Erasmus and Luther

Topics: Martin Luther, The Ninety-Five Theses, Indulgence Pages: 2 (550 words) Published: June 9, 2014
Esme Rigden-Briscall
The Misunderstood Egg and the Hatched Solution

Looking into the writings of Erasmus and Martin Luther, two common subjects appear. The buying of pardons and the misunderstanding of Purgatory. Both of these are issues in the church shown by Erasmus and the solution of both have been given by Luther. Through this it is evident that Erasmus did in fact lay the egg that Luther hatched.

In his work The Praise of Folly Erasmus discusses the issue of paying for pardons. He uses the example of men with a middleclass, if not greater, income, i.e. a soldier, merchant, or judge. Erasmus states that these men believe that they do not need to do anything of any moral standing aside from pay a small sum of money to be completely pardoned of their sins; “All his perjury, lust, drunkenness, quarrels, killings, frauds, perfidy, and treachery he believes can be somehow paid off by agreement and paid off in such a way that he is free to start a fresh on a new round of sin.” (Erasmus, 32). This however is not the case, and that is what Erasmus is stating. In The Ninety-Five Theses Luther takes this and gives a solution. In theses’ forty-two, forty-three, and forty-four Luther states “Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to the works of mercy. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buy pardons; because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only free from penalty.” (Luther, 42-44). Both Erasmus and Luther are saying only through love can the people become better. Erasmus simply saw the problem, or laid the egg, and Luther saw the solution, hatched the egg.

The second issue that Erasmus brings to light is that of the misunderstanding of Purgatory. He talks of this misconception stating: “They measure the length of their time in Purgatory as if by water-clock, counting...
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