The secular tune on which “Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn” was based, from the handwritten Lochamer-Liederbuch, c. 1450.
The tune “Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn” appeared with Elisabeth Creuziger’s text of the same name in the Erfurt Enchiridion and Johann Walter’s Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn, both published 1524. It is adapted from a secular love song, “Mein Frewd möcht sich wol meren,” c. 1450 (No. 128 in Franz Böhme’s Altdeutsches Liederbuch). Both the source tune and the hymn tune included in the Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn have a quarter note for the pickup, but the version in the Erfurt Enchiridion has a half note. It was the quarter note that persisted and came to be associated with the classical version of the tune, but when “Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn” was resurrected in English Lutheran hymnals as “The Only Son from Heaven” (LSB No. 402), the half note was used.
The opening of “Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn” in Johann Walter’s Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn has a quarter-note pickup.
The version in the Erfurt Enchiridion has a half-note pickup.
In keeping with the longstanding Lutheran chorale tradition, and despite the use of the half note in the recent reintroductions of this tune in English hymnals, it is the quarter note that has been used for the Free Lutheran Chorale-Book.