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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Luther's Chronology of the World, Part 4 (Luther's Preface text)

In the previous Part 3, (Table of Contents in Part 1 here) I presented the original version of Luther's Chronikon or Biblical Chronology, including a download link for a PDF copy of the entire publication.

Part 4 in this series is the text of both prefaces, Pastor Kenneth K. Miller's preface and Martin Luther's Preface:
(Preface of Pastor Kenneth K. Miller)

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Luther had earlier, in 1525, completed a chronological table of the Medo-Persian kings, to be used for the exposition of the Minor Prophets.  He authorized its printing, probably for his audience.  He himself tells us so in the preface to his exposition of the prophet Haggai, according to both the Altenburg and the Zwickau texts.  Even in the commentary on Zechariah the same table appears in the manuscript.  It ought not be altered with our present text, which was first completed in 1540 and set to print in 1541.  Luther afterwards revised it considerably and re-published it in 1545.
Luther originally prepared this Chronology for his own use, and did not consider publishing it, but his friends, who had been permitted to see it in preparation, urged him to publish it.  On March 3, 1541, Dr. Justus Jonas had it copied out "by a Master who understands it," and he sent the copy to Prince Joachim of Anhalt.
The original was in the library at Dresden.  It was probably destroyed in the fire-storm due to Allied bombing in 1943. The Latin title reads: Supputatio annorum mundi D. M. Lutheri.
In the collected German editions the chronology is continued to the year 1559 and a preface of Aurifaber is affixed.  The German translation in the St. Louis edition, the basis of this English translation, was newly prepared from the Wittenberg edition, of which the Jena is simply a reproduction.

Preface of Dr. Martin Luther

I had prepared this reckoning of years for my own use alone, not that it should be a chronicle or history book, but so I might have it before my eyes as something of a time chart to see at a glance the times and years of the history that is narrated in the Bible, so I might remind myself how many years the Patriarchs, Judges, kings, and princes lived or reigned, or in how much of a time span they followed upon one another. Hence there is no reason for me to use many words either to commend or to disparage it.  I was not even thinking what use or how useful it might be to others, since so many chronologies or histories are already extant, with more every day.  I am satisfied with the use I have already made of it.  Those who wanted to see it published when I gave them an opportunity, upon their request, to look at it; or those who are going to read it, may decide for themselves whether it is worth their effort to read it.  It makes no difference to me whether it perishes or abides‚ but it also does not bother me very much whether it satisfies other people or not.
I grant that the Chronicon of Charion and Philip (1) is the first and is a very good example of reckoning, in which the whole course of the years is very beautifully divided into six millennia, which I also followed. I have presumed to do one thing in the history of Jehoram, the king of Judah under Elijah and Elishah: I counted twenty more years than all other chronologists. This is my own fault or my own achievement, for which I shall have to give account in due time. For the chronology of Eusebius, which was drawn from the Septuagint, constantly translated "two hundred" instead a of "one hundred" in Genesis 5.  Perhaps that is because it read the singular meath instead of the plural meoth.  Jerome lists that chapter among his "Hebraic questions."  That chronology is responsible for the same error in all the chronologies prior to our time, all of which have 1249 years too many in that chapter. Indeed, they have gone beyond
(1) In the year 1532 the mathematician Carion issued a chronology on which Melanchthon had collaborated.

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the sixth millennium, which they call the sixth aeon, and reckon the years in question in the seventh millennium, their "seventh aeon."(2) Still, there is little reason to find fault with Eusebius. Indeed, as Jerome writes, he was an amazing and very precise man.  We complain about all other historians, and they complain among themselves that they have not a clue to the precise reckoning of the years.  So I have set them all aside, and in this work I have tried to derive this chronology chiefly out of Holy Writ, upon which we can and should rest.  The Bible has the following information:
 Sections for the Calculation of Years
from the creation of the world to:

Creation to the Flood
to the call of Abraham
to the Exodus from Egypt
to Solomon's Temple
to the end of Solomon's dynasty
to exile of Jehoiachin
reign of Zedekiah
length of the Exile
to beginning of weeks, 2nd years of Darius
John 2:20
years or 69 weeks to death and

resurrection of Christ
years of the last week in which the

covenant is confirmed and a law done

away in the midst of the week

The following chronology of Christ is self-explanatory.

Others portray it this way:

to the Flood
to the birth of Abraham
to the birth of Moses

to the Exodus from Egypt

to the Temple of Solomon

to King Joash and the end of Solomon's dynasty

to the captivity of Zedekiah

of Zedekiah to the destruction of Jerusalem

years of desolation

to the 2nd year of Darius, beginning of weeks

years or 69 weeks to death of Christ

years of the final week

I have no doubts whatever over any of the parts of the calculation.  Hence the sum need not be questioned, except for one item: from the end of the solation to the beginning of weeks, or from Cyrus to the second year of Darius.  I want to say a little about that, because it bothers me.
(2) Luther accepted in 1540, that this was the year 5500 of the world, while they took it as year 6749.

