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Again: -- "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealthiest of the wealthy, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers? Again: -- "What is it that the pope dispenses to people, and what participation does he grant, to those who have a right to full remission and participation because of their perfect repentance? Again: -- "What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does only once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?
To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; indeed, they would cease to exist.
Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," where there is no peace! Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "the cross, the cross," where there is no cross! Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hell;. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace.
Amore et studio elucidande veritatis hec subscripta disputabuntur Wittenberge, Presidente R. Martino Lutther, Artium et S. Theologie Magistro eiusdemque ibidem lectore Ordinario. Quare petit, ut qui non possunt verbis presentes nobiscum disceptare agant id literis absentes. In nomine domini nostri Hiesu Christi. Quod verbum de penitentia sacramentali id est confessionis et satisfactionis, que sacerdotum ministerio celebratur non potest intelligi.
Non tamen solam intendit interiorem, immo interior nulla est, nisi foris operetur varias carnis mortificationes. Manet itaque pena, donec manet odium sui id est penitentia vera intus , scilicet usque ad introitum regni celorum. Papa non vult nec potest ullas penas remittere preter eas, quas arbitrio vel suo vel canonum imposuit. Papa non potest remittere ullam culpam nisi declarando, et approbando remissam a deo Aut certe remittendo casus reservatos sibi, quibus contemptis culpa prorsus remaneret.
Nulli prorus remittit deus culpam, quin simul eum subiiciat humiliatum in omnibus sacerdoti suo vicario. Canones penitentiales solum viventibus sunt impositi nihilque morituris secundum eosdem debet imponi. Inde bene nobis facit spiritussanctus in papa excipiendo in suis decretis semper articulum mortis et necessitatis. Indocte et male faciunt sacerdotes ii, qui morituris penitentias canonicas in purgatorium reservant.
Martin Luther's 95 Theses
Zizania illa de mutanda pena Canonica in penam purgatorii videntur certe dormientibus episcopis seminata. Olim pene canonice non post, sed ante absolutionem imponebantur tanquam tentamenta vere contritionis. Morituri per mortem omnia solvunt et legibus canonum mortui iam sunt, habentes iure earum relaxationem. Imperfecta sanitas seu charitas morituri necessario secum fert magnum timorem, tantoque maiorem, quanto minor fuerit ipsa.
Hic timor et horror satis est se solo ut alia taceam facere penam purgatorii, cum sit proximus desperationis horrori. Videntur infernus, purgaturium, celum differre, sicut desperatio, prope desperatio, securitas differunt. Nec probatum videtur ullis aut rationibus aut scripturis, quod sint extra statum meriti seu augende charitatis. Nec hoc probatum esse videtur, quod sint de sua beatitudine certe et secure, saltem omnes, licet nos certissimi simus. Igitur papa per remissionem plenariam omnium penarum non simpliciter omnium intelligit, sed a seipso tantummodo impositarum. Errant itaque indulgentiarum predicatores ii, qui dicunt per pape indulgentias hominem ab omni pena solvi et salvari.
Quin nullam remittit animabus in purgatorio, quam in hac vita debuissent secundum Canones solvere. Si remissio ulla omnium omnino penarum potest alicui dari, certum est eam non nisi perfectissimis, i. Falli ob id necesse est maiorem partem populi per indifferentem illam et magnificam pene solute promissionem. Qualem potestatem habet papa in purgatorium generaliter, talem habet quilibet Episcopus et Curatus in sua diocesi et parochia specialiter. Optime facit papa, quod non potestate clavis quam nullam habet sed per modum suffragii dat animabus remissionem. Hominem predicant, qui statim ut iactus nummus in cistam tinnierit evolare dicunt animam.
