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It was 500 years ago today…


I’m tempted to risk the ire of Reformers and Beatles fans by concluding that title, “… Dr Luther taught the band to play”. What this day marks is that the five hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses. Legend has it that he nailed these to the door of the church in Wittenberg, which makes a wonderfully dramatic image. That is probably getting carried away; Luther almost certainly didn’t vandalise the church door with a huge nail. More likely he pinned them up as a standard way of publishing information or possibly even just posted them to his bishop, perhaps physically pinning them up later.

However, it was a momentous event even if not necessarily a visual spectacle. The theses – an argument against the profiteering practice of selling ‘indulgences’ for the forgiveness of sins – were a logical discussion of the subject, driving the message home in 95 points. You can read them, in English translation or in Latin, on the Project Gutenberg website.

He could have accomplished his immediate aim in a less inflammatory manner but, drawing out a picture of the limitations of the pope (beginning at #5) and, a little later, refusing to back down when challenged, Luther caused the spark which ignited the kindling of the period. Over the next twenty or so years, Christendom underwent a major upheaval which can still be felt today. However they were actually delivered, Luther’s pointed arguments were a critical point in changes to affect all souls.

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