Friedrich Tholuck
(Friedrich August Gottreu Tholuck – March 30, 1799 – June 10, 1877)

German Protestant church leader

Commentary on the Gospel of John

Preterist Commentaries By Historicist / Continuists

‘That St. Paul should use “heaven” and “earth” for Jews and Gentiles will not be thought so very strange if we consider that Daniel himself expresses the nation of the Jews by the name of “heaven” (Dan. viii. 10). Nor does he want an example of it in our Saviour Himself, who (Luke xxi. 26) by “powers of heaven” plainly signifies the great men of the Jewish nation. Nor is this the only place in this Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians which will bear this interpretation of heaven and earth. He who shall read the first fifteen verses of chap. iii. and carefully weigh the expressions, and observe the drift of the apostle in them, will not find that he does manifest violence to St. Paul’s sense if he understand by “the family in heaven and earth” (ver. 15) the united body of Christians, made up of Jews and Gentiles, living still promiscuously among those two sorts of people who continued in their unbelief. However, this interpretation I am not positive in, but offer it as matter of inquiry to those who think an impartial search into the true meaning of the Sacred Scriptures the best employment of all the time they have.” (Quoted in The Parousia)

(On John 21:22)
“It may here be asked what Christ meant by his coming. In some places it seems impossible to attribute to it any other sense than the destruction of Jerusalem, thus Mark 9: 1Matt. 16: 2810: 23Luke 18: 8; in other passages his coming to judge the world is spoken of, as Matt. 25: 3124: 30; and in still others it is uncertain what is meant, thus Matt. 26: 6423: 39, and so also here, The specious conjecture here offers itself, that Christ, entering into the representation of the Jewish literati of his day, expected an immediate commencement of the Messianic reign, and connected therewith those oppressions and desolations which were to precede it, as also the destruction of the Holy City. This view is expanded by Bertholdt in his work De theolog. Judaeorum aetate Jesu, Erlang. 1811, where he attempts to show that Jesus in the Gospel, and Paul in his Epistles, throughout taught nothing else concerning the judgment of the world than what was to be found in the Rabbins.

On that supposition but One Act could be implied by the coming of Jesus, viz. his appearance for the overthrow of the ancient sanctuary at the same time with his appearance at the end of the world. And this view seems to be confirmed by Matt. xxiv, since the prophecies which it contains respecting the destruction of Jerusalem seem to be mingled with those that have regard to the end of the world. At all events it must be allowed that the expression but immediately after these things, in v. 29, does not describe any very definite line of demarcation between the two periods. But nevertheless, many difficulties urge themselves against this view. In the first place, it cannot be proved that, among the oppressions which were to precede the appearance of the Messiah, the Jews ever comprehended the destruction of their temple—a thought which must have lain far from them ; for in order that the Messiah might glorify the temple, it was not necessary that it should be previously destroyed. There are, indeed, two proverbs in the Talmud, which say that the Messiah will be born on the same day that Jerusalem is overthrown ; Pugio fidei, ed. Carpz. p. 349. But these evidently do not belong to this period, because they were inserted after the destruction of the temple in order to console the Jews for their loss. Consequently we are to deem indemonstrable the position, that the traditions which have regard to the overthrow of the Sanctuary had any existence anterior to Christ, and that he merely incorporated them into his discourses.

It only remains, then, to assume that the Redeemer came to that firm belief of the immediate overthrow of Jerusalem, Matt. 24: 34, by a sagacious inference, a conclusion of divination, Paulus Gomm. Th. 3. s. 380, because, forsooth, the Deity would not be able to accomplish the plan that was to be completed by him, so long as the temple-service, the seat of Pharisaism, should continue. But whether the assumption of a conjecture based upon such slender premises is sufficient to account for the abiding belief which  Christ had in the destruction of the Sanctuary, and not only this, but also his confident expectation that the holy city would be previously besieged, Luke 21: 20,—is at least very doubtful. The above-mentioned view, moreover, of the simultaneousness of both facts, is in opposition to the expression of Matt. 24: 34 compared with v. 36. The conjecture of Fritzsche on these passages is new, but by no means satisfying.

