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95 Theses

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95 Theses

Martin Luther, a Catholic monk, wrote a document referred to as 95 Theses, that changed Western Christian religion forever. What made a devout monk openly criticize the Church? What was written in the 95 Theses that made it so important? Let's look at the 95 Theses and Martin Luther!

95 Theses Definition

On October 31, 1417, in Wittenberg, Germany Martin Luther hung his 95 Theses on the door outside of his church. The first two theses were the issues that Luther had with the Catholic Church and the rest were the arguments that he could have with people about these issues.

Martin Luther and the 95 Theses

Terms to Know
Description
IndulgencesTokens that could be purchased by anyone that meant the buyer's sins had been forgiven
PurgatoryA place between Heaven and Hell where souls must wait before God judges them
Excommunication

When someone is removed from the Catholic church because of their actions

Congregation Members of a church
ClergyPeople who worked for the Church i.e., monks, popes, bishops, nuns, etc.

Martin Luther intended to be a lawyer until he was stuck in a deadly storm. Luther swore an oath to God that if he lived then he would become a monk. True to his word, Luther became a monk and then completed his doctoral program. Eventually, he had his very own church in Wittenberg, Germany.

95 Theses Martin Luther StudySmarterMartin Luther, Wikimedia

95 Theses Summary

Over in Rome in 1515, Pope Leo X wanted to renovate St. Peter's Basilica. The Pope permitted the sale of indulgences to raise money for this construction project. Indulgences challenged Luther's view of Christianity. If a priest sold an indulgence, then the person who received it paid for forgiveness. The forgiveness of their sins did not come from God but the priest.

Luther believed that forgiveness and salvation could only come from God. A person could also buy indulgences on behalf of other people. One could even buy an indulgence for a dead person to shorten their stay in Purgatory. This practice was illegal in Germany but one day Luther's congregation told him that they would no longer need confessionals because their sins had been forgiven through indulgences.

95 Theses Martin Luther Hammer StudySmarterWittenberg, Germany, Wikimedia

95 Theses Date

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther went outside of his church and hammered his 95 Theses to the Church wall. This sounds dramatic but historians think it probably wasn't. Luther's theses took off and were soon translated to different languages. It even made its way to Pope Leo X!

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church was the only Christian church in existence at this time, there were no Baptists, Presbyterians, or Protestants. The Church (meaning the Catholic Church) also provided the only welfare programs. They fed the hungry, gave shelter to the poor, and provided medical care. The only education available was through the Catholic Church. Faith was not the only reason people attended church. At church, they could show off their status and socialize.

The pope was extremely powerful. The Catholic Church owned one-third of the land in Europe. The pope also had power over kings. This is because kings were thought to be appointed by God and the pope was a direct link to God. The pope would advise kings and could heavily influence wars and other political struggles.

When going forward, remember how important and powerful the Catholic Church was. This will offer context to the Protestant Reformation.

95 Theses Summary

The first two theses are about indulgences and why they are immoral. The first thesis refers to God as the only being who can grant forgiveness from sins. Luther was very dedicated to the belief that God could grant forgiveness to anyone who prayed for it.

The second thesis was directly calling out the Catholic Church. Luther reminds the reader that the church does not have the authority to forgive sins so when they sell indulgences, they are selling something they do not have. If God is the only one who can forgive sins and the indulgences weren't bought from God, then they are fake.

  1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
  2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

The rest of the theses are providing evidence of Luther's first two claims. These are written as arguing points. Luther opens the door that if anyone found fought in any of his points then they could write him and they would debate. The point of the theses was not to destroy the Catholic church but to reform it. The 95 Theses were translated from Latin to German and were read by people all over the country!

95 Theses Luther 95 Theses StudySmarter95 Theses, StudySmarter

Luther wrote the theses in a conversational tone. While it was written in Latin, this would not be for the clergy alone. This would also be for the Catholics who, in Luther's eyes, wasted their money on indulgences. Luther proposed a reform of the Catholic Church. He was not trying to strike out and create a new form of Christianity.

Martin Luther no longer believed that priests could forgive people of their sins on behalf of God. He had a completely radical idea that people could confess in prayer on their own and God would forgive them. Luther also believed that the bible should be translated into German so that everyone could read it. At this point, it was written in Latin and only the clergy could read it.

The Gutenberg Printing Press and the Protestant Reformation

Martin Luther was not the first educated person to go up against the Catholic Church but he is the first to start a reformation. What made him different? In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. This made information spread quicker than it had previously. While historians are still researching the effect of the printing press on the Protestant Reformation, most agree that the Reformation would not have happened without it.

95 Theses Effect on Europe

Luther was excommunicated from the church while the 95 Theses sparked the Protestant Reformation. This was also a political reform. It eventually took away the majority of the pope's power removing his role as a political leader and leaving him as a spiritual leader. The nobility began to break from the Catholic Church because they could then dissolve the church's landholdings and keep the profits. Nobles who were monks could leave the Catholics and get married then produce heirs.

Through the Protestant Reformation people were able to get a German translation of the bible. Anyone who was literate could read the bible for themselves. No longer did they have to rely so heavily on the priests. This created different denominations of Christianity that did not follow the same rules as the Catholic Church or each other's. This also sparked the German Peasant Revolt which was the largest peasant revolt at that time.

95 Theses - Key takeaways

  • The 95 Theses was originally a response to the sale of Indulgences
  • The Catholic Church was a social, political, and spiritual world power
  • The 95 Theses sparked the Protestant Reformation which eventually drastically diminished the power of the Catholic Church

Frequently Asked Questions about 95 Theses

The 95 Theses was a document posted by Martin Luther. It was written so the Catholic Church would reform.

The 95 Theses was posted on October 31st, 1517 in Wittenberg, Germany.

Martin Luther wrote the 95 Theses so that the Catholic Church would reform and stop selling indulgences. 

Martin Luther wrote the 95 Theses.

The first two theses were against the sale of indulgences the rest of the theses backed up that claim. 

Final 95 Theses Quiz

Question

Who wrote the 95 Theses?

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Answer

Martin Luther

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Question

When were the 95 Theses written? 

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Answer

October 31, 1517

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Question

Where was the 95 Theses posted?

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Answer

Wittenberg, Germany 

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Question

When someone is removed from the Catholic church because of their actions it is called ________.


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Answer

Excommunication

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Question

What were tokens that could be purchased by anyone that meant the buyer's sins had been forgiven?


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Answer

Indulgences

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Why did Pope Leo X allow Catholics to start back selling indulgences?

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Answer

To Fund the restoration of St. Peter's Basilica

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What was the first thesis about?

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Answer

Only God can forgive people of their sins

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What was the second thesis about?

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Answer

The Catholic Church did not have the authority to forgive people of their sins

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What were the third through ninety-nine theses about?

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Answer

They were points that backed up the first two theses. 

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What invention helped the spread of the Protestant Reformation?

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Answer

The Gutenberg Printing Press

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What reformation was sparked by the Ninety-Five Theses?

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Answer

Protestant Reformation 

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True/False

Nobles broke from the Catholic Church then dissolved the Church's holdings so that they could keep the revenue.

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Answer

True

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True/False 

Before the Protestant Reformation, there were plenty of denominations of Christians.

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True

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Which book did Luther translate into German that greatly influenced the Protestant Reformation?

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Answer

The Bible

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Who did Martin Luther think that people needed to forgive their sins?

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Answer

God

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