Modern World History
October 4, 2012
On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the Castle Church doors. With those theses, Luther rebuked the Roman Catholic Church and questioned the Pope’s authority. John Tetzel, who sold indulgences in Germany, may have inspired Martin Luther's protest in 1517. (1) John Tetzel, whose German name is Johann, was given the task of raising money for the building of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He was exceptionally good at it, and he did so buy the selling of indulgences to the citizens of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Roman Empire. An indulgence was a certificate, which when purchased, and when confession was made, assured the holder of the temporal punishment (3). Doctrines like purgatory were excellent for keeping European citizens in fear. John Tetzel fed on those superstitious fears. It was very easy to convince people that their loved ones, who had died, were that very moment burning in flames in purgatory that they ought to pay money to release them from their torment. John Tetzel claimed that no repentance was necessary on the part of the buyer in order to obtain the benefit of the indulgence (2). This seemed ridiculous to Martin Luther. At the time, Martin Luther was a monk who taught at the University of Wittenberg. Luther feared that the Roman Catholic Church had become too corrupt to provide people with the guidance they needed to obtain salvation. Luther thought that individuals could seek salvation on their own, without relying on priests. (1) It’s possible that Luther was influenced to write the 95 Theses because of the special jubilee indulgence. This jubilee indulgence was claimed to give four chief graces: the complete forgiveness of all sin; the possibility to receive a confessional letter which would grant one the right to twice receive absolution for all sins; purchasers of the indulgence and their dead relatives would participate...
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