Theological Struggles In A Texas Log Cabin

A later version of this manuscript by David Zersen, PhD. was published as “An Isolated Texas Lutheran Scholar Living in Hope” in The Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly, Vol. 91, No. 2, Summer 2018.

Recently an end-time mood caught me off-guard. Using the TV remote, during a manic moment of channel-switching, I chanced on a vivid, perhaps even lurid, History Channel documentary entitled “Countdown to Armageddon” (2004). The film, based on books by Scott MacGregor, portrays end-time earthly disasters like famine, disease, persecution, and earthquakes that are predicted in apocalyptic literature in the Bible.[1] It occurred to me that such a public and dramatic exploration of this literature has cropped up periodically in recent decades.  Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth (1970) sold twenty-eight million copies by 1990 and was also made into a film.[2] Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series far outsold even that, the sixteen novels reaching sales of sixty-five million books by 2007.[3] The fact that early Christian authors, some others in the medieval period, a number in the Reformation era and still more in the periods of Orthodoxy and Pietism found this literature fascinating has largely been forgotten by everyone but scholars who specialize in apocalyptic studies.[4] However, and here’s the connection, a recently recovered nineteenth century document, now translated for the first time, demonstrates that this subject matter also once proved to be a point of contention in the history of the Lutheran Church– Missouri Synod.[5] More specifically, this recovered document highlights a controversy over millennial[6] themes, although not as lurid as those in “Countdown to Armageddon.” It involves a lone scholar in a log cabin in Texas with a leader among scholars in the Missouri Synod’s  St. Louis seminary who was, at the time, also president of his church body. For many Lutherans, this nineteenth century debate brings an obscure and distant subject close to home because many of these issues are still addressed in films, novels, video games, music and theological treatises today.[7] Perhaps there’s nothing new under the apocalyptic sun.

Background to the Millennial Issues Raised by Kilian

Some context for this nineteenth century theological skirmish will be helpful. The story begins with Jan Kilian (1811-1884)[8], the Lutheran pastor who in 1854 accompanied emigrants from the Wendish homeland in Lusatia[9] to Serbin, Texas. In his remote setting, it is hard to believe that he had much access to information from the larger world.  Yet his voluminous extant correspondence with people in the United States, in Germany and in Australia, made Kilian aware of political, social and theological issues around the globe.[10] His writings make it clear that he was aware that not only in the United States in general, but also in Texas specifically, a bewildering array of differing doctrines permeated both sects and mainline religious denominations. A practical Arminianism proffered by itinerant preachers stressed the ability of sinners to repent and change, giving the promise of a future to immigrants who had lost their ties with any supportive form of the church in their past.[11] The revivalism that developed produced both the so-called First (1735-1743) and Second (1795-1830) Great Awakenings in America. These were times of religious expression that fostered new hope not only for individuals, but for the United States as a whole.[12] This optimism took broader cues from encouraging words in John’s vision described in Revelation 20-21. It is not too exaggerated a view to suggest that the political and social commitment to progress and expansion over the decades in the United States  had deep roots in the millennial optimism created by religious revivalism in the  nineteenth century.

            Lutherans in the United States who had ties going back to the seventeenth century had typically avoided engagement with this millennial enthusiasm. Even at the time of the sixteenth century Reformation, Luther himself (along with other reformers like Bullinger, Calvin and Cranmer) considered millennial ideas mere Jewish fables. In Article XVII of the Augsburg Confession (1530), the Lutheran reformers condemned those “who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed.”[13] However, some Lutherans saw possibilities in the apocalyptic language that wasn’t specifically proscribed. Influenced by European Pietism and Lutheran revivalism, the desire to demonstrate a more committed spiritual renewal, both in personal life and in the church, certain visionaries began to hope for better times. Lutheran theologians like Johann Wilhelm Petersen, Johann Freylinghausen and Johann Bengel began to shape their own particular view of eschatology, developing doctrines clarifying what might yet transpire through sanctified living. In some idealistic views, following a pre-millennial perspective, the kingdom of the cross, the church militant, as well as the sacraments themselves, would cease before the Day of Judgment.[14]  In the United States, Lutheran pastor, Johann Georg Schmucker (1771-1854), the father of the better-known S. S. Schmucker, contributing founder of the General Synod and Gettysburg Seminary, wrote a commentary on Revelation (1817-1821) that drew more extensive conclusions. His views, similar to other Lutheran writers of his day, demonstrated connections between pietism and eschatology. On the one hand, Schmucker believed that the Christian’s challenge was to be found obedient at the day of the Lord’s return. On the other hand, he believed that older exegesis had not been useful because the “signs of the times” had not yet appeared. Now that the prophecies had been fulfilled, he claimed that Christ’s return in glory could be set for 1850—about 33 years away![15]

            Less extreme were the eschatological views of Lutheran pastor and theologian, Wilhelm Löhe (1808-1872), who never left Germany, but whose emissaries, the missionary pastors he sent to the United States, had great influence on American Lutheranism in general. Löhe, a gifted leader who today has an entire community in Neuendettelsau, Germany, carrying out his vision, responded to the needs of Lutheran immigrants by sending pastors and teachers and by founding institutions to train them. His influence in the United States was based not so much on millennial perspectives as it was on two related optimistic views, both of which used compromise to ameliorate tensions when establishing the church in America. On the one hand, he differed with the early Luther (1523) who believed that all baptized Christians had the authority to preach, baptize, and administer communion.[16] He felt that ordination was a divine office and not just a public affirmation of the Call. Nevertheless, in order to avoid problems and reach people for Christ, he believed that the details of this doctrine of ordination should remain open questions. Further, although he had been strongly committed to the Franconian ministry in Michigan, including the outreach to Native Americans there, he agreed to avoid conflict by removing his ministry, when requested to leave by Friedrich Wyneken, the Missouri President. Löhe’s openness to change, to accept the prospect of “open questions” and to “strive for greater completion” was considered positive and visionary to some. Some of Loehe’s views on open questions paralleled Jan Kilian’s views, now to be discussed. Missouri, however, felt that Loehe’s views lacked the specificity that doctrinal orthodoxy demanded.[17]

The Roots of Kilian’s Millennial Perspectives

Jan Kilian was generally aware of and influenced by these various perspectives voiced by American optimism, Pietism and open questions in matters of theology. His hope for the future of the church, his commitment to diversity on some doctrinal issues, his belief that Missouri was too rigid, and his passion for the unity of the church are themes that are also expressed in nineteenth century theological writings– both Lutheran and other. More specifically, his views on millennialism, prophecy and obedience to Scripture are paramount for him. His correspondence with colleagues, theologians and church officials make this very clear. It will be instructive to review that correspondence and to learn about not only those who influenced him, but also about those he sought to influence. First to consider will be the millennial views that he brought with him from Europe. This is important because some have felt that Kilian’s millennial perspectives first developed in the United States.[18]