He supposes that the first expression refers to the time occupied in preparatory arrangements for judging the world, whilst the last refers to the judgment itself; so that Christ does not properly speak of two separate and divided occurrences. There are also many parables of Christ which point to the fact that the seed sown by him was first to pass through a long process of development, Matt. 13: 3133; that men would grow weary in expectation of his advent, Matt. 24: 3725: 519Luke 12: 45.

Finally, the remarkable expression in Luke 21: 24 shows evidently, that even though Christ may not have marked with nice precision the specific period of the world’s judgment, yet a long interval was to elapse between the destruction of the Holy City and it. It therefore becomes necessary for us to inquire into the reason why the Redeemer connected so intimately these two separate facts in his prophecy, and why he employed similar language in regard to both. We must here return again to the general character of prophecy.

On this, then, we remark, that the Prophets always contemplated the future more or less without, any definite relations of time ; but whatever they saw, they arranged in immediate and consecutive order without respect to intervening periods. Especially is this the case when the events are internally one, and develope themselves in time only as different. Thus the totality of the New Testament economy almost constantly stood before the eyes of the Prophets of the Old Covenant, and their intuition extended, now to the first point of it, and now to a subsequent one, but usually to the culminating point, the glorification of the Christocracy at the end of time. The same is also the case with the predictions of Christ. His prophetic eye contemplated as one whole the development of the inward kingdom of God which he had founded. In this development there are two great periods characterized by an inward analogy:— the one, when the establishment of the inward Kingdom of  God will be manifested to the world by removing the preparatory worship of the external Theocracy ; the other, when the the world, in which, and with which the inward Kingdom of God has developed itself, shall be removed and the internal Kingdom shall be externally glorified. Because then of this inward affinity and analogy between the two periods, the Redeemer speaks of both in similar expressions, —he calls them both a coming in his glory.—If now we return again from this general survey, to a consideration of the present passage in John, we shall see from the hypothetical form of discourse adopted by Christ, that he wished to place the boundary of the Apostle’s life as distant as possible, and that he consequently wished him to think of his coming to judgment. Meanwhile it would be entirely conformable to analogy to suppose, that in this prophetic discourse, in like manner as in others, see on v. 18, a particular allusion is again involved in a more general one, the intimation, namely, that the disciple whom he loved, would continue to live until his first manifestation in the removal of the preparatory Theocracy. And this was in fact the case.—These words close with the reiterated command, follow thou me. Above in v. 19 we explain this command of Christ as expressive of an actual following to a private interview, both on account of the words but Peter turning about, and because of the part following after. Should it be supposed, however, that the Redeemer wished to withdraw a space with Peter, it might be thought that the foregoing was spoken on the way, that he commanded the Apostle to follow him without farther curiosity. So Cler., Heumann and others. But, aside from the consideration that if such were the case the words are exceedingly empty, yet they do not form an antithesis.

The antithesis arises, however, when what follows is tropically understood, and is made to refer to his reception of death upon the cross.  Think you of your own death, and do not busy yourself about his. So a large majority of commentators. But if this exposition of these words be correct it may be doubted whether follow me, in v. 19, has not also a tropical sense, as Chrysostom, Calvin, and others declare. Von Meyer supposes that Peter misunderstood the words, and thus went to one side. There is sufficient reason to believe that Christ there combined the twofold sense, the actual and the tropical, as is also in other places used by him, Luke 9: 23Matt. 8: 23John 12: 26. In other cases also, as when Christ speaks of the rich, the carnal and spiritual significations are blended together, Matt. 19: 2324. The same is the case also when he speaks of little ones, Matt. 18: 10, also John 11: 103: 20, and the same idiom prevails also in the Old Testament language. Besides, the tropical sense of this passage is confirmed by 13: 36.