Certum est, nummo in cistam tinniente augeri questum et avariciam posse: suffragium autem ecclesie est in arbitrio dei solius. Quis scit, si omnes anime in purgatorio velint redimi, sicut de s. Severino et Paschali factum narratur. Nullus securus est de veritate sue contritionis, multominus de consecutione plenarie remissionis. Quam rarus est vere penitens, tam rarus est vere indulgentias redimens, i. Damnabuntur ineternum cum suis magistris, qui per literas veniarum securos sese credunt de sua salute. Cavendi sunt nimis, qui dicunt venias illas Pape donum esse illud dei inestimabile, quo reconciliatur homo deo.
Gratie enim ille veniales tantum respiciunt penas satisfactionis sacramentalis ab homine constitutas. Non christiana predicant, qui docent, quod redempturis animas vel confessionalia non sit necessaria contritio. Quilibet christianus vere compunctus habet remissionem plenariam a pena et culpa etiam sine literis veniarum sibi debitam. Quilibet versus christianus, sive vivus sive mortuus, habet participationem omnium bonorum Christi et Ecclesie etiam sine literis veniarum a deo sibi datam.
Remissio tamen et participatio Pape nullo modo est contemnenda, quia ut dixi est declaratio remissionis divine. Difficillimum est etiam doctissimis Theologis simul extollere veniarum largitatem et contritionis veritatem coram populo. Contritionis veritas penas querit et amat, Veniarum autem largitas relaxat et odisse facit, saltem occasione. Caute sunt venie apostolice predicande, ne populus false intelligat eas preferri ceteris bonis operibus charitatis. Docendi sunt christiani, quod Pape mens non est, redemptionem veniarum ulla ex parte comparandam esse operibus misericordie.
Docendi sunt christiani, quod dans pauperi aut mutuans egenti melius facit quam si venias redimereet. Quia per opus charitatis crescit charitas et fit homo melior, sed per venias non fit melior sed tantummodo a pena liberior. Docendi sunt christiani, quod, qui videt egenum et neglecto eo dat pro veniis, non idulgentias Pape sed indignationem dei sibi vendicat. Docendi sunt christiani, quod nisi superfluis abundent necessaria tenentur domui sue retinere et nequaquam propter venias effundere. Docendi sunt christiani, quod Papa sicut magis eget ita magis optat in veniis dandis pro se devotam orationem quam promptam pecuniam.
Docendi sunt christiani, quod venie Pape sunt utiles, si non in cas confidant, Sed nocentissime, si timorem dei per eas amittant. Docendi sunt christiani, quod si Papa nosset exactiones venialium predicatorum, mallet Basilicam s. Petri in cineres ire quam edificari cute, carne et ossibus ovium suarum. Docendi sunt christiani, quod Papa sicut debet ita vellet, etiam vendita si opus sit Basilicam s. Petri, de suis pecuniis dare illis, a quorum plurimis quidam concionatores veniarum pecuniam eliciunt. Vana est fiducia salutis per literas veniarum, etiam si Commissarius, immo Papa ipse suam animam pro illis impigneraret.
Hostes Christi et Pape sunt ii, qui propter venias predicandas verbum dei in aliis ecclesiis penitus silere iubent. Iniuria fit verbo dei, dum in eodem sermone equale vel longius tempus impenditur veniis quam illi. Mens Pape necessario est, quod, si venie quod minimum est una campana, unis pompis et ceremoniis celebrantur, Euangelium quod maximum est centum campanis, centum pompis, centum ceremoniis predicetur.
Thesauri ecclesie, unde Pape dat indulgentias, neque satis nominati sunt neque cogniti apud populum Christi. Temporales certe non esse patet, quod non tam facile eos profundunt, sed tantummodo colligunt multi concionatorum. Nec sunt merita Christi et sanctorum, quia hec semper sine Papa operantur gratiam hominis interioris et crucem, mortem infernumque exterioris. Thesauros ecclesie s. Laurentius dixit esse pauperes ecclesie, sed locutus est usu vocabuli suo tempore. Indulgentie, quas concionatores vociferantur maximas gratias, intelliguntur vere tales quoad questum promovendum.
