
- ↑ WA 53:31. Cf. AE 1:292, 330.
- ↑ WA 53:37. Beginning with Julius Caesar (WA 53:122), it appears that Luther places ecclesial events and figures in the left column and political figures in the right column.
- ↑ AE 1:252. See esp. bk. XIVf., where Augustine describes the beginning of these two “cities.”
- ↑ Cf. City of God VIII,8, where Augustine comments on the closeness of Platonic ideas to this notion.