V. 23. Inasmuch as the first Christians understood that expression until I come, of Christ’s advent to judgment, they believed that the disciple whom the Lord had loved would live until the time of the Lord’s advent, when he should be received into his kingdom without a painful death. But John here furnishes us with another high proof of his humility and simplicity. He does not interpret the words of the Lord to his own honour, neither does he adopt the favorable interpretation made by others ; but like a child, without any of the hankering curiosity of Peter, he adheres simply to what his Lord had said.—Although the Disciple himself in his great humility had prevented all misunderstanding of the words of his Lord, yet even after his death strange sayings arose concerning him. It is related that whilst he was yet living he caused a grave to be dug for himself, that he went down into it, and in appearance expired ; but that nevertheless his death was merely a slumber, for the earth which covered him still moved lightly when he breathed. Thus Augustine already relates the saying, ad h. l., without venturing determinately to reject it; comp. Photius, Cod. 229. In the Greek Church it was variously adorned, and continued until the time of the Byzantine Historians ; Joh. Muller’s Werke, B. VI. S. 74, 82.—Some of the late Greek writers, as also the English sect of seekers under Cromwell, looked for the re-appearance of John as the herald of Christ’s second advent.” (A Commentary on the Gospel of St. John pp. 469-474)


“He who has found upon earth the city of his affections, and who with every onward step is only advancing toward a mist, may well look upon New Year’s day as a day of sorrow. Well may it be a dark and gloomy day to the man who, as a poor and humble pilgrim, is journeying to some royal city where he has not a single friend to welcome his arrival or offer him the shelter of a roof. A poor and humble pilgrim am I; but, God be thanked! I know of One who long ago prepared for me a place. Hence it is that as I pass the milestones each in succession becomes an altar, on which I present oblations of gratitude and praise. There are many, I am aware, to whom the thought of the flight of time is dispiriting. For me, I feel that He hath not given the spirit of fear, but of power.”

“I have been young, but now am old. I have spent a whole lifetime in battling against infidelity with the weapons of apologetic science; but I have become ever more and more convinced that the way to the heart does not lie through the head; and that way to conversion of the head lies through a converted heart which already tastes the living fruits of the Gospel.”

“The grave is a very small hillock, but we can see farther from it, when standing on it, than from the highest mountain in all the world.”

“The reason why we find so many dark places in the Bible is, for the most part, because there are so many dark places in our hearts.”


“He was born at Breslau, and educated at the gymnasium and university there. He distinguished himself by his ability to learn languages. A love of Oriental languages and literature led him to exchange the University of Breslau for that of Berlin, in order to study to greater advantage, and there he was received into the house of the Orientalist Heinrich Friedrich von Diez (1750-1817). He was introduced to pietistic circles in Berlin, and came under the influence of Baron Hans Ernst von Kottwitz, who became his “spiritual father,” and of the historian Neander. Before deciding on the career of theological professor, he had in view that of a missionary in the East. Meanwhile he was feeling the influence to a certain degree of the romantic school, and of Schleiermacher and Georg Hegel too, though he never sounded the depths of their systems.

At length, in his twenty-first year, he finally decided to adopt the academical calling. In 1821 he was Privatdozent and in 1823 became professor extraordinarius of theology in Berlin, though he was at the same time active in the work of home and foreign missions. He lectured on the Old and New Testaments, theology, apologetics and the history of the church in the 18th century. In 1821 appeared his first work, Sufismus, sive theosophia Persarum pantheistica; following the same line of study he published Blütensammlung aus der morgenlandischen Mystik (1825) and Speculative Trinitätslehre des späteren Orients (1826). His well-known essay on the nature and moral influence of heathenism (1822) was published by Neander, with high commendation, in his Denkwürdigkeiten; and his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1824) secured him a foremost place amongst the most suggestive, if not the most accurate, Biblical interpreters of that time.