Tenentur Episcopi et Curati veniarum apostolicarum Commissarios cum omni reverentia admittere. Sed magis tenentur omnibus oculis intendere, omnibus auribus advertere, ne pro commissione Pape sua illi somnia predicent. Qui vero, contra libidinem ac licentiam verborum Concionatoris veniarum curam agit, sit ille benedictus. Sicut Papa iuste fulminat eos, qui in fraudem negocii veniarum quacunque arte machinantur,.
Multomagnis fulminare intendit eos, qui per veniarum pretextum in fraudem sancte charitatis et veritatis machinantur,. Opinari venias papales tantas esse, ut solvere possint hominem, etiam si quis per impossibile dei genitricem violasset, Est insanire. Dicimus contra, quod venie papales nec minimum venialium peccatorum tollere possint quo ad culpam.
Quod dicitur, nec si s. Petrus modo Papa esset maiores gratias donare posset, est blasphemia in sanctum Petrum et Papam. Dicere, Crucem armis papalibus insigniter erectam cruci Christi equivalere, blasphemia est. Rationem reddent Episcopi, Curati et Theologi, Qui tales sermones in populum licere sinunt. Facit hec licentiosa veniarum predicatio, ut nec reverentiam Pape facile sit etiam doctis viris redimere a calumniis aut certe argutis questionibus laicorm. Cur Papa non evacuat purgatorium propter sanctissimam charitatem et summam animarum necessitatem ut causam omnium iustissimam, Si infinitas animas redimit propter pecuniam funestissimam ad structuram Basilice ut causam levissimam?
The following article addresses this problem in three parts. It begins with a survey of the origins of Reformation history and traces the incorporation of the theses-posting into the narrative stream. The second section examines the reasons why this act remained so prominent in Lutheran memory during the two centuries after the Reformation by relating it to a broader theological framework, a providential interpretation of history and an evolving sense of self-perception.
The final section examines the process of reinterpretation that occurred during the period of late Lutheran Orthodoxy and the early Enlightenment, when scholars started to revisit the episode and sketch the outlines of the modern view. A survey of the theses-posting is nothing new, of course, and indeed German historians have regularly re-examined the episode since the debate first became a national issue in the s.
Where this study departs from its predecessors is in its focus on the place and the meaning of the theses-posting within the evolving understanding of the German Reformation. It does not treat the episode as a fixed event in an unchanging narrative. Perceptions of Luther and the Reformation at the tail-end of the early modern period were different from perceptions at the beginning, so too the philosophies of history that ordered the past. And yet the theses-posting retained its prominence as the point of origin, the crucial moment in the story. Why was this? Why did this episode remain a fixed point in the history of the Reformation during a period when that entire history was reconsidered and reconceived?
The broader aim is to demonstrate how historical conditions can shape historical facts, even when those facts are bound to something as seemingly idealised as the origins of a new Church. There is very little evidence to support the claim that Martin Luther — personally nailed a set of ninety-five theses against indulgences to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on 31 October I do not intend to revisit all of the arguments for and against the theses-posting here, but some mention must be made of the weaknesses of the historical record, for this will have a bearing on the later discussion.
In truth he was not even in Wittenberg at the time and was inconsistent in his recollections of the event. He mentioned it in a Sunday sermon in , for example, but there was no reference to it in the short historical account of the Reformation that he placed in a time-capsule left in the church bell-tower the following year. The indulgence debate clearly had priority in his recollections of the origins of the Reformation, and he did consider 31 October a day of special significance, but he made no reference to the theses and the door.
At times the door fell within his frame of reference, as it did when the Swiss neo-Latin poet Simon Lemnius —50 was caught peddling libellous anti-Wittenberg epigrams in front of the Castle Church entrance in Luther spoke from the pulpit against the dishonour brought upon the professors, the university, and the town; but he made no mention of the dishonour brought upon the very site where the Reformation was thought to have begun, even though he had become sentimental about other sites by this time.