 Dr. Jens Bulisch, a scholar with the Lutheran diocese of Dresden-Meissen in Saxony, suggests that Kilian’s views on millennialism may be traced back to Germany, but that his views in Germany would have been out-of-touch with the theology of the day, and therefore archaic. Kilian read and translated for publication into Wendish pietistic books that were of a century-old vintage. He was a follower of a Lutheran orthodoxy that was no longer in vogue. Further, the faculty members that taught Kilian at the University of Leipzig were no longer interested in millennialism.[19] Clearly, therefore, Kilian’s theological influences in Europe cannot be attributed to “up to date” academic perspectives. However, in other theological circles, millennialism certainly was still an issue. In June, 1858, Kilian states in a letter to Walther that he had recently heard from a colleague in Weigersdorf, Pastor Gumlich, about a millennial matter raised by a certain Diedrich.[20] In August, 1870, sixteen years after Kilian’s arrival in the United States, and following a split in his congregation in Serbin, Johann Pallmer, the new pastor of the separated group, writes to Kilian that in Upper Lusatia “Millennialists and other sects have been widespread in their erring teaching.”[21]  Two years later, in December of 1872, Kilian receives a letter from an old classmate and his successor in the parish at Kotitz. Millennialism is apparently an issue in that parish, moving Pastor Richter to write a book on the subject. He sends Kilian a copy of the book, and tells him that other Lutheran clergy agree with him on his perspective. Their names include: Pastors Immisch, Wildenhahn, and Kroehne as well as Dr. Lange in Bonn.[22]  Clearly, therefore, the subject of millennialism, although perhaps a dated matter in German academic circles, was still a topic in Wendish congregations with which Kilian had been associated.

Additionally, in December of 1857, two years after Kilian’s arrival in Texas, in a letter to Pastor Gumlich in Weigersdorf, he shares not only his displeasure that the Missouri Synod with which he agrees in many areas also opposes all forms of millennialism. He adds his concern that Superintendent Ehlers, a head of the local Lutheran jurisdiction in Saxony and Pastor Richter’s superior, violates the simple meaning of Scripture with his anti-millennial views.[23] He pursues the issue with his German counterparts five months later when he again writes Pastor Gumlich that he rejects the Missouri Synod’s position on millennialism. He is especially troubled because of what happened to an Oklahoma pastor who had also studied at Kilian’s time in Leipzig, George Albert Schieferdecker, who had recently become the President of the Missouri Synod’s Western District. He had been excommunicated at the Oct. 14-24, 1857 Conference in Ft. Wayne for his interpretation of passages from Revelation.[24] “What should I do?” Kilian asks Gumlich. “I have declared myself neutral [on the subject of millennialism] to Walther and want to treat it as an open question. At some point I must publicly oppose the excommunication of Schieferdecker and that will cause a breach between me and the Missouri Synod.”[25] The mounting tension on the subject is revealed in a letter that Kilian writes to the Rev. Clamor Schuermann, later President of  the Victoria District of the Lutheran Church in Australia:

I still have to undergo a serious battle with the strict Missouri Synod which excluded one of its pastors because he took Revelation 20 at face value. I do not believe in a thousand year reign [of Christ on earth], but only a thousand year reign of Christ with the saints in the kingdom. I imagine the reign of the saints with Christ as the most powerful reformation that will happen on earth through which many of the unfulfilled prophecies will be fulfilled. The concept of a specific [earthly] kingdom relates to Jewish ideas that I, and also the Augsburg Confession, reject. How do you stand on this question and on Revelation 20? And what is the position of various parties in your parish?[26]

            It can be seen from these references in Kilian’s correspondence that not only may he have been preoccupied with millennial issues in Europe, but also that he continued to obsess on them shortly after he arrived in the United States, and for many years thereafter. His opportunity to explore the situation with colleagues was largely restricted to correspondence, some letters taking no more than three weeks to reach their destinations in the United States. To appreciate Kilian’s ongoing interest in this subject and to understand the value of this research, a few comments on his personal situation should be helpful.           

Kilian’s Personal Life and Theological Predicament

Kilian was orphaned at an early age, yet he was privileged to receive a higher education by selling property he inherited. Ultimately, in 1830, he matriculated in both theology and philosophy at Leipzig University and graduated with good marks in two and one-half years.[27] He served for eleven years in the Kotitz Lutheran parish vacated by his deceased uncle. During these years, somewhat prolifically, he wrote poetry and hymnody, composed melodies, translated books into Wendish, including the Book of Concord, and wrote numerous booklets and articles. At the invitation of members of an immigration society, he accepted the role as their pastor, and left a comfortable setting in Europe to live for twenty-nine years in a log cabin in a remote place in Texas. He had the same university education as did C.F.W. Walther, the President of the Missouri Synod, but his isolated setting made it impossible to carry on a dialogue with intellectuals. His discussion partners were largely farmers, country pastors and elementary school children that he taught in Serbin for eighteen years.[28] He tended his fields, bred his cattle, served as a homeopath to the community, preached in three languages, and was a husband to Maria nee Groschel as well as a father to their five children. He joined the Missouri Synod in 1855,[29] largely because he needed ties to a recognized church body in order to perform marriages.[30] There was no pastor’s study, only a meager library in his cabin,[31] and little time to think. He had a profound grasp of both Scripture and Luther’s writings and had a remarkable command of the biblical languages.[32] He seldom wrote poetry and hymnody again once he was stranded in Serbin,[33] but apparently, once-in-a-while, he reflected on the hope of the Christian expressed in Revelation 20-21 and, sent off, by this author’s count, at least thirty letters in which the subject was addressed. He also drafted two major manuscripts on the subject, which form the most substantial development of the theological scholarship ascribed to him. These manuscripts, translated for the first time, form the basis for this article.

