‘Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant an apple tree today’. This was claimed to have said by Luther once. However, research has shown that the statement cannot be found anywhere in the texts of Luther. It was not until 1944 that this sentence is, for the first time, referred to in a paper on Luther. But until now it is unknown who invented it. In the middle of the twentieth century the legendary statement still played an important role in Germany in the years of reconstruction.
Possibly the statement goes back to Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai (first century after Christ). He said: ‘If you are holding a sapling in your hand and someone tells you, ‘Come quickly, the Messiah is here!’, first finish planting the tree and then go to greet the Messiah.’ (Source: Stichting vrienden van dr. H.F. Kohlbrugge, Kerkblaadje 74 (1983), 125v.)