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The 95 Theses by Martin Luther Analytical Essay


The thirty year war between the period 1618 and 1648 in central Europe is said to have been initiated by the Protestant Reformation by Martin Luther, in 1517.

The war was caused by various elements including religious disputes, ethnic competition and political weakness. It involved many major powers in Europe, and the fight is said to have shattered a lot of central Europe land, resulting in permanent changes in European politics and culture.[1]

Religious turmoil and warfare is believed to have come after Luther left the Catholic Church. “The 95 Theses were mailed to the local bishops by Martin Luther, in an effort to convince them to take action against the indulgencies”[2].

In addition to this, Luther posted the Theses to the castle church door, since it was routine to place any communal information on the castle church door. The 95 Theses were aimed at inviting local scholars to the contenting of the immoderations. It was an academic exercise and its title read,

“Out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following Theses will be publicly discussed at Wittenberg under the chairmanship of the reverend father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology and regularly appointed Lecturer on these subjects at that place. He requests that those who cannot be present to debate orally with us will do so by letter. In the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”[3]

The contention occurred a fortnight later, in Wittenberg, though the Theses were not intended to be a program for reform or an attack on the pope. The motive behind releasing the thesis was to question the immoderations, which is something that he had done all along, through his lectures.

Luther was not the only person who raised concerns about the indulgences, as many people in Europe were also complaining. The support from various regions was one of the reasons that led to the rapid spread of the 95 Theses, which were scriptural response to the indulgences.

The church taught penance through the indulgences, in three parts namely:

“confession and sorrow for sin; absolution/forgiveness spoken by the priest, and; satisfaction, some good work done to pay for the temporal punishment of sin, including pilgrimages to holy places, praying of the rosary, and visiting relics, among others.”[4]

An indulgence was a certificate that could be purchased, as an addition to a confession, which assured a holder of a temporal punishment. This meant that the holder was not liable for unending retribution in hell, but retribution in their life, and in purgatory for the absolved sins.

“The main motivation for Luther in writing the 95 Theses was a special jubilee indulgence instituted by Pope Leo X”.[5] “The indulgence was aimed at building St. Peter’s cathedral in Rome”. The indulgence meant that all sin and everlasting and worldly retribution would be excused to those who bought them.[6]

There were four chief graces obtainable from the jubilee indulgence, namely: the total forgiveness of sin; the likelihood to obtain a confessional letter that would present an individual the right to obtain absolution for all sins twice; purchasers of the indulgence and their family members who were deceased would take part in the religious works and merits of the church; and the complete forgiveness of punishment for the people in purgatory when an indulgence is purchased for an individual already in it.

“The jubilee indulgence had been restricted from being sold across the river by Luther’s price, Duke Frederick, though it was still sold, in his Saxon territory”.[7]

The indulgence sales people set up inside the home church whenever they visited. During this period, habitual sermons were postponed and prohibited. The price of the indulgence was dependent on an individual’s station in life.

For example, “kings and queens: 25 gulden; high counts and prelates: 10 gulden; low counts and prelates: 6 gulden; merchants and townspeople: 3 gulden; artisans: 1 gulden; others, 0.5 gulden; while the indigent were supposed to fast and pray”.[8]

The 95 Theses specialized on atonement and fine deeds. At the same time, the Theses contained upsetting proclamations about the pope that caused conflicts between him and the roman church. The document was observed by many as an attack on the papacy, but this was not one of the objectives when Luther included it. The Theses was translated into German after a fortnight, making its spread into Germany very fast. This made Luther very famous on an international level, as prior to his Theses, he was only known locally.[9]

Another opinion on the revolt against the Western Church and papacy claims that the 95 Theses by Luther were not the cause. The revolutionary document did not display any vicious spirit aimed at destroying the established church. The 95 Theses were observed to be the expressions of a pastor who was dedicated to provide peace for his followers.

Luther wanted to be a true pastor by defining the true nature, purpose and place of indulgences, the basis for forgiveness, guilt and penalty.[10] The main objective of Luther when he wrote the 95 Theses was to remove the fig leaves that people assembled in order to cover their shameful nakedness before God’s eyes.

Luther observed that people were at the mercy of God, and that people were not able to trust their own perceptions and judgements, and specifically the craving for glory. Luther wanted people to be theologians of the cross, finding, trusting, embracing the true God, “who has hidden himself in the dark suffering on the cross.”[11]

Bibliography

Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand: a Life of Martin Luther. New York: Penguin, 1995.

This report is beneficial in observing the life of the great religious leader in Martin Luther. The report is a biography that showcases the obscure engravings that provide a flavor of the era when Martin Luther lived.

Hunt, Lynn, Thomas Martin, Bonnie Smith, and Barbara Rosenwein. The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures, Vol. 2: Since 1500. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s; 3rd edition, 2008.

This work by Lynn hunt will help in analysing the main challenges faced by philosophers of western civilization. With primary focus on chapter 15, the aim is to identify the role of Luther’s 95 Theses in the religious war that lasted for a period of over 30 years, in the seventeenth century.

Iserloh, Erwin. The Theses Were Not Posted: Luther Between Reform and Reformation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1968.

The book is broad on the topic of reformation, and is beneficial in providing information regarding the 95 Theses. The book takes us back to 1517 when Martin Luther reopened the debate on the sale of indulgences and the authority to absolve sin and remit on from purgatory. The book tells us of the sudden outbreak of irresistible force of discontent propagated by Luther.

Kittelson, James. Luther The Reformer. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishing House, 1986.

This is a book that will provide us with life teachings of Kittleson, as he walks us through his life as a reformer, without overwhelming us with scholarly concerns. Seeing that kittleson is the director of the Lutheran brotherhood foundation reformation research program at Luther seminary, his book is bound to contain adequate information regarding Martin Luther, and the 95 Theses, as well as events leading up to the Theses, and its consequences.

Lasley, T. J. “Preservice Teacher Beliefs about Teaching.” Journal of Teacher Education, 1980: 31, 38-41.
The journal is beneficial in its analysis of the world of preservice teacher education. Lasley compares the detail wit which Luther portrayed his reasons for his beliefs about God and Rome, via his 95 Theses, to the present world scenario, of preservice teacher education.

Footnotes

  1. Roland, Bainton. Here I Stand: a Life of Martin Luther. New York: Penguin, 1995
  2. Lynn Hunt. 2008
  3. Lynn Hunt, Thomas Martin, Bonnie Smith, and Barbara Rosenwein. The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures, Vol. 2: Since 1500. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s; 3rd edition, 2008.
  4. Lasley, T. J. “Preservice Teacher Beliefs about Teaching.” Journal of Teacher Education, 1980: 31, 38-41.
  5. James, Kittelson. Luther The Reformer. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishing House, 1986.
  6. James, Kittelson. Luther The Reformer. 1986.
  7. Erwin, Iserloh. The Theses Were Not Posted: Luther Between Reform and Reformation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1968
  8. Erwin, Iserloh. 1968
  9. Lasley, T. J.. 1980: 31, 38-41.
  10. Bainton, Roland. 1995
  11. Lynn, Hunt, Thomas Martin, Bonnie Smith, and Barbara Rosenwein. The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures, Vol. 2
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IvyPanda. "The 95 Theses by Martin Luther." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/95-theses/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The 95 Theses by Martin Luther." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/95-theses/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The 95 Theses by Martin Luther'. 7 May.

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