            The theological predicament in which Kilian became involved was initially not of his own making. As the Missouri Synod (officially the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States from 1847-1872) attempted to establish its identity in the Midwest, it emphasized doctrinal agreement and avoidance of any semblance of syncretism. The various Lutheran settlements in the United States brought with them from Europe varying doctrinal emphases, and the winds of change on the frontier often created hitherto unexplored positions. One group that settled in Iowa because Missouri Synod pressure had driven it out of Michigan, had ties with the previously mentioned Pastor Wilhelm Löhe in Neuendettelsau, Germany. Löhe had strong views on a variety of subjects, but his generous spirit sought to avoid rupture among brothers and sisters in the United States by encouraging charity and peace.[34] When the Löhe pastors organized the Iowa Synod in 1854, their charter stated that “because within the Lutheran Church there are different tendencies, Synod declares itself in favor of that tendency which … strives toward a greater completeness.”[35]

The Missouri Synod took issue not only with the vagueness of this statement, but also with its emphasis on the human role in sanctification. In conferences in 1867 and in 1879, it rejected the Iowa Synod’s views that church fellowship should not be refused because synodical bodies differ on issues like election, predestination, the millennium (whether Revelation 20 refers to a bodily resurrection), the antichrist (whether the pope is referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2), and the last judgment (whether Christ’s return for the final judgment should be expected at any moment).[36]

The issue regarding the millennium had already arisen in Missouri’s own camp and the president of its Western District had been charged with promoting millennial views. At the 1857 Convention in Ft. Wayne, the Rev. George Albert Schieferdecker was interrogated for five days on all biblical passages for and against the millennium.[37] Finally, the Synod voted to remove him from membership. After the vote, the assembled participants sang the Litany on their knees, confessing their sins and seeking God’s grace.[38] Clearly the Missouri Synod was at the crossroads in its desire to establish a clear identity in the United States. Open questions were not typically to be tolerated.

            This background provides further understanding of Jan Kilian’s predicament. Already from his status as an orphan and as a member of a dissident minority within the Lutheran community in both Saxony and, later, Prussia, he was an outsider. As a Lutheran intellectual who now found himself in a backwater village in Texas, challenged by his congregation on other issues (conventicles and ethnicity), and distanced theologically from local Lutheran groups (e.g., the Texas Synod), he felt challenged to stake out his territory, to claim his own identity. George Nielsen, a significant analyst of the Texas Wends, offers a psychological reason, namely that millennialism as a faith principle offered Kilian the hope for better times than he was able to find in Europe and in the United States.[39] There is surely truth in that, but there is more to be considered. Kilian’s favorite subject was exegesis,[40] and his mastery of the Scripture is evident in the two documents considered in this article. Additionally, two of his exegetical principles forced him to take Revelation 20 seriously. First, he insisted that Scripture should be taken at face value and, second, his view of prophecy, understood largely as prediction, a view common at that time, required that the Day of Judgment must be held off until God has accomplished everything that he intends. These views need to be understood if Serbin’s log-cabin theologian is to be given a proper hearing.

            With the expulsion of President Schieferdecker in 1857, Kilian, acting somewhat Luther-like, feels compelled to take a stand. He wrote to Schieferdecker himself in February 1859 and stated that the ex-president’s characterization of the Missouri Synod as having “arbitrary and reactionary faith perspectives” was a fortuitous choice of words.[41] He stated disapprovingly that Missouri was one-sided and narrow minded because it identified the evangelical Lutheran Church with the old orthodox school of the seventeenth century. Kilian, regarding himself as a member of the Halle school,[42] hoped that the free Lutheran Church will come to America and was certain that it would have a great future if it finally came. The next month, March 23, he wrote to Pastor Gumlich in Weigersdorf, “Millennialism for me [involves] a hermeneutical principle…The anti-millennialists can’t take Scripture as it is.” For Kilian, Revelation 20 says what it means. Then in June, Kilian explained to Pastor Scheurmann, later to be President of the Victoria District of the Australian Evangelical Lutheran Church, “I imagine the reign of the saints (Rev. 20) with Christ as the most powerful reformation that will happen on earth through which many of the unfulfilled prophecies will be fulfilled.”[43] His passion was mounting and in October, Kilian wrote to Walther, using an attachment stressing six points. Through these points he hoped to object to Schieferdecker’s dismissal and identify with his views. In this “Perception of Millennialism,” a partial summary of his views, minus the extensive use of biblical citations, are outlined below:

  1. The thousand-year kingdom will be a mighty reformation of the church on earth led by the saints along with Christ.
  2. The kingdom will remain a kingdom of the cross until the end of time.
  3. Christ will not come only in judgment, but he comes to us even now.
  4. Judgment is not like a solar day, but it begins with death.
  5. Not all need rise at the same time, but an earlier resurrection is conceivable.
  6. The people of Israel will finally turn to Christ.

While Kilian hardly dealt with all the issues that millennial advocates address, he chose those which are not interdicted by Augustan XVII and for which he felt he could provide biblical support. He might even be addressing charges brought against Schieferdecker. Subsequently, in 1860 at a conference in St. Louis, Kilian opposed the Synod’s closing the discussion on millennialism.[44] No response to his remarks is known.

            Another personal aspect of Kilian’s perspective on millennialism emerged from an 1867 correspondence between Kilian and J.C.W. Lindemann, the Director of the Seminary in Addison, Illinois (now Concordia University Chicago). Kilian’s fifteen year old son, Gerhard, wanted to become a teacher, so his father wrote to introduce the boy, two years early, to the head of the educational institution. Kilian shows his most congenial side as he tells Director Lindemann that because of the poem, “Luther, Schiller and Blum” that Lindemann had written, and which Kilian had read, “I love you like a bride!” He went on to share some personal matters and then introduced his views on millennialism. A meaningful correspondence developed between the two men in which substantial aspects of Kilian’s millennial views are accessible.[45] The correspondence became testy as Lindemann wrote “…depart from chiliasm, it is a lie.” Kilian retorted in the next letter, “You should repent because you treat me like one of your seminarians.” Kilian clarified that he did not believe that a thousand year kingdom is stated in Revelation 20: 4-6, but merely a thousand year reign along with Christ and the appointed holy ones. He insisted that kingdom and reign are totally different entities. He also stated that the last day can come at any moment if the prophecies made up to that point have been fulfilled. Then he asked Lindemann, “Have all the clear prophecies of the Scripture been fulfilled?” and “If the Bible is God’s word, need not all the prophecies be fulfilled?” Kilian hoped, in conclusion, that Lindemann would rectify his error. And, as befits two “brothers of the cloth,” they subsequently continued their correspondence “in brotherly love,” although clearly they held different views in some theological areas.

In 1874, Kilian delivered an essay at the local pastors’ conference on his favorite subject, and in 1876 he preached on the subject at the pastors’ conference. By 1877, the clergy had tired of hearing Kilian continue to bring up the subject and they asked him to appear before them to answer basic “yes” and “no” questions. Kilian regarded this as an inquisition and refused to participate.[46] Kilian wrote to a colleague in Houston that several pastors had withdrawn fellowship from him and he regarded himself as having been excommunicated from the Texas Pastor’s Conference.[47] Clearly, Kilian had reached a crisis in his relationship with fellow clergy. He wrote to the Rev. Gotthilf Birkmann, Secretary of the Texas Pastor’s Conference, who had sent the invitation to the August 20 Conference that year. He informed Birkmann that he would not be attending any more conferences of the Texas brethren until his situation is resolved.[48] Birkmann, who was to become Kilian’s son-in-law nine years later, marrying his youngest daughter, Hulda,  responded that Kilian is an erring brother who should take advantage of every opportunity to have his error pointed out and to be shown the right way.[49] Kilian retorted that Birkmann’s response had tinges of papal infallibility. “Should I believe that a conference cannot err and that we already have the inquisition?”[50] To some degree his predicament is a result of stubbornness. On the other hand, given Kilian’s competence as a theologian as well as his views on leaving some questions open in areas where the Church’s symbolic books haven’t spoken distinctively, he felt bound to be Luther-like in taking his stand.

