Gottfried Christian Friedrich Lücke / Friedrich Luecke
(August 24, 1791 – February 4, 1855)
Student at Halle and Göttingen | Teacher at Friedrich Wilhelm University, Berlin,
the University of Bonn, and ultimately at Göttingen
Apocalypse given a “Galbaic date, just after Nero”
Lucke, who was one of the most learned, many-sided and influential of the so-called “mediation” school of evangelical theologians (Vermittelungstheologie), is now chiefly known by his Kommentar über die Schriften d. Evangelisten Johannes (4 vols., 1820-1832). He is an intelligent maintainer of the Johannine authorship of the Fourth Gospel; in connection with this thesis he was one of the first to argue for the early date and non-apostolic authorship of the Apocalypse. His Einleitung in die Offenbarung Johannes was published in 1832. He also published a Synopsis Evangeliorum, jointly with W. M. L. de Wette (1818).
(On 1 John 2:18)
“Uniformity, in as far as it actually exists, may reasonably be ascribed to the shortness of the epistle, to the unity of its subject, and to the singleness of the mind from which it proceeded. But he who interprets this epistle with circumspection, will, not unfrequently, where an inaccurate exegesis discovers nothing but disorder and monontonous repetition, nay, even in expressions most intimately cognate and similar, observe nicely delineated distinctions ; and, in the apparent repetition and disorder, progress and good arrangement. Thus vanish in all directions the pretended indications of decrepitude.
At the destruction of Jerusalem, St. John was indeed of advanced age, at all events old enough to render it probable that he might, in this epistle, have committed those errors of old age with which he has been charged. Let us then suppose that such defects are observable in the epistle, still that would not compel, nor justify our assuming that the epistle had been composed after the destruction of Jerusalem. What hinders us from believing that it may have been written shortly before that event ?
Fourth, and lastly, it is maintained, that if the epistle was written subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem, the silence respecting it, specially in ii, 18, is an inexplicable riddle, and this, too, is an error. For it cannot be proved that St. John, in the words eschate ora (last hour), at all referred to the destruction of Jerusalem.
As St. John, in his gospel, takes the coming of Christ so much in a spiritual sense, it is much more probable that, by eschate ora, he meant the relation, in point of time, between the pseudo-apostolical Antichrist, then already appearing, and the manifestation of Christ and the perfection of his kingdom. But let us even admit that St. John, in respect of time, considered the eschate ora and the destruction of Jerusalem as identical, and that he wrote his epistle after the destruction of that city ; what justifies the assumption that St. John, in that case, must necessarily have explained how and why the destruction of Jerusalem took place, without bringing along with it the victory of Christianity ? St. John wrote for Christians of Asia Minor, who, for the most part, had previously been heathens : and it cannot be proved, that among these the expectation ever was prevalent, that the destruction of Jerusalem would bring along with it the end of all things, and the perfection of Christ’s kingdom. Since, then, the concatenation of ideas, in the epistle, by no means necessarily led in that direction, and only the relation, as to time, between the anti-christian errors already appearing, and the coming of Christ, was to be explained, what would have been the object of alluding to, and correcting an error, which, probably, no person among the readers ever had entertained ?” (Epistles of John, pp. 13-14)
“Grotius finds in it a phrophetic allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem, which event, he thinks, was in apostolical phrophecy considered as the end of the present course of time, and the precise period for Christ’s manifestation in judgment. But, in this case, the epistle must have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, since after that event the reference of the () to it, must have been abandoned. Now, what shall we say if the epistle was written after the destruction of Jerusalem ? In this respect it is quite impossible to determine the time when it was written. It is possible that St. John, along with the other Apostles, formerly believed that the destruction of the holy city would be the (end), but this is certain, that at the time he wrote his gospel and this epistle, whether that was before or after Jerusalem’s destruction, he no longer entertained this opinion. Grotius states in his support, Dan. ix. 26, 27, Matth. xxiv. 6, 14, Acts ii. 17. But in none of these passages is (), or any similar term, without any thing further, used as equivalent to the destruction of the holy city. In Dan. ix. 26, 27, and Matth. xxiv. 6, 14, the prophetic reference to it is only indirectly contained ; but of Acts ii. 17 not even so much can be said.
