Turning Point in History ~Martin Luther and the 95 Theses

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Protestant Reformation: Martin Luther’s 95 theses

Kaitlin Alexander
Senior Division
Historical Paper

The sixteenth century, known as the Renaissance, was a time of momentous change in Europe. This time period impacted the World in many ways including the arts, music, literature, science, and religion; however religion made the biggest impact to the culture (MacCulloch, 107,2). Religion was integral to every part of the culture; the image of Christ was the focal point its paintings, the Church was part of government, and sponsor of architecture. The Roman Catholic Church was the most extensive and powerful institution in Europe during the Renaissance. The seeds of religious turmoil were the result of corruption in the Roman Catholic Church. Priests and religious leaders started to become greedy with their power. Being the only ones that could read the Bible because translations were only in Latin, they started misquoting the Bible for their own personal advantage. One major issue of corruption were indulgences which were documents issued by the Roman Catholic Church that were used to redeem sins(Estep, William R, 117). Martin Luther realized indulgences were not mentioned in the Bible and he decided to go against the teachings of the Catholic Church by writing the 95 Theses which led to the Protestant Reformation (Thompson, Stephan P, 15-16).The history of Martin Luther and the 95 theses represents a major turning point in world history because the Protestant Reformation started by Martin Luther reshaped the political and social life of European Society. Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483 in Eisleban, Saxony (Germany). His father wanted him to be successful in life. He made sure his son attended Latin school in order to have a great education (Estep, William R, 113-114) His father was determined for him to be a lawyer, but Martin had different plans; he wanted to dedicate his life to God. (Bainton, Roland H,1976).He became a monk and he entered the Augustinian friary. In 1507 he became an ordained priest and in 1508 he began teaching theology at the University of Wittenberg (“Martin Luther”, 2003). Martin Luther was a dedicated monk. He fully dedicated himself to fasting, long hours in prayer, and reading the Bible. He spent an entire year indulging himself into the Scriptures to order to fully understand them. During this time, he also began questioning the church leader’s teaching of his day. Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar, was a commissioner for indulgences. He was sent by Pope Leo X of the Roman Catholic Church to Germany in order to sell indulgences to raise money to build St. Peters Basilica in Rome (MacCulloch, 609, 1). Johann Tetzel made the people believe that if they bought an indulgence their sins would be forgiven and their families would be rescued from Purgatory( Ganss,Henry,2012). Martin Luther believed, from reading St. Paul’s letters in the Bible, indulgences do not offer forgiveness of sins since only the Lord does (MacCulloch,606). He was furious when his students bought indulgences after hearing the preaching of Johann Tetzel. Martin Luther decided to take matters into his own hands. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted the 95 theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The theses were addressed to Albert of Mainz protesting the sale of indulgences and were written in Latin. (Estep, William R, 119)The church leaders were intended to be the only ones who could read the theses but they were quickly translated into German. The translated 95 theses revealed to the people the non-Biblical practices of the Catholic Church such as purgatory, indulgences, and the teaching of salvation through good works (“Martin Luther: Ninety- Five Theses (1517)”). Before the 95 theses were posted in Wittenberg, no monk had ever spoken against the Church before, especially in that way that Martin Luther did (“Luther Posts His 95 Theses, October 31, 1517.”, 2003). Within a short time,...
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