The Ninety-Five Theses

Martin Luther's 95 Theses - in the original Latin disputation per declaratione virtutis Indulgentiarum, in early German print Propositions against the indulgences - in which he appeared against abuses under the relief and particularly against the businesslike trade with indulgences, were as enclosing on October 31, 1517 a letter to the Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, Albrecht of Brandenburg, first put into circulation. As a statement of Albrecht of Brandenburg forthcoming, Luther gave the theses to some acquaintances that they released a short time later without his knowledge, and thus made ​​it the subject of a public discussion throughout the empire.

The historicity of his theses, in which Luther nailed his 95 theses to have nailed on October 31, 1517 by hand at the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, is controversial.

The 95 Theses


The document follows the style of Disputationsthesen as they were common in academic promotions at this time, and is written in Latin. Based on the words of Jesus, "Repent " (Mt 4:17 LUT) Luther used first against the church fueled fear of purgatory. From the Thesis No. 21 of indulgences is the focus of his remarks. It refers to the drain as a " good deal " (No. 67 ), but speaks to him from any action force, "even the slightest venial sin to take away " (No. 76). In No. 81 " subtle questions of the laity " are announced, which prove to be rhetorical questions, for example, No. 86: "Why not this one basilica of St. Peter prefer to build the Pope, who is considered the richest Crassus richer today by his own money than that of poor believers? " the conclusion is a call to Christians ," that they seek their main follow Christ through penalties, death and hell, and that the rather trust it to take through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven, as in to calm "false spiritual security.

Content of the theses in detail


Neither is still handed down a pressure Wittenberg Luther's handwriting of the theses. A broadsheet ( folio in two columns ) of the Latin text was published already in 1517 in St. Jerome Höltzel in Nuremberg. Another broadside came in Melchior Lotter in Leipzig, a book edition ( four leaves in quart) with Adam Petri in Basel out: disputatio per declaratione virtutis Indulgentiarum. In the Nuremberg Poster 95 theses in groups of three times 25 are counted, which follow at the end of 20 theses; it is not known, dates back to whom this division.

Translations into German

Probably before Christmas in 1517 translated the Nuremberg Kaspar Nützel Luther's 95 Theses in German, as mentioned in a letter from Christoph Scheurl January 8, 1518. These earliest datable German language translation is proved only by reports but bibliographic not known. " Despite the lack of bibliographical evidence of the existence of a pressure of Nützelschen version that haunts the idea of ​​its existence by the literature. "

The oldest verifiable anonymous pressure of 1545 (reprint Berlin 1892). Following is the translation in 1555 by Justus Jonas the Elder first in 1555 in Jena at Rödinger in the band The First part of all books VND Schrifften of thewren blessed Mans Doct: Mart: Lutheran, then, as the Neundte part of the books of the Ehrnwirdigen Mr. D. Martini Lutheran 1557 printed by Hans Lufft in Wittenberg - edited by Philipp Melanchthon and the Lutheran Propositions directory resist the titled Ablas. The translation shall be deemed not very faithfully to the original.

In addition, there is a manuscript with a partial translation in the university library Eichstätt ( Cod 695 st ), written 1518-1525.


"The message itself was a wide readership not virtute known by the Latin theses and their interpretations in the report in the spring of 1518 Resolutiones de Indulgentiarum, but by the German Sermon on Indulgence and Grace [ alternatively: Freedom of Sermons papal indulgences and grace loaded quietly ] that made the real breakthrough Luther as a writer. From this document, in 1518 no less than 15 German high expenditure and a Low German, in the following two years another nine appeared. "


The publication of Luther's 95 Theses was one of the most significant events in the early modern period with an unpredictable long-term effect.

Since the spring of 1517 Luther experienced more often that stayed away from the Wittenberg confession and instead in the past on stiftsmagdeburgischem or anhaltischem Area cities Jiiterbog and Zerbst went to himself, but also deceased relatives of sins and punishment due to sin through the purchase of indulgences ransom. In fact, the abuse of indulgences one of the main criticisms of Luther. One half of the revenue of selling indulgences was the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, while the Archbishop Albrecht and the drain preacher shared the other half. The bishop needed the income to pay off his over the Fuggers accumulated debt. Thus, the theses were an attack on the papal financial system.

The published response to the drain Johann Tetzel's theses sermons had an eminent impact on nearly all social, cultural and political structures - what Luther himself could hardly have anticipated. The need for reform of the Church and thus the constitution of the church was long an urgent problem. The publication of his thesis was intended as a basis for discussion of expert theologians; However, they became independent very quickly and were often reprinted as handouts. Instead of the hoped-for discussion, it came in 1518 initially as a heretic process and eventually even to excommunication.

The effect of Luther's ideas, however, holds to this day. The theses formulate a critique of the prevailing conditions on the basis of the Bible. The sale of indulgences, Luther declared in the theses for the work of man, because the Bible contains no basis for this Roman Catholic concept. Although Luther leaves the first drain for penalties that were imposed by the Church, still apply; but his criticism is directed strictly against the false assurance of salvation, the herrühre from an incorrect handling of indulgences. Even the Pope is not exempt from criticism: Luther begins here his public criticism of the institution of the papacy - a spiritual explosive device, then in the next years and decades achieved its full force, and finally to the schism, the schism of the Western Church, led.

Luther's ruler, Elector Frederick III. of Saxony, supported him in this attitude, because he did not want to tolerate the discharge of these funds from its own territory to Rome.

The theses is designed manifold to the present day and has been processed in various films and books. He served on the title of American theological- satirical magazine The Wittenburg Door.

Question of the authenticity of his theses

The authenticity of his theses is controversial. Without a doubt, the existence of the first hand-written thesis paper. A copy went to the archbishop Albrecht of Mainz, who was also Archbishop of Magdeburg and responsible as such for Wittenberg. Additional copies went to other religious dignitaries of the empire and one - in response to the instructions - to the drain seller Johannes Tetzel, but did not react. Without his consent, a public disputation had been well regarded as a serious provocation. It is unlikely that Luther intended this or would not have been aware of such a possible consequence.

The theses was first mentioned by Luther's secretary Georg Rorer, who reported in 1540 (or 1544) in a processing note to the New Testament of the publication of the theses on the doors of several Wittenberg churches: " On the eve of All Saints' Day of the Lord in the year 1517 by Dr. Martin been struck Luther theses on indulgences on the door of the Wittenberg church. " This discovery therefore suggests that the theses to Wittenberg several churches were published simultaneously. However, the probative value of the document is disputed. This note was found in 2006. However, it is unlikely that Rorer was an eyewitness of his theses.

Up to Luther's death in 1546 is of Nailing the Reformation in any publication mentioned. It was popularized after it, in particular by Philipp Melanchthon, who first mentioned it in 1547 in the preface to the second volume of his edition of the works of Luther. This was intended as a challenge to the usual academic disputations. Melanchthon, however, was only appointed in 1518 to Wittenberg and therefore can not have been an eyewitness of such an event. Starting from Melanchthon the theses became a founding myth of the Reformation.

The event of his theses is called into question in 1961 by the Catholic church historian Erwin Iserloh. The church historian Heinrich Bornkamm said, however, that there was quite satisfied with the normal practices of academic disputations in Wittenberg to beat the Theses to the Castle Church publicly as a university church, because it also served as the Auditorium Maximum, in disputations and promotions. Even the church historian Kurt Aland captures the events to be authentic.

Gerhard Prause summed up in 1966 in his book No one laughed at Columbus. Forgeries and lies of the story correctly put together the story of the 95 theses and argued that the stop of the 95 Theses is a myth, which goes back to a misinterpretation of the text of the only known eyewitness John Agricola of Eisleben. You 've read me most (Latin " as I can testify " ), instead of modeste ( " humbly "). According Prause Agricola wrote thus: " In 1517 Luther put in Wittenberg on the Elbe under the old university custom certain propositions for defense before, but have in some small way and thus insulted or offended someone without wanting to ." Perhaps this view needs to be revised by the note of the Secretary - Luther Georg Rorer.