Since in our passage there can nowhere be discovered even a remote allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem, hyjarn wo«, according to the analogy of 2 Tim. iii. 1 ; 1 Tim. iv. 1 ; James v. 3 ; 1 Pet. i. 5 ; 2 Pet. iii. 3 ; Jude 18. and other places, can only be understood with a ^e/zera/ reference to the Messiah, as denoting the end of the then present era, which commenced with the first manifestation of Christ in the flesh, ending with his reappearance in judgment, cfr, V. 28.
The Judaeo-Christian views on which this is founded are in substance as follows :
The Jewish Messiah-theology divided the entire era of the world, roug uJoümc, into the present and the future Aeon. * The end of the present era, at which the long- wished for Messiah was to appear, to redeem his people, judge the nations, and commence his dominion on earth, the Jews called yp or pjid, or. * Evil and difficult times, replete with moral corruption, pseudo prophecies, war and devastations, and other such calamities, by which the manifestation of the Messiah would be as much externally hindered, as internally promoted, were considered as a sure sign of the coming of the Messiah. Now, as all felicity was connected with the person of the Messiah, there early arose a notion of combining in one ideal person, in a countertype of the Messiah, afterwards called the antichrist, all the calamities of the above-mentioned evil and distressing times, all anti-Messiahnic sway and power. This notion, which was sometimes more, sometimes less crude and ma-
See Koppe Exc. I. on Epist. Ephes. p. 138, sqq.
S’ee Schottgen. Hor. Heb. et. Tahn. on 2 Tim. iii. 1.
terial, was founded on Ezekiel’s fiction of Gog, and on Daniel’s description of the antichristian Antiochus Epiphanes. * As in the proverb, ” When need is greatest aid is nearest,” the Jewish Messiah-theology concluded, from the growth of the antichristian principle, that the end was fast approaching, and that Christ, the Saviour, was about to appear.
These notions, and their various forms, passed over together with the idea of the Messiah, into the New Testament. The fundamental ideas, as well as their former concatenations remained the same ; but their contents, their meaning and extent, as well as also their internal relations, in detail, were changed.
Since Christ had appeared in the flesh, since he already had commenced his kingdom on earth, and had returned to his father, the Messiahnic eras and epochs necessarily obtained, with Christians, another signification, and entered into another relation to the history of the development of Christ’s kingdom. Thus the alojv ovTog of the Jews, in which the Messiah and his kingdom were only expected — became, in the New Testament, the time of the earthly establishment and development of Christ’s kingdom, the foundation to which had already been laid in tribulations and strife against the unchristian world.
* See Schmidt’s Bibl. of Crit. and Exeg., Vol. I. p. 25, sqq.
De Wette’s Bibl. Theologie, § 198 ; Bertholdt’s Christologia.
at which Christ was to reappear^ in the glory of his Father, to judge the world, and, finally, to accomplish the victory of his kingdom. Thus, too, the idea of antichrist obtained a more spiritual import, and a purer moral signification. But the transformation and complete Christianizing of these Jewish notions of the Messiah was, with the Apostles, only effected by degrees. Thus the Apostles, not having taken up the expressions of our Lord on the subject, in a manner sufficiently spiritual, at first formed a very material conception of the reappearance of Christ, and imagined that it was very soon to take place.
They made chronological calculations, and connected it with some external signs of the times or other, in a manner somewhat arbitrary. Undoubtedly the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the Jewish commonwealth, which had been foretold by the Lord, must hasten the reappearance of Christ in the spiritual sense of that term, and promote the prosperity of his kingdom ; this event, too, was indeed and in truth a glorious act of that oecumenic jurisdiction which he had continually exercised since he appeared as the life and light of the world. But the Apostles, full as they were in the beginning with the expectations of sense, and looking without sufficient perspectives into the future, saw, in the destruction of Jerusalem, the close of the development of Christ’s kingdom, and the visible manifestation of their ardently wished for Lord in a final oecumenic judgment And, in a like manner, they at first took up the idea of antichrist, rather sensually, politically, and according to Jewish doctrines. But particularly after Jerusalem had been destroyed, and the Lord had not visibly appeared ; and as they continually gained a more profound knowledge of the essence and true purpose of the person and kingdom of Christ, their hopes respecting the Messiah became ever more and more spiritual ; and although they did not relinquish the hope of surviving to witness personally the Lord’s return, they gradually ceased to calculate the precise time, and to seek beyond the internal sphere of Christ’s kingdom, in accidental and arbitrarily interpreted political events of every kind, the signs and conditions of that Parusia, which they ever more and more understood in a spiritual sense. ” (Commentary on John, pp. 170-174)
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
Greg Bahnsen (1984)
“A partial list of scholars who have supported the early date for Revelation, gleaned unsystematically from my reading, would include the following 18th and 19th writers not already mentioned just above: John Lightfoot, Harenbert, Hartwig, Michaelis, Tholuck, Clarke, Bishop Newton, James MacDonald, Gieseler, Tilloch, Bause, Zullig, Swegler, De Wett, Lucke, Bohmer, Hilgenfeld, Mommsen, Ewald, Neander, Volkmar, Renan, Credner, Kernkel, B. Weiss, Reuss, Thiersch, Bunsen, Stier, Auberlen, Maurice, Niermeyer, Desprez, Aube, Keim, De Pressence, Cowles, Scholten, Beck, Dusterdiek, Simcox, S. Davidson, Beyschlag, Salmon, Hausrath. Continuing on into the 20th century we could list Plummer, Selwyn, J.V. Bartlet, C.A. Scott, Erbes, Edmundson, Henderson, and others. If one’s reading has been limited pretty much to the present and immediately preceding generations of writers on Revelation, then the foregoing names may be somewhat unfamiliar to him, but they were not unrecognized in previous eras. When we combine these names with the yet outstanding stature of Schaff, Terry, Lightfoot, Westcott, and Hort, we can feel the severity of Beckwith’s understatement when in 1919 he described the Neronian dating for Revelation as “a view held by many down to recent times.” By many indeed! It has been described, as we saw above, as “the ruling view” of critics,” by “the majority of modern critics,” by “most modern scholars,” and by “the whole force of modern criticism.” The weight of scholarship placed behind the Neronian option for the dating of Revelation has been staggering. In our won day it has gained the support of such worthies as C.C. Torrey, J.A.T. Robinson, and F.F. Bruce and has been popularized by Jay Adams. In 1956 Torrey could write about the number 666, “It is now the accepted conclusion that the beast is the emperor Nero.”” (Historical Setting for the Dating of Revelation)
F.W. Farrar (1882)
“Moreover, if we accept erroneous tradition of inference from the ambiguous expressions of Irenaeus, we are landed in insuperable difficulties. By the time that Domitian died, St. John was, according to all testimony, so old and so infirm that even if there were no other obstacles in the way, it is impossible to conceive of him as writing the fiery pages of the Apocalypse. Irenaeus may have been misinterpreted ; but even if not, he might have made a “slip of memory,” and confused Domitian with Nero. I myself, in talking to an eminent statesman, have heard him make a chronological mistake of some years, even in describing events in which he took one of the most prominent parts. We cannot accept a dubious expression of the Bishop of Lyons as adequate to set aside an overwhelming weight of evidence, alike external and internal, in proof of the fact that the Apocalypse was written, at the latest, soon after the death of Nero. .. This result is now accepted, not only by Lucke, Schwegler, Baur, Züllig, De Wette, Renan, Krenkel, Bleek, Reuss, Réville, Volkmar, Bunsen, Düsterdieck, &c., but also by such writers as Stier, Neander, Guericke, Auberlen, F.D. Maurice, Moses Stuart, Neirmeyer, Desprez, Davidson, the author of The Parousia, Aubé, &c.” (The Apocalypse)
“The school of Historical Interpreters was founded by the Abbot Joachim early in the 13th century, and was specially flourishing in the first fifty years of the present century. [There are two school of the interpreters who make the Apocalypse a prophecy of all Christian history. The school of Bengel, Vitringo, Elliott, &c., make it mainly a history of the Church. Another school regards it more generally, and less specifically, as an outline of Epochs of the History of the world and the great forces which shape it into a Kingdom of God. To this latter school belong Hengstenberg, Ebrard, Auberlen, &c.]”