Another work, soon translated into all the principal European languages, Die wahre Weihe des Zweiflers (1823), the outcome of his own religious history, obtained for him the permanent position of the modern Pietistic apologist of Evangelical Christianity. In 1825, with the aid of the Prussian government, he visited the libraries of England and the Netherlands, and on his return was appointed (in 1826) professor ordinarius of theology at the University of Halle, the centre of German rationalism, where he afterwards became preacher and member of the supreme consistorial council. Here he made it his aim to combine in a higher unity the learning and to some extent the rationalism of Johann Salomo Semler with the devout and active pietism of A H Francke; and, in spite of the opposition of the theological faculty of the university, he succeeded in changing the character of its theology.

This he achieved partly by his lectures, but above all by his personal influence on the students, and, after 1833, by his preaching. His theological position was orthodox, but laid more stress upon Christian experience than upon rigid dogmatic belief. On the two great questions of miracles and inspiration he made great concessions to modern criticism and philosophy. His lifelong battle was on behalf of personal religious experience, in opposition to the externality of rationalism, orthodoxy or sacramentarianism. Karl Schwarz happily remarks that, as the English apologists of the 18th century were themselves infected with the poison of the deists whom they endeavoured to refute, so Tholuck absorbed some of the heresies of the rationalists whom he tried to overthrow. He was also one of the prominent members of the Evangelical Alliance, and few men were more widely known or more beloved throughout the Protestant churches of Europe and America than he. He died at Halle. As a preacher, Tholuck ranked among the foremost of his time. As a teacher, he showed remarkable sympathy and won great success. As a thinker he can hardly be said to have been endowed with great creative power.

After his commentaries (on Romans, the Gospel of John, the Sermon on the Mount and the Epistle to the Hebrews) and several volumes of sermons, his best-known books are Stunden christlicher Andacht (1839; 8th ed., 1870), intended to take the place of J H D Zschokke’s standard rationalistic work with the same title, and his reply to David Strauss’s Life of Jesus (Glaubwürdigkeit der evangelischen Geschichte, 1837).

He published at various times valuable contributions towards a history of rationalism–Vorgeschichte des Rationalismus (1853-1862), Geschichte des Rationalismus (1865), and a number of essays connected with the history of theology and especially of apologetics. His views on inspiration were indicated in his work Die Propheten und ihre Weissagungen (1860), in his essay on the “Alte Inspirationslehre,” in Deutsche Zeitschrift für christliche Wissenschaft (1850), and in his Gespräche über die vornehmsten Glaubensfragen der Zeit (1846; 2nd ed., 1867).

He also contributed many articles to Herzog’s Realencyklopädie, and for several years edited a journal (1830-1849), Literarischer Anzeiger.

Das Leben Tholucks, by L Witte (2 vols, 1884-1886)
A. Tholuck, ein Lebensabriss, by M Kahler (1877), and the same author’s article “Tholuck,” in Herzog’s Realencyklopädie
“Zur Erinnerung an Tholuck,” by C Siegfried, Protestantische Kirchzeitung (1885), No. 45, and 1886, No. 47
Karl Schwarz, Zur Geschichte der neuesten Theologie (4th ed., 1869)
FWF Nippold, Handbuch der neuesten Kirchengeschichte
Philip Schaff, Germany; its Universities, Theology and Religion (1857), and the article in the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie.
Geck, Albrecht (ed.), Autorität und Glaube. Edward Bouverie Pusey und Friedrich August Gotttreu Tholuck im Briefwechsel (1825 – 1865). Teil 1-3: in: Zeitschrift für Neuere Theologiegeschichte 10 (2003), 253-317; 12 (2005), 89-155; 13 (2006), 41-124.
Geck, Albrecht, Friendship in Faith. E.B. Pusey (1800-1882) und F.A.G. Tholuck (1799-1877) im Kampf gegen Rationalismus und Pantheismus – Schlaglichter auf eine englisch-deutsche Korrespondenz, in: Pietismus und Neuzeit 27 (2001), 91-117.
This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

What do YOU think ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *