THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: OCTOBER 31, 1517

Martin Luther Nails his 95 Theses to the Door of Wittenberg Church

martin-luther-thesisIn October 1517, Luther wrote, in Latin, ninety-five points of theology that he wanted the Wittenberg faculty to debate. According to tradition, he posted them on the door of the university church on October 31. While many of the Ninety-five Theses dealt with indulgences, others touched broadly on salvation and forgiveness. A century earlier the matter would have resulted in a debate at Wittenberg and some other universities; in 1517 the presence of the printing press led to a far different outcome. Luther’s text was translated into German and printed in thousands of copies that rapidly spread across Germany, reducing greatly the income from the indulgence and making Luther a household name throughout Germany. Although Pope Leo X first dismissed the dispute as a “drunken monks’ quarrel,” he changed his mind when the income from the indulgence dropped and Luther’s popularity became known. Pressure was applied to silence Luther, but it only succeeded in angering a man who had a strong stubborn streak.

“Martin Luther and the Reformation.” World Eras. Ed. Norman J. Wilson. Vol. 1: European Renaissance and Reformation, 1350-1600. Detroit: Gale, 2001. 400-405. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web.


Learn more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation »

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