Kilian Takes His Stand and Challenges the Missouri Synod

Surely, Kilian, who in Serbin had little time and place for creative reflection, thought long and hard about what he wanted to say and do on this matter. He also, as was his custom, probably wrote numerous drafts of the “Twenty Theses” before he prepared the original document that was to be sent to the Rev. F.T. Biltz, the President of the Western District. He is convinced that the Twenty Theses will “win the support of the higher circles in the Missouri Synod.” What he finally drafted was his most significant theological statement during his twenty nine years in the United States. Although it addressed only his concerns about eschatological matters and, specifically millennialism, it is important for at least for two reasons: It is the most lengthy and detailed demonstration of Kilian’s approach to Scripture and it is the first time that an English-speaking audience can now read in this article what he had to say on the  subject. Although it is lengthy and supported by many scriptural quotations, it makes three main points:

  • Biblical prophecy must be fulfilled if God is to be trustworthy.
  • Scripture is to be read at face value or in terms of its basic meaning.
  • While unity is the goal of the church, rigid scriptural interpretations increase divisions.

The fact that Kilian wanted these twenty theses to be debated is established in his title: “An Argument in Theses: Theses and Sentences to be Debated.”[51]  The fact that nobody paid much attention to them until now is surprising.  Perhaps the “higher circles” in the Missouri Synod had more important issues to address than those raised by a log-cabin theologian in Texas who had little following outside his village.[52] For that matter, the subject of millennialism, according to Kilian’s own letter, was not an issue in the congregation in Serbin.[53]  What the Texas pastor was calling others to take seriously, however, was faithfulness to Scripture that he felt Missouri’s denial of all forms of millennialism did not. To Pastor Gumlich, his colleague in Saxony, he wrote about his frustration that he wasn’t being taken seriously. After 1867, even Walther had never replied to his any of writings on millennialism: “Not a single syllable.”[54]

            One may question whether the times were right, given the tensions between Missouri and other groups, for Kilian to be taken seriously, or whether his views simply raised more questions than they provided answers. On the one hand, he claimed to agree with the Augsburg Confession, Article XVII that Christ will return in judgment on the Last Day and that before the final resurrection there will be no secular kingdom on earth possessed alone by the righteous.[55] On the other hand, there were prophecies, valid Scriptural truths from Kilian’s standpoint, which had not been given specific interpretation by the Confessions and had not yet been fulfilled (Theses 1-3). Given such facts, he felt it inappropriate to say, as Missouri’s 1867 Ft. Wayne Convention proclaimed, that the Last Day could come at any moment (Theses 4-11). That could leave some Scripture unfulfilled and God untrustworthy. It’s important, Kilian believed, to take the literal words of Scripture at their face value (Theses 12-14). That included, from his standpoint, those regarding the Pope and the Turk (or others) as Antichrist (Theses 15-18). Finally, Kilian lamented in this jeremiad that he has largely been challenged by brethren in the Missouri Synod not because he questioned the Church’s symbolic writings, but because he lifted up the hope for the future found in numerous passages of Scripture (Thesis 19). How is it possible, Kilian questioned, to advance the unity of the faith, as Ephesians 4: 11-13 encourages, if the church disallows discussion about biblical passages for which there is as yet no confessional or symbolic agreement? In reality, Kilian is thus not arguing for greater attention to millennial views, but for a less rigid approach to interpreting biblical language, or, one might say, for a more charitable view of diversity in the Church.

            Kilian’s problem, some might say, is that he was an old-style exegete, and he considered himself a worthy one. He did not apply literary categories and figures of speech to biblical literature in a way that is considered normative in most academic circles today.  He felt that Revelation 20 and related passages should be taken verbatim. Just as Luther had insisted on the grammatical meaning of “is” in the words of the Lord’s Supper, “this is my body,” so also terminology like “a thousand years” and “a first resurrection” should be allowed to mean what they say. Kilian understood prophecy to be primarily predictive and believed that if Scripture is the word of God, then prophecies must be fulfilled before the end of the age or otherwise God is not faithful. The notion that Revelation fits within the genre of Jewish and Christian apocalyptic thought and speaks to a troubled audience in the post-apostolic era was unknown to him.  Using modern terms, his view would be somewhere between an a-millennial perspective (that the thousand years may have already begun) and a futuristic perspective, which holds that many events in Revelation have yet to take place. Although he rejects the pre-millennial notion that Christ will return to earth to begin the thousand year reign, he believes that Christ is always with his people and the glorious time in which he gathers them, according to Revelation 20, may already be underway. [56] This positive view led Kilian to summarize his view as “the hope for better times on earth” versus the dominant direction of the Missouri Synod that he regarded as anti-millennialism.[57] I am of the opinion, Kilian summarized, “that principles of millennialism based on the wording in biblical texts cannot be refuted and rejected by explanations that are seemingly contrived.”           

            Using both good humor and an obscure scriptural reference to demonstrate his predicament, Kilian says in Article 19 of his Theses that he is an Ephramite who is trapped because of his inability to mouth the acceptable phrases and interpretations. In Judges 12:6, the men of Gilead had devised a means to determine whether those with an ethnic appearance similar to their own were in fact the enemy. In the absence of passports, they asked the men of Ephraim to pronounce the word “Shibboleth.” Because the “sh” phoneme was not on their tongue, they would only be able to say “Sibboleth.” A minor matter, perhaps, but one capable of convicting a pretender. Kilian felt that he was such an Ephramite whose convicting tongue insisted on terms unacceptable to many in Missouri’s circle of leaders.