There are other problems with established accounts, though some of the counter-arguments are based on circumstantial reasoning. For instance, although it was common to post theses for disputation on church doors, in Wittenberg, as in most other German universities, this was done by beadles rather than professors. Moreover, in Wittenberg, as the university statutes make clear, the disputation placards were to be posted on the doors of all the churches in valvis templorum , not just the Castle Church. Equally troubling is the fact that historians have yet to find an extant copy of a Wittenberg print of the Ninety-Five Theses , though a summons to a public disputation of this kind was usually given in the form of a printed broadside.
The few prints that do exist were published elsewhere Nuremberg, Leipzig and Basel , and when Luther actually dispatched copies of the theses he seems to have sent them in handwritten form. He also dispatched letters to the archbishop of Mainz and the bishop of Brandenburg, both with a copy of the theses enclosed.
The letter to Mainz still exists and is dated 31 October Context, content and later testimony would suggest that this letter to the archbishop was the first time that Luther made contact with him; however, in correspondence and recollections stretching from to , Luther claimed that he had written to the bishops sometimes suggesting more than two before the posting of the theses.
Only after waiting in vain for a response of some kind, he claimed, did he decide to make the theses public. If this was true, then Luther cannot have posted the theses on 31 October, for this was the day that he sent his appeal to the bishops. The church in Lucas Cranach, Dye zaigung des hochlobwirdigen hailigthums der stifftkirchen aller hailigen zu Wittenburg Wittenberg, Admittedly, some of the earliest accounts make no reference to the event, including important foundational histories by contemporaries such as Johann Carion, Friedrich Myconius, Georg Spalatin and Johannes Sleidan.
But once a shared stream of Reformation history began to emerge in the s, the theses-posting became a staple of the core narrative. The church historian Volker Leppin has recently retraced this reception process during the first century of memorialisation. Drawing on the recollection of Melanchthon, the earliest authors to mention the act repeated the basic information provided by Melanchthon and occasionally added small details, such as that Luther was surrounded by pilgrims at the time.
He did not try to reconcile the two accounts, nor did he depict Luther as a heroic figure who actively sought to challenge the teachings of the Church. According to Mathesius, Luther had been forced into issuing the theses by the actions of Johannes Tetzel, the Dominican friar who had been commissioned by Pope Leo X to preach the Jubilee indulgence in Germany. Only later, in the Luther biographies of the s and s, and beginning in particular with the works of Orthodox Lutheran historians such as Nikolaus Selnecker and Georg Glocker, do we meet Luther as the resolute reformer of the Church who was driven to take a stand against a corrupt medieval Catholic Church.
We also start to see the theses-posting, rather than the dispatch of the letters to the bishops, emerge as the critical act of A few crucial texts should be added to this survey. It marked the terminus ante quem for the build-up to reform and the catalyst for the Reformation itself. To cite the words of one early biographer, 31 October was the date when Martin Luther. This dispute was the beginning and the original cause of the Reformation and why the pure teaching of the Holy Gospel has been brought back to light.
The importance of was confirmed by the centenary celebrations of , when Lutherans had the opportunity to celebrate the origins of the Reformation on a universal scale. Indeed, in the initial plans for a general Protestant commemoration—which were largely put in motion by Friedrich V, the Reformed elector of the Palatinate—the main day of observation was set for 2 November.
In most Lutheran territories, however, as in Electoral Saxony, the celebrations extended from 31 October to 2 November and were marked out by sermon cycles, special prayers of thanks, anniversary publications and the suspension of secular activities. Representative in this respect is the cycle of sermons preached in the Castle Church by the Wittenberg professors Friedrich Balduin, Nicolas Hunnius and Wolfgang Franz, all of whom stressed the significance of the theses as the starting-point of the Reformation.
For the lasting memorialisation of the theses-posting, however, perhaps the most important act of commemoration was the publication of the so-called Dream of Friedrich the Wise , a broadsheet engraving that appeared in , which is thought to be the first visual representation of Luther in front of the church door Figure 4. References to the dream sequence experienced by Friedrich, who was the prince of Saxony at the time of the theses-posting, pre-date the broadsheet, but the appearance of this image, rich in detail and symbolism, marked an important juncture.