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In John 2:20 the Jews said to Jesus, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?  It is clear from this that more than forty-six years passed between the first year of Darius and Cyrus and the completion of the Temple, for it is also clear from Ezra 6:15 that the Temple was completed, not in the second year of Darius or the forty-sixth since Cyrus, since the word of God went forth through Haggai and Zechariah at the beginning of weeks, but in the sixth year of Darius. So four additional years are to be added to the aforementioned forty-six, and it is a full fifty years from Cyrus to the completion of the Temple.  Only this circumstance gives rise to a question about the four years; otherwise everything is certain arid sure. This question arises from the uncertainty about the years of the Persian kings.  For the historians differ, not only on the years of Cyrus, but also about those of Darius and others. (3)
Perhaps I am being foolish, but I am submitting my thoughts about those four years for publication. If anyone will or can, let him put forth a better proposal and decision.  In Daniel 5 and 6, Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian each seem to rule alone, for it says that Darius the Mede succeeded Belshazzar in dominion over the Chaldeans, and Cyrus is not mentioned. (Dan. 5:31)  Likewise, it says in Dan 6:28, that Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. It is not as though it were untrue that Cyrus and Darius reigned jointly, a custom common in the Bible, where we read that sons reigned together with their fathers; nevertheless, we must distinguish between the co-regency of Cyrus and Darius and the sole rule of Cyrus.  I say that on this account, that it seems necessary to me on this passage to understand the first year of Cyrus (2 Chron 36:22; Ezra 1:1) as the first year Cyrus reigned alone, after Darius. So two years are deleted from these four extra years, and there remain only two years to explain away, which I do as follows:
Since in great realms and dominions, especially when they are new, plans proceed very slowly and with great hindrance before they reach completion. So it could well have been the case that the command of Cyrus was issued very near the end of the first year; hence one year could be deleted. And then it seems necessary to add at least another year for the Jews to make their preparations after receiving the order for travelling back to Jerusalem; hence one could say that they did very well if they managed to begin building by the end of the second or beginning of the third year of Cyrus. So the remaining two years melt away, and the text of John 2:20 is correct when it says the temple was built in forty-six years. I know, of course, that there are problems with this that I could well raise myself, but that does not bother me much.
Of course, it could be, if you will, that these two years of Darius the Mede can be included in the seventy years of desolation, but I prefer to reckon them as coming after them. For after Belshazzar died and his kingdom passed to Darius the Mede, the Jews were for all practical purposes liberated, and the prophecies of Jeremiah were fulfilled. So in these two years efforts were made and arrangements made for the Jewish people, already liberated, to return to their homeland, which Daniel and his friends were busy doing.
If this does not please someone, he is welcome to do better or to define the matter more precisely. I must say that it is not all that important, as long as the chronology as a whole is fixed, and doubt remains only about two or four years. For if everything works out right to the end of the world except for two or four years, faith and the Church are in no danger; we can in good conscience overlook a mere four years in so large a matter such as the entire course of the world.
(3) Luther's entire approach to these forty-six years differs from modern interpreters, who view them as the time of the improvement and enlargement of the Temple by Herod, which was not entirely completed at the times the Jews spoke these words. For more on Luther's approach, see his commentary on John 2:20.

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But I do want to remind anyone who will listen that I am firmly and unshakeably convinced that the beginning of the weeks is to be placed nowhere else than in the second year of Darius Longimanus, and you can be sure that if you want to argue with me about it, you will be wasting your breath.
Indeed, as I said, I made this reckoning just for myself, and I am quite prepared to cheerfully let someone else do it for himself or for others I base mine solely on the Bible. Therefore I find it necessary, reluctantly, to reject Philo who in another place inserts eighteen years too many in the middle of the weeks of Daniel.  I also do not care very much where Alexander, Antiochus Epiphanes, the Maccabees and others are placed where I place them, nor does it matter much to me whether I have them in the right place or not, as long as the years of the weeks meanwhile remain unassailable and certain in their course.
I also find it necessary to depart from Metasthenes over twelve years, for if his reckoning and the chronology of the Assyrian kings stands, then it would necessarily follow that Sennacharib came against Jerusalem in the second year of Hezekiah, which is impossible.  For in the sixth year of Hezekiah, Shalmanezer carried away all Israel to Assyria, 2 Kings 17, and only in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah did Sennacherib come against Jerusalem, 2 Kings 18This matter convinced me that I should not completely disdain the historians; but I should give preference to Holy Writ.  I use them in such a way that I am not compelled to contradict the Bible, for I believe that the truthful God speaks in the Bible, but in the histories good people, according to their ability, show their diligence and their honesty (but as men)‚ or at least, that the copyists could have made mistakes.
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This series will be continued in the next blog post Part 5 where I will present some comments.

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