Ninety-five Theses, propositions for debate concerned with the question of indulgences, written (in Latin) and possibly posted by Martin Luther on the door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church), Wittenberg, on October 31, 1517. Not at any time did they imply that divine forgiveness could be bought or sold or that they availed for those who were impenitent or unconfessed. Theses 39 and 40 argue that indulgences make true repentance more difficult. [17] These sermons seem to have ceased from April to October 1517, presumably while Luther was writing the Ninety-five Theses. [7] Johannes von Wesel had also attacked indulgences late in the 15th century. Peter’s scandal” in the 95 Theses: Why does not the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers? Indulgences were the commutation for money of part of the temporal penalty due for sin—i.e., the practical satisfaction that was a part of the sacrament of penance. [44] The Latin Theses were printed in a four-page pamphlet in Basel, and as placards in Leipzig and Nuremberg. Luther's response was angry and he expressed the opinion that Eck did not understand the matter on which he wrote. An engraving was made showing Luther writing the Theses on the door of the church with a gigantic quill. [49] Mazzolini wrote A Dialogue against Martin Luther's Presumptuous Theses concerning the Power of the Pope, which focused on Luther's questioning of the pope's authority rather than his complaints about indulgence preaching. [70] In 1668, 31 October was made Reformation Day, an annual holiday in Electoral Saxony, which spread to other Lutheran lands. [20], The iconic first thesis states, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent,' he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." Although Luther’s early writings had sparked the Reformation, he was hardly involved in it during his later years. The practice of dating the beginning of the Reformation from the date that the Ninety-five Theses were supposedly posted did not develop until after the mid-17th century. Outraged at what he considered grave theological error, Luther wrote the Ninety-five Theses. Enduring punishment and entering heaven is preferable to false security. [14] He had preached as early as 1514 against the abuse of indulgences and the way they cheapened grace rather than requiring true repentance. Then, in 1501, Luther enrolled at the University of Erfurt, the premiere university in Germany at the time. [45] Luther's first widely successful work, it was reprinted twenty times. In 1517, a friar named Johann Tetzel began to sell indulgences in Germany to raise funds to renovate St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. A counterthesis was prepared by a Dominican theologian and defended before a Dominican audience at Frankfurt in January 1518. [43] It is possible that while Luther later saw the 31 October letter to Albert as the beginning of the Reformation, he did not post the Theses to the church door until mid-November, but he may not have posted them on the door at all. Luther's reply to Tetzel's pamphlet, on the other hand, was another publishing success for Luther. © 2020 A&E Television Networks, LLC. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). He presents these as difficult objections his congregants are bringing rather than his own criticisms. [51] The Explanations have been called Luther's first Reformation work. His theses challenged the authority of the Catholic Church, and sparked the historic split in more, The Protestant Reformation was the 16th-century religious, political, intellectual and cultural upheaval that splintered Catholic Europe, setting in place the structures and beliefs that would define the continent in the modern era.