Martin Luther 95 Theses: The Full Text
As Robert Scribner observed, the image was significant because it invested the event with two forms of legitimacy. First, it provided a historical provenance for the idea of Luther and the church door. Spalatin told Antonius Musa, the pastor of Rochlitz, who recorded it in a manuscript.
While visiting the subsequent pastor of Rochlitz in , the editor of the pamphlet claimed, he actually saw the manuscript and the description of the dream.
Martin Luther's daring revolution: The Reformation 500 years on
With this, the historical foundations of the theses-posting were secured: all of these men were contemporary figures and their words and acts were joined by written testimony. The second form of legitimation was prophetic.
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In the dream related by Friedrich, which came to him as he contemplated the fate of souls in purgatory, God sent him a monk who seemed to be the natural son of Paul. Assured by God through the saints that he would not regret it if he let the monk write something on his Castle Church, Friedrich, having agreed to the request, next saw the vision of the monk scrawling oversized text on a door with a huge quill that reached all the way to Rome, where it went through the ears of a lion representing Pope Leo X and started to tip over the papal crown.
Some of these symbols were the common stock of visual culture. Some could be deciphered with a modicum of historical knowledge. Others, such as the burning of a goose, which was an allusion to the prediction uttered by the heretic Jan Hus about the coming of Luther, were specific to the emerging prophecies of the Reformation. Harmonised in this image, they joined up the theses-posting with the emerging mytho-historical accounts of the Reformation. The Dream of Frederick the Wise.
In historical terms, nothing new was added to the established account of the theses-posting during the seventeenth century. No additional sources were discovered, no new details accrued. According to this account, Luther personally nailed the theses to the door on 31 October and thereby launched the Reformation. What was new in the seventeenth century, however, was the increasing importance of the theses-posting in Reformation histories as the anchor for arguments in defence of the faith.
Reform, in these accounts, had been a necessity, and the theses-posting was the catalyst. The theses-posting was also emphasised in works that were primarily concerned with defending the providential nature of the Reformation, as in the late-century interpretations by Johann Adam Scherzer, Johann Deutschmann and Johann Friderich Mayer. Over the long term, however, perhaps the most important theoretical framework was that provided by the Lutheran statesman Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff —92 in his Commentarius historicus et apologeticus de Lutheranismo This was the most influential work on German Reformation history to appear in the early modern period, particularly after it was translated into German and supplemented by the Ulm pastor Elias Frick.
The bicentennial celebrations of serve as a convenient end-point to this short survey of the incorporation of the theses-posting into the history of the Reformation. Even at this stage, after two centuries of Protestant development, the episode had not yet captured the historical or the visual imagination in the way that it would in the nineteenth century. In most accounts the theses-posting shared the stage with other dramatic opening acts, from the meeting with the papal legate Thomas Cajetan at the Diet of Augsburg to the debate in Leipzig or the hearing in Worms. In , the Lutheran church was in a weaker position than it had been a century before.
The Counter-Reformation had long since revitalised Catholicism in the Empire; the Reformed faith, now legally recognised, had emerged from the Peace of Westphalia even stronger than before; and German Lutheranism itself had little sense of common purpose or identity, as was evidenced by the difficulties faced by the statesmen and theologians in Saxony and Hesse who tried to co-ordinate a masterplan for the bicentennial celebrations. The cycle of events. Cyprian, Hilaria Evangelica Nevertheless, even though there were good reasons to shift the narrative away from 31 October , once the bicentennial celebrations had taken place the Lutheran church continued to emphasise the importance of the theses-posting for the Reformation.
The Helmstedt professor Christoph Heinrich Rittmeier — made this point in the build-up to the celebrations. As he remarked, although Luther had been preaching against indulgences before the dispute with Tetzel,. This happened on 31 October , and for this reason, as is well known, the Reformation is reckoned from this date. That is why the anniversary of the first Lutheran century was celebrated in And now with the passage of the second century, yet another is just around the corner.