            Although the issues facing Missouri and the background shaping Kilian created an impasse that never came to be cordially resolved, Kilian in fact was not arguing so much for  millennial views as he was arguing for a more open position on scriptural interpretation. In an 1880 letter to Dr. Fritschel at Wartburg Seminary, Kilian writes: “Is it not possible that through fresh ideas [new] results could be produced in theology? The burning of heretics no longer exists. Is there no freedom in America? The water which flows out from underneath the threshold of the temple cannot be stopped or damned up by any power on earth.”[58]

            Jan Kilian, who died four years later, in 1884, and is buried with his family in Serbin, Texas, gradually lost the energy to continue his struggle to encourage Missouri toward a broader perspective on scriptural interpretation. Some have felt that he finally lost the battle. Both Nielsen and Bulisch, careful students of Kilian’s life, conclude that in the end, his hopes were unfulfilled and he was even destined to fail.[59] There is much truth in these conclusions, but the very essence of Kilian’s positive hope for the future of the church remained strong until his dying day. In one of his last letters, written to Dr. Conrad Fritschl, one of the best known professors at Wartburg Seminary, he wrote: “In hope I remain in love with the Lord.”[60] This sentiment is worth remembering in his legacy, the research about which is still in its beginning stages.[61]

David Zersen, D.Min., Ed.D., FRHistS, is president emeritus of Concordia University Texas. He has written 25 articles, chapters and books on Wendish subjects and is proud to have been designated by the Texas Wendish Heritage Society an “Honorary Wend.” (2001) He lives with his wife, Julie, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

 A Defense in Theses

Theses and Sentences to be Debated

Second Written Communication

by Johann Kilian

Pastor in Serbin, Lee County, Texas

August 1877


            Biblical prophecy must be fulfilled. For God is trustworthy, just as the Lord Jesus says in John 7:28: “He who sent me is true, but you did not know him.” And, “…the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 33:4)  God the Lord tests the prophets by assuring that they say what he intends. “But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.” (Jeremiah 28: 9) The fulfillment of a prophecy is accordingly the proof that the prophecy is from God. When God expects prophets, who are just human, to be truthful in what they say and do, then he will through them all the more carry out what he intends. “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23: 19)


Biblical prophecy must be fulfilled. It is after all inspired by the Holy Spirit. “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)


Now God the Lord through his Angel announced from heaven to the shepherds in Bethlehem that the great joy which the birth of the Savior brought was for all people (Luke 2: 10). Further, the Revelation of John contains in 15: 4 the great prophecy that all heathen will come and kneel before the Lord when his judgments will be made known. These two examples are sufficient to make the point (translator: that these things have not yet come to pass). And this prophecy [that the Good News is for everyone] has already been proclaimed clearly and beautifully in many places in the Old Testament.


The current claim, however, that “the final day may come at any moment” also must allow that biblical prophecy could therefore remain unfulfilled. That is a conclusion that necessarily follows from such a claim. By itself, such a conclusion places the truthfulness of God and the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures in question. Thereby, biblical prophecy and everything that relates to it could be despised.


If the final day would come today or tomorrow, then God’s veracity [in prophetic utterances] would actually become meaningless and the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures would be destroyed.  If one really respects God, then a claim like “the final day may come at any moment” may lead to blasphemous statements that should not really be uttered.  Our Lord Jesus says in John 10:35 that the Scripture cannot be broken. Scripture, however, is actually broken if biblical prophecy remains unfulfilled.


Holy Scripture does not say that the final day can come at any moment; it rather says that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night; in other words, suddenly, unsuspectingly (2 Peter 3:10).  Likewise, it says that no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mark 13:32) Even the writings of the Book of Concord do not say that “the final day can come at any moment.”


There is no way in which the testimony of the Bible, namely that no one knows the day or the hour or that the day will come unsuspectingly, can be used to prove that the “final day can come at any moment.” The Scriptures do not speak about the final day employing our human chronology, but rather with a view to God’s eternal measurements, which surpass our understanding. Accordingly, a day in the Lord’s sight is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2 Peter 3:8; Psalm 90: 4)  Time in the New Testament is reckoned similarly. Although actually implying a protracted period of time, it speaks of “the last hour.” (1 John 2:18; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 1 Peter 4:7)  That is prophetic language, which Matthew 24: 29-31 uses when it says, “Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the earth to the other.” According to this testimony of the Scriptures, it is clear that after the distress of those days (the tribulation), which started with the destruction of Jerusalem, the final day will come. Just as some of the Reformed had opinions about the Person of Christ and  the Last Supper that are not divine, but very human, so also many Lutherans have views about the return of Christ that are not divine, but purely human.


The view that “the final day could come at any moment” probably results from the concern to exhort Christians to watch and pray because Christ is returning. That might be a proper conclusion if it weren’t for the fact that so many prophesies in the Old and New Testaments can’t wait to be fulfilled in eternity (Isaiah 65:20), but must be fulfilled before the Day of Judgment.


However, the scriptural terms, “Christ’s return” and “the Lord is coming,” cannot always and everywhere mean Christ’s last visible return, which certainly will not delay. John did not experience the last day, although Jesus said of John to Peter (John 21:22): “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” And Matthew 16:27-29 says, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” The meaning of this passage is explained in Mark 9:1 and Luke 9:26-27. The most important reference, however, is Matthew 26:64. There Jesus answers before the court the inquisition-like question of the High Priest by saying, “In the future, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Must the visible return of Jesus always be intended when the Scripture speaks of his coming? The Revelation of John is the post-apostolic church history that permeates both heaven and earth. Is not the entirety of church history the coming of the Lord? (Revelation 1 and 22) And does he not come to everyone at the time of death, whether as judge or Redeemer? For man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment. (Hebrews 9:27) Christians awaiting their death pray passionately. both in faith and in hope: “Come, O Christ, and loose the chains that bind us.” (Blessed are the dead, v. 6) That is indeed enough exhortation and encouragement for us to watch and pray, as we anticipate the coming of Christ.


The parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins also concludes with the exhortation: “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (in which the Son of Man will come).”  (Matthew 25: 13) And yet the final return of the Son of Man in judgment is first described in verses 31-46. The foolish virgins are not thrown into eternal fire, but merely disallowed the wedding feast.


The view that “the final day could arrive at any moment” may result from a misreading of the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17. There Paul says, “… the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” Thereby, Paul has certainly not intended to say that he will experience the final day with his contemporaries. He doesn’t simply say, “It can happen that we may experience the final day,” but rather he is quite specific. If we had wanted to say that Paul in this case was certain that he would experience the final day, we would be elevating him to the level of a false prophet because his prophecy, if in fact it is a prophecy, had not been fulfilled. For Paul had not experienced the final day, but rather died before this great day. A prophecy that is never fulfilled is a false prophecy. Therefore, in order to honor God and Paul, it is necessary to explain Paul’s reference in a different way. It is wiser and more relevant to our faith, to say: In this reference Paul is dividing all humankind into the departed and the living. And because, as he wrote these words, he was still among the living, he could not reckon himself to be among the dead. So he writes in the name of all those who will be alive in the present and in the future, the majority of whom, including Paul, should the final day come, will belong to those who have died.


It is clearly difficult to understand how the great joy that the angel proclaimed to the shepherds should be for all people when, in fact, much needs to happen before the whole world worships the Lord. In fact, most people on earth are going astray. It was equally difficult for the opponents of Luther to understand how Christ’s body and blood could be in the Last Supper. The passage, “For nothing is impossible with God,” (Luke 1:37) does not satisfy many people. Therefore it is necessary to quote our Father Luther who answers the doubters in his “Confession regarding the Sacrament”: They do have a point that I regard as significant and that they make in all earnestness. And I believe that it is true. This is what makes this Article difficult for such people. For it is difficult to believe that a body can at the same time be in heaven and in the Eucharist.  Here I praise my Enthusiasts, for they freely explain the basis for their belief. They could have given other reasons and after a good deal of writing they still would have added nothing. What they have said is enough to demonstrate their belief. From that statement they establish the sources for their position. Therefore there was no need to trouble us with additional material because this statement is basic. Here is the gist of the matter. If something is difficult to believe, then believe it and say: “It is not true, it is certainly not true, as this principle concludes and proves. As a result, it is certainly not true that Christ is both God and man. For it is difficult, in fact, impossible to believe it.” May all who do not believe the above mentioned prophecy take that to heart.


Dr. Luther also shows us the proper hermeneutical principle for disputed words in the Holy Scripture as he addresses with triumphal clarity the words “This is…” in the Lord’s Supper. Words like “is” in the Supper are the very words of prophecy that brought the ancient pagans to worship the Lord and likewise created great joy to be proclaimed by the angel to the shepherds at Bethlehem and to all people. Luther’s principle is clear when we let words say what they mean.  Children do this even when they don’t understand their father’s words. Dr. Luther thus says with reference to “is” in the Confession of the Lord’s Supper: “Therefore you can joyfully address Christ at your death as well as at the Last Judgment, saying, “My dear, Lord Christ. discord has arisen over your words in the Eucharist. Some want them to mean what they do not say. But since they do not teach anything that is certain, but only confuse and make uncertain and are not able to prove their text in any way, I remained with the text, with what the words are really saying. If there is something dark here, it is because you want it to be dark. For you did not provide another explanation, nor requested one. One cannot find a passage or language that would interpret “is” as “means,” or “my body” as “a sign of my body.” If there would be anything dark in this, you will pardon that I just accept it, just as you did pardon your apostles for not understanding everything. For example, this happened when you predicted your suffering and resurrection. And yet they clung to the words as you spoke them and did not change them. Likewise, your mother did not understand it when you said to her (Luke 2), “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house,” but she kept these words and did not change them. Thus, I also stayed with your words “this is my body,” etc., and did not want to change them, but left it up to you whether there was anything dark in them, and kept them as they sound.”  

The same applies to the words about the great joy which the angel proclaims should be for all people, and that the heathen will come and worship the Lord. (Luke 2:10, Rev. 15:4) One could venture that “all nations” could mean “some” or “many.” We let the words say what they mean, just as Luther takes the word “is” in the Lord’s Supper quite literally. God expects a child-like faith. (Mark 10:15) As Ecclesiastes says, “God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes.” (7:29)


There are two errors which cause shame and perversion for the people of God to this very day. The first error is that people transgress the word of God written in Deuteronomy 4:2, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.” The same thing applies to biblical prophecy as can be read in Rev. 22: 18-19. There it is written, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” From the transgression of these sayings follow denials of the Scripture and humanly devised mandates, which Jesus condemns in Matthew 15:9 (cf. Colossians 2: 16-23). The second error is committed by people in the church of God on earth who conform to the world, as the words of Christ charge in Luke 22:25-27. This passage states: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them are called benefactors. But you are not to be like that.” From these two errors proceed all the manifold corruptions that the papacy projects in the church of God on earth. Because the human heart is prone to error, one denies the Scripture and another embellishes it. Jesus says in John 8:31-32, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Paul says, “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” (1 Cor. 7:23)


Among all the events in world history impacting Christianity, none have been as negative as the Roman papacy with its strategic alienation of Christians through addition and subtraction of the words of the Bible. Such a hypocritical and tyrannical authority could only have roots in Satan himself. It corresponds to the beast of John’s Revelation, which through the false prophets of the world has brought and is still bringing indescribable disaster.


Nevertheless we are also as guilty as the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity whose head is the pope. For as bad as the teachings and the misuses of the Roman Papacy are, which are criticized in the Augsburg Confession and elsewhere, the part of Smalcald Article I dealing with God’s majesty finally says: “These articles are not matters of dispute or conflict, for both sides confess them. Therefore it is not necessary to deal with them at greater length now.” (Book of Concord, Kolb-Wengert, 300.)

It therefore follows without controversy that the Roman Pope named in other parts of Smalcald Article IV, because of his self-asserted hubris is called the true End-time Christ or Antichrist. One cannot say that he denies the three persons of the Godhead. Even the devil doesn’t do that. (Mark 1:24) Obviously the Roman Pope is not a Christ-denier, as the references in the Book of Concord testify. And yet the papacy is the beast that according to Rev. 13:1 comes out of the sea and according to Rev. 17:8 emerges out of the Abyss.


Even though our symbolic books require that we remove the claim that the pope is an obvious denier of Christ, there are nevertheless other historical authorities who deny Christ. Such anti-Christian authority is designated in John’s letters as the Antichrist. (1 John 2: 22-23; 1 John 4: 1-3; 2 John 7). This authority is clearly the Turk as well as the Jews and free spirits within Christendom which Revelation 13: ll ff. describes as “another” beast. This additional beast, according to Revelation 13:12 forces the earth and those who live on it to worship the first beast, described in Revelation 13:1 ff. However, until this very day, this second beast has publicly served and helped the first beast, the false prophet, the Roman pope very little. That has yet to take place and will take place in its time. Therefore, just as the Old Saxon General Prayer, the Traditional Litany and Luther’s hymn, “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word,” testify, the great Antichrist is not the Pope alone, but the Pope and the Turk together.

Dr. Martin Luther states in his “Admonition to Pray against the Turk,” as follows: “The two kingdoms, that of the Pope and the Turk, are the final two, Abomination and God’s wrath, which the Apocalypse calls the false prophet and the beast. They must be seized together and thrown into the lake of fire.” (Luther’s Works. Wittenberg: Hans Lustig, Vol. 2, p. 560.)


It can’t however be assumed that this huge matter is settled simply by announcing “The pope is the Antichrist.” In this fateful time, in which the second beast arms itself to fight against Christians, one must penetrate deeper into biblical prophecy if Christendom is truly to be served. Inquisitions and excommunications achieve and accomplish nothing. Spirits, who inhabit the depths of our beings, cannot be destroyed, overtaken and frightened with human rules, as Rome attempts to do. Rather, in all amicability (Psalm 141:5), one battles and disproves them with good, valid reasons, if you have those available, or let them go and don’t take their freedom that is as necessary to them as air. What did the Spanish Inquisition achieve?


The Apostle Paul, who stands accused before King Agrippa, says: “And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today.” (Acts 26: 6) The same thing is true of me. I am accused for holding to the hope of the promise that is testified to in manifold ways in both the Old and New Testaments. Because I have boldly lifted up this hope among fellow pastors in conferences, my brothers have become my accusers. On April 11, 1877, they opened a formal inquisition process against me. What should I do in a conference or a meeting with such brothers? Either I have to keep my peace or “when I speak, they are for war.” (Psalm 120:7) The brothers are, so it seems, ready with their positions and want agreement. I, however, have not already obtained everything. (Philippians 3: 12-14). Therefore we don’t always agree. I’m standing, so to speak, over against my brothers in Texas, much as the defeated Ephraimites stood beneath the victorious Gileadites at the fords of the Jordan. (Judges 12: 1-6) The Shibboleth that I as an Ephraimite pronounce “Siboleth” will be my undoing. If God intends it to happen, it will. However, if God does not allow it, then the aggressive Gileadites won’t be able to do anything, but allow me the freedom for which Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1)


Christianity’s purpose on earth is stated in the prayer of the Lord Jesus in John 17: 20-23 and developed in Ephesians 4: 11-13. There it is written: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  How is it possible to reach this goal on earth when the Missouri, Iowa and Breslau Synods have no unity? If these small groups cannot be one, how could the large Christian territorial or regional churches in Germany become united? How could one ecumenical Christian church emerge? How should Christianity achieve a unified faith and confession in the Son of God? It is with us as it once was with the patriarch, Jacob. As he woke up from his sleep, he said: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” (Genesis 28:16)  God’s path leads through the sea, and his way goes through the mighty waters, and one can’t trace his footprints. (Psalm 77: 19) “Revelation awaits an appointed time. (Habakkuk 2:3) “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) “The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.” (Zechariah 14:9) No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31: 34)

Translated by David Zersen. The translator thanks the Rev. Dr. Wolf-Dietrich Knappe for his suggestions. The scriptural passages are taken from the New International Version (1983).


    [1]“Film website,” September 5, 2016, Passages in the Old and New Testaments that have apocalyptic character include Daniel 7-12, Matthew 24, Mark 13, 2 Thessalonians 2 and the Book of Revelation.

    [2]“Book website,” September 3, 2016,,_Great_Planet_Earth.

    [3]”Book website,” April 12, 2017,

    [4] “Premillennialism website,” None of the Ecumenical Councils took a position on chiliasm/millennialism, so various views can be found in earlier Christianity by everyone from Tertullian to Lactantius, Methodius, Apollinaris of Laodicea, Plotinus, Justin Martyr, Ambrose and Augustine. Some Anabaptists, Huguenots and Bohemian Brethren in the medieval period also accepted versions of millennialism.

    [5] The five-page German document, “Veranwortung in Thesen” by Johann Kilian is in the archives of Concordia Historical Institute. It was originally sent in 1877 to President  F. Bilitz of the Western District and was first translated by the author in July 2016, 139 years later.

    [6] The word “millennium” is an English word with Latin roots. Its counterpart in English using Greek-roots is “chiliasm.” Used in the Greek text of Revelation 20:2 ff (χίλία), it means a period of one thousand (years).  Although many of the original documents as well as the European references used as source material in this article prefer the word “chiliasm,” the more familiar term in the United States, “millennium,” will be used throughout this article.

    [7] Examples of genre with apocalyptic themes: The Postman (1997), The Terminator (1984)—film; Station Eleven (2014), Left Behind (series from 1995-2007)—novel; The Last of Us (2013)—video game; Apocalypse Please (2003)—Music; Apocalyptic Theology (2014)— Theology (in First Things 7-2013) .

    [8] His baptismal certificate reads Jan Kilian, and with Sorbian/Wendish colleagues he typically used that given name. When writing to German-speaking people, he typically signed his name “Johann,” and that is the given name on his tombstone in Serbin., Texas. John, however, is often used as his given name in English-speaking settings, and it is the name heading his biography on, for example, Wikipedia.

    [9] Lusatia is the homeland of the Wendish or Sorbian Slavs, who immigrated to Texas in 1854-55.  On a current map, it lies between Berlin and Dresden, with Cottbus and Bautzen as its two major cities. Jan Kilian came from Döhlen, a village near Bautzen. Although the term “Sorb” is more typically used in scholarly literature in Europe today, the term “Wend,” used throughout this article, was the ethnic label used in the mid-nineteenth century in Texas and it continues to be the most understood term in Lutheran contexts in the United States today.

    [10] Almost 350 letters from and to Klian in German and in Wendish have been translated and are available online at wendish Texas Wends: Letters and Documents. As of this writing (4/12/2017), word has been received of substantial Kilian correspondence discovered in his former parsonage in Weigersdorf, Germany.

    [11] Donald Scott. “Evangelicalism, Revivalism and the Second Great Awakening,” last modified September 10, 2016,

    [12] All the denominations that grew out of the Second Great Awakening (Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, and the Christian Church) have strong pre-millennial emphases.

    [13] “The Augsburg Confession,” in The Book of Concord, eds. Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 50.

    [14] Lawrence R. Rast, Jr. “Pietism and Mission: Lutheran Millennialism in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 64:4 (2000): 299.

    [15] Rast, 302.

    [16] Cameron MacKenzie,The ‘Early’ Luther on Priesthood of All Believers, Office of the Ministry,

and Ordination,”

    [17] Erika Geiger, The Life, Work and Influence of Wilhelm Loehe 1808-1872 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2010), 131-138.

    [18] Jan Malink, e-mail message to author, August 29, 2016.

    [19] Jens Bulisch, email message to author, August 3, 2016. 

    [20] (from here on, WRE), Texas Wends: Letters and Documents.  Kilian to Walther, 034-500. This was Kilian’s second letter to Walther written from Texas. In both the first and second letters, Kilian addresses Walther as if he were a stranger, providing information about his background and the Wendish emigration. Walther’s student years at Leipzig were from 1829-1833, and Kilian’s years were from 1830-1833. Given that there were only about 250 theology students at the time, it seems likely that there must have been some acquaintanceship between the two. (See Jens Bulisch, “Jan Kilian the Theologian” in Jan Kilian (1811-1884): Pastor, Poet, Emigrant, ed. Trudla Malinkowa (Bautzen: Domowina Verlag, 2014), 155. Also attending at roughly the same time was George Alfred Schieferdecker whose years in Leipzig were from 1833-36.  (See F. Koestering, “Ehrengedaechtniss des seligen Pastors Georg Albert Schieferdecker,”  Der Lutheraner. (Jahrgang 48, Nr. 18): 145. The fact that these three clashed over millennialism later in the United States is interesting and probably worth further research. Both Kilian and Schieferdecker had some of the same professors: Wiener, Grossmann, Niedner and Lindner. (See Bulisch and Koestering)

    [21]WRE, Pallmer to Kilian, 110-860.  At least 345 (by this author’s count) pieces of correspondence in German and Wendish from and to Jan Kilian have been translated into English and are available for analysis via a search engine at, Texas Wends: Letters and Documents– a remarkable gift to scholars. George Nielsen claims that many of Kilian’s letters were first written in draft and then copied to be mailed. In many cases, it is these drafts that have been preserved, as well as originals found in archives in Serbin, Texas, Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis,  and Weigersdorf Parish Archives, Saxony, etc.

    [22] WRE, Richter to Kilian, 123-100

    [23] WRE, Kilian to Gumlich, 047-000

    [24] Kilian had received the Proceedings of the Conference in the mail (per the letter to Gumlich).

    [25] WRE, Kilian to Gumlich, 049-000.

    [26] WRE, Kilian to Schuerman, 062-000

    [27] Given the German system in which a Gymnasium period (roughly equivalent to the U.S. high school plus junior college) precedes the baccalaureate education.

    [28] David Zersen, “Jan Kilian’s Legacy in the United States” Jan Kilian: Pastor, Poet, Emigrant, ed. Trudla Malinkowa(Bautzen: Domowina Verlag, 2014), 458-469.

    [29] WRE, Kilian to Kirchenrat Wildenhahn, 086-000

    [30] WRE, Kilian to Walther, 033-550.

    [31] Zersen, Endnote 5. Barbara Kilian, the wife of Kilian’s great-grandson, Hermann, donated in twenty volumes, the vestiges of Kilian’s library, to the Texas Wendish Heritage Society Library. They include two large Bibles, six Old Testament commentaries, two New Testament commentaries, Luther’s Catechism, a Harmony of the Four Gospels, a history of the Reformation in Bohemia, a history of the Reformation in Spain, Italy, France, England and Poland, a survey of the Brüdergemeinde, Claus Harms’s Pastoral Theology, a book about Australia, a Pietistic devotional work, and a book of children’s songs. All are in German with the exception of the book on Australia. His twelve German volumes of the Wittenberg edition of Luther’s Works seem to have disappeared. Much of his library was burned because the villagers didn’t find the volumes useful. However, which other log-cabin resident in central Texas possessed such a library in the mid-nineteenth century?

    [32] Bulisch, 148. The faculty at Kilian’s time showed little inclination to deal with fundamental issues, but was concerned to provide those preparing for the ministry with the philological and historical knowledge required by a learned pastor. They provided a “formal academic education, which was hardly surpassed elsewhere in Germany for its soundness.” See Otto Kirn, Die Leipziger theologische Fakultät in fünf Jahrhunderten (Leipzig, 1909), 176. See Ray Martens, Worthy of Double Honor: The Rev. G. Birkmann, D.D. (Austin: Concordia University Press, 2011), 356: [Kilian] was “uncommonly well versed in the Holy Scripture, as well as in Luther’s Works, which he had studied diligently.”

    [33] Kilian wrote two rhymed addresses to be read at the topping-out ceremonies of the first Wendish Lutheran Church and of the subsequent  St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, both in Serbin. See David Zersen , An Exciting Find in a Wendish Vault in Texas (Austin: Concordia University Press, 2012) and Roland Marti, “Jan Kilian’s Occasional Poetry Written in Serbin,” in Jan Kilian: Poet, Pastor, Emigrant, ed. Trudla Malinkowa, (Bautzen: Domowina Verlag, 2014),  423 .  

    [34] W.H.T. Dau, Ebenezer (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1922), 164.

    [35] Ibid, 168.

    [36] Ibid, 172.

   [37] WRE, Seyffarth to Kilian, 065-500. Seyffarth admits to Kilian that he is also a millennialist, but in an entirely different sense.

   [38] Protokoll, Oct. 14-24, Conference,  Ft. Wayne, Indiana

   [39] George Nielsen, Johann Kilian. A Wendish Lutheran in Germany and Texas (Serbin: 1st Books, 2003), 77.

   [40] WRE, Walther to Kilian, 038-000. Walther acknowledges in a letter to Kilian that exegesis (biblical interpretation) is Kilian’s acknowledged favorite subject and invites him to submit articles on disputed texts from time to time to be published in Der Lutheraner.

   [41] WRE, Kilian to Schieferdecker, 058-000.

   [42] WRE, Kilian to Fritschel, 140-800.

   [43] WRE, Kilian to Schuermann, 062-000.

   [44] WRE, Kilian to Kirchenrat Wildenhahn, 086-600. In the same letter, as he meets more and more resistance, Kilian asks about the possibility of returning to the Saxon State Church in which he served for eleven years. Interestingly, because of the Civil War in which Texas was a part of the Confederacy, he had to ask the church administrator (Wildenhahn) to send his response through Matamoros, Mexico. Interesting also, in that same war, the neighbors of the Wends kept slaves, but the Wends, in principle refused.  See George Nielsen, “Reluctant Confederates,” Texas Wendish Heritage Society Newsletter, Issues from July 2005-April 2006 (Updated in 2012).

  [45] WRE, Kilian to Lindemann, 092-500; Lindemann to Kilian, 092-830; Kilian to Lindemann, 092-850.

  [46] Nielsen, 74-76. Nielsen’s summary of these years is very helpful.

  [47] WRE, Kilian to Braun, 137-455.

  [48] WRE, Kilian to Birkmann, 137-405.

  [49] WRE, Geyer-Birkmann to Kilian, 137-407.

  [50] WRE, Kilian to Braun, 137-455.

  [51] George Nielsen, e-mail message to the author, September 9, 2016. The original German document is in the archives of Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis, MO.

  [52] Nielsen, 74.

  [53] Nielsen, 74.

  [54] Nielsen, Note 44, 146.

  [55] Kolb-Wengert, eds, Book of Concord, 50. WRE, Kilian to Schieferdecker, 058-000; Kilian to Lindemann, 092-850.

  [56] WRE, Kilian to Schieferdecker, 058-000; Kilian to Schuermann, 062-000; Kilian to Gumlich 053-000 Attachment    4, “Perception of Chiliasm,” #1.

  [57] WRE, Kilian to Walther 91-500.

  [58] WRE, Kilian to Fritschel, 140-800.

  [59] Nielsen, 77, 83-84; Buslisch, 173.                                                                              

  [60] WRE, Kilian to Fritschl, 140-800.

  [61] Zersen,  “Jan Kilian’s Legacy in the United States,” 460. “Kilian’s legacy in the U.S. is in its early stages of development. Although 127 years have passed since his death, only in more recent years have U.S. scholars, theologians, musicians and poets come to study him. Hopefully this study with its recommendations for further research will encourage students to explore the legacy of a man who deserves to be respected and cherished in nineteenth century church history in America.”

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