The internal evidence that the book was written before the Fall of Jerusalem has satisfied not only many Christian commentators, who are invidiously stigmatised as “rationalistic,” but even such writers as Wetstein, Lucke, Neander, Stier, Auberlen, Ewald, Bleek, Gebhardt, Immer, Davidson, Dusterdieck, Moses Stuart, F.D. Maurice, the author of “The Parousia,” Dean Plumptree, the authors of the Protestanten-Bibel and multitudes of others no less entitled to the respect of all Christians.
The two wings of the great eagle in xii.14 are the two Testaments (Wordsworth); or the eastern and western divisions of the empire (Mede, Auberlen); or the Emperor Theodosius (Elliott).” (The Preterist Interpretation)
“If there be anything certain in the principles of hermeneutics, it is certain that they decide in favour of a reference to Judea and its capital in Rev. vi—xi. The very fact, moreover, that the destruction of Jerusalem (chap, xi) is depicted in such outlines and mere sketches, shows that it was then fvturt. when the book was written. It is out of all question, except by mere violence, to give a different interpretation to this part of the Apocalypse. And to a view like this, in respect to the interpretation of the book, Lücke gives his assent ; Einleit. p. 267 seq.” (A Commentary on the Apocalypse, p. 276)
“That the line or succession of emperors is here meant, and not the primitive kings of Rome, is certain from the connection of the five with the one who is, and the one who it to come. We have only to reckon then the succession of emperors, and we must arrive with certainty at the reign under which the Apocalypse was written. If we begin with Julius Caesar, it stands thus : Caesar. Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius ; these make up the five who bave fallen. Of course the Apocalypse was written during the reign of Nero, who is the sixth. If, with some critics (Ewald, Lücke, and some others), we commence with Augustus, then the Apocalypse was written during the short reign of Galba, who succeeded Nero. That the first mode of reckoning is the proper one, I shall endeavor fully to show in the Commentary on Rev. 13: 3 and 17: 10, and in the Excursus connected with these passages. At most, only an occasional beginning of the count with Augustus can be shown, in the classic authors. The almost universal usage is against it. The probability on other grounds is against Ewald and Lücke.” (A Commentary on the Apocalypse, p. 276)
“Lücke has suggested, that if it could only be shown that the Apocalypse was written after the death of John, then the whole hypothesis which he has proposed could be easily maintained. In this way he thinks that John xxi. was added, after the death of the Evangelist. But we need not discuss this ; for Lücke has no doubt that the Apocalypse was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. So, if the Apocalypse came from another hand than that of the apostle, it must have been some thirty years before his death, during which period all the churches of that region might at any time know who wrote the book, and to what authority it was entitled. Nothing can be more certain, than that the holy earnestness and sincerity everywhere developed in the book, are real and not assumed. I cannot conceive of a fictitious writer of that day, who could preserve such a tone and manner throughout. Nor can I imagine how the dishonesty of employing the apostle’s credit to sanction and render current his work, could have been approved by John, or passed by in silence. The whole matter is attended with too many improbabilities to have claim on our confidence. The problem — if it even be such — that John the apostle wrote the Apocalypse, with all its difficulties about diction and phraseology, is quite easy and simple to my mind, in comparison with such a problem as that of Schott and Lücke.” (A Commentary on the Apocalypse, p. 427)
What do YOU think ?