For the vast majority of Lutherans in , Luther standing before the door of the Castle Church on 31 October was the image that came to mind when they recalled the origins of the Church. Why did the theses-posting emerge and then endure as the defining moment in early modern Reformation history, and what does its lasting importance in the narrative say about Lutheran modes of remembrance and interpretation? Before answering these questions, it is worth pointing out that there were better candidates for what the theologians termed the annus climacterius or the annus restauratae religionis than the year Indeed, even within the compass of that year, there were more consequential acts than the theses-posting—for if its purpose was to initiate an academic debate, then Luther failed, as no disputation ever took place.
In purely historical terms, the dispatching of the theses to the archbishop of Mainz was the crucial act, as Luther himself recalled. Moreover, the theses themselves can hardly be considered a proclamation of evangelical reform. A strong case could be made for other points of origin, as contemporary scholars came to recognise.
Nor was it difficult to make a case for the importance of the Diet of Worms , as indeed Johannes Mathesius did in the first substantial Luther biography ever written. Understanding the place of the theses-posting in the narrative of Lutheran history requires some awareness of the broader process of memorialisation at work. From the very outset of the Reformation the public memory of the Church was closely controlled, just as it was deeply affected—as all public memory is deeply affected—by shifts of sentiment and perception over time.
Thus, while the first histories of the Reformation were primarily concerned with finding a place for the faith in the traditional narratives of Christian history—which explains why they were so confessionally charged and so theologically precise—later histories started to tailor their arguments to fit the temper of the times, with the result that Enlightenment histories spoke openly of reason, liberty and freedom of conscience, while the histories of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries turned Luther into a proto-nationalist and the Reformation into the first great unfolding of the German spirit.
Very few details appeared by chance in teleological narratives of this kind, for everything was meant to serve a higher purpose in the wider historiographical scheme, whether that was to legitimise or justify the faith, provide the community with a sense of identity, or sanction the role of the secular authorities. Writing a history of the Reformation was thus a very complex, and very deliberate, process of historical fabrication.
By the mid-seventeenth century, as a consequence, Lutheranism had developed a broadly consistent sense of its past with a fairly crowded calendar of red-letter days. In the following century the calendar became more formalised as a series of universal foundational moments entered into the cycle. The centenary celebration of , for instance, was followed by similar festivities marking the centenaries of the Augsburg Confession , the Schmalkaldic War , the Peace of Augsburg and the Book of Concord Annual events were also marked at the regional and local level, with some cities and territories mandating the days of observance in their church orders.
Given that the reformers had been so vigorous in condemning the medieval cycles of holy days and papal jubilees, Catholics were quick to point up the seeming contradiction. And he was correct to stress the local dimensions of these rites of public memory. The best evidence of this was the massive assemblage of material brought together by the Orthodox Lutheran scholar Ernst Solomon Cyprian — in his Hilaria Evangelica , a huge collection of reports of the local celebrations marking the bicentenary of Despite this crowded landscape of memorialisation, growing in complexity over time, and the weakness of the historical evidence discussed above, the theses-posting preserved its place as the moment of creation.
It remained the crucial turning-point in the story of the Reformation. At one level there is a simple reason for this: Luther said it was so. Although he did not mention the actual posting of the theses on the church door, in all of his recorded reflections on the early stages of his career and the origins of the Reformation, Luther considered the indulgence controversy to be the cause and the catalyst.
He made this claim in letters to Pope Leo X May and Elector Friedrich the Wise 21 November , in which, out of deference to both figures, he tried to justify his criticisms of Tetzel and the indulgence trade and prove that his intervention had arisen out of good faith and a desire for religious truth. And he made the same claims much later in life in his pamphlet Against Hans Worst , in which he set out in detail the origins of the controversy and the reasoning behind his actions.
Faced with Catholic accusations that they had founded a new religion, the early reformers needed to justify the break with Rome while making a case for the antiquity and the orthodoxy of their faith. One of their answers to this dilemma was to remove the human element from Reformation history. Melanchthon portrayed Luther in this manner in his Vita Lutheri , the first evangelical biography, in which Luther appears as an agent of the divine awoken to his purpose by the Spirit and fulfilling the will of God.
But he does not have a vision or an agenda of his own. Luther did not emerge out of obscurity in with a ready-made confession of the faith but simply with a long list of speculative propositions about indulgences. This was not the foundation document for a new religion but an appeal for dialogue by an anxious Christian concerned with religious truth. In light of this fact, the reformers argued, there had to be other forces at work in the Reformation, as ancient as the Church itself: namely, the spirit of the Christian community by which they meant something approximating the medieval notion of the sensus fidelium and the providential hand of God.
In the context of late medieval religiosity, few things were more universal than the concern with proper penance and how mankind could make good its sins in the eyes of God.
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Theses 39 and 40 argue that indulgences make true repentance more difficult. True repentance desires God's punishment of sin, but indulgences teach one to avoid punishment, since that is the purpose of purchasing the indulgence. In theses 41—47 Luther criticizes indulgences on the basis that they discourage works of mercy by those who purchase them. Here he begins to use the phrase, "Christians are to be taught They should be taught that giving to the poor is incomparably more important than buying indulgences, that buying an indulgence rather than giving to the poor invites God's wrath, and that doing good works makes a person better while buying indulgences does not.
In theses 48—52 Luther takes the side of the pope, saying that if the pope knew what was being preached in his name he would rather St. Peter's Basilica be burned down than "built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep. Luther criticizes the doctrine of the treasury of merit on which the doctrine of indulgences is based in theses 56— He states that everyday Christians do not understand the doctrine and are being misled.
For Luther, the true treasure of the church is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This treasure tends to be hated because it makes "the first last",  in the words of Matthew and In theses 67—80, Luther discusses further the problems with the way indulgences are being preached, as he had done in the letter to Archbishop Albert. The preachers have been promoting indulgences as the greatest of the graces available from the church, but they actually only promote greed.
He points out that bishops have been commanded to offer reverence to indulgence preachers who enter their jurisdiction, but bishops are also charged with protecting their people from preachers who preach contrary to the pope's intention. Luther states that indulgences cannot take away the guilt of even the lightest of venial sins.
He labels several other alleged statements of the indulgence preachers as blasphemy: that Saint Peter could not have granted a greater indulgence than the current one, and that the indulgence cross with the papal arms is as worthy as the cross of Christ. Luther lists several criticisms advanced by laypeople against indulgences in theses 81— He presents these as difficult objections his congregants are bringing rather than his own criticisms.
How should he answer those who ask why the pope does not simply empty purgatory if it is in his power? What should he say to those who ask why anniversary masses for the dead , which were for the sake of those in purgatory, continued for those who had been redeemed by an indulgence? Luther claimed that it seemed strange to some that pious people in purgatory could be redeemed by living impious people. Luther also mentions the question of why the pope, who is very rich, requires money from poor believers to build St. Peter's Basilica. Luther claims that ignoring these questions risks allowing people to ridicule the pope.
Enduring punishment and entering heaven is preferable to false security. The Theses are written as propositions to be argued in a formal academic disputation ,  though there is no evidence that such an event ever took place. Holding such a debate was a privilege Luther held as a doctor, and it was not an unusual form of academic inquiry. Karlstadt posted his theses at a time when the relics of the church were placed on display, and this may have been considered a provocative gesture.
Luther's theses were intended to begin a debate among academics, not a popular revolution,  but there are indications that he saw his action as prophetic and significant. Around this time, he began using the name "Luther" and sometimes "Eleutherius", Greek for "free", rather than "Luder". This seems to refer to his being free from the scholastic theology which he had argued against earlier that year.
Elizabeth Eisenstein has argued that his claimed surprise at their success may have involved self-deception and Hans Hillerbrand has claimed that Luther was certainly intending to instigate a large controversy. Since writing a set of theses for a disputation does not necessarily commit the author to those views, Luther could deny that he held the most incendiary ideas in the Theses. On 31 October , Luther sent a letter to the Archbishop of Mainz , Albert of Brandenburg, under whose authority the indulgences were being sold.
In the letter, Luther addresses the archbishop out of a loyal desire to alert him to the pastoral problems created by the indulgence sermons. He assumes that Albert is unaware of what is being preached under his authority, and speaks out of concern that the people are being led away from the gospel, and that the indulgence preaching may bring shame to Albert's name. Luther does not condemn indulgences or the current doctrine regarding them, nor even the sermons which had been preached themselves, as he had not seen them firsthand.
Instead he states his concern regarding the misunderstandings of the people about indulgences which have been fostered by the preaching, such as the belief that any sin could be forgiven by indulgences or that the guilt as well as the punishment for sin could be forgiven by an indulgence. In a postscript, Luther wrote that Albert could find some theses on the matter enclosed with his letter, so that he could see the uncertainty surrounding the doctrine of indulgences in contrast to the preachers who spoke so confidently of the benefits of indulgences.
It was customary when proposing a disputation to have the theses printed by the university press and publicly posted.
The Theses were copied and distributed to interested parties soon after Luther sent the letter to Archbishop Albert. Albert seems to have received Luther's letter with the Theses around the end of November. He requested the opinion of theologians at the University of Mainz and conferred with his advisers. His advisers recommended he have Luther prohibited from preaching against indulgences in accordance with the indulgence bull.
Luther 95 theses modern translation
Albert requested such action from the Roman Curia. He later said he might not have begun the controversy had he known where it would lead.
Johann Tetzel responded to the Theses by calling for Luther to be burnt for heresy and having theologian Konrad Wimpina write theses against Luther's work. Tetzel defended these in a disputation before the University of Frankfurt on the Oder in January Luther became increasingly fearful that the situation was out of hand and that he would be in danger. To placate his opponents, he published a Sermon on Indulgences and Grace , which did not challenge the pope's authority. Luther's reply to Tetzel's pamphlet, on the other hand, was another publishing success for Luther.
Another prominent opponent of the Theses was Johann Eck , Luther's friend and a theologian at the University of Ingolstadt. This was in reference to the obelisks used to mark heretical passages in texts in the Middle Ages. It was a harsh and unexpected personal attack, charging Luther with heresy and stupidity. Luther responded privately with the Asterisks , titled after the asterisk marks then used to highlight important texts. Luther's response was angry and he expressed the opinion that Eck did not understand the matter on which he wrote.
Luther was summoned by authority of the pope to defend himself against charges of heresy before Thomas Cajetan at Augsburg in October Cajetan did not allow Luther to argue with him over his alleged heresies, but he did identify two points of controversy. The first was against the fifty-eighth thesis, which stated that the pope could not use the treasury of merit to forgive temporal punishment of sin.
Luther's Explanations on thesis seven asserted that one could based on God's promise, but Cajetan argued that the humble Christian should never presume to be certain of their standing before God. This request was denied, so Luther appealed to the pope before leaving Augsburg. The indulgence controversy set off by the Theses was the beginning of the Reformation, a schism in the Roman Catholic Church which initiated profound and lasting social and political change in Europe. Luther later wrote that at the time he wrote the Theses he remained a " papist ", and he did not seem to think the Theses represented a break with established Roman Catholic doctrine.
Further, the Theses contradicted the decree of Pope Clement VI , that indulgences are the treasury of the church. This disregard for papal authority presaged later conflicts. During the Reformation Jubilee, the centenary of 31 October was celebrated by a procession to the Wittenberg Church where Luther was believed to have posted the Theses.
An engraving was made showing Luther writing the Theses on the door of the church with a gigantic quill. The quill penetrates the head of a lion symbolizing Pope Leo X. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Disputation by Martin Luther on indulgences.