95 Theses: 35-44

“[Despite] what movies about Luther and countless pictures have portrayed, did Luther actually post the theses on the door of the Castle Church on 31 October 1517? Here scholars have been divided since the 1960s, when several first called into question some details of the story. For one thing, the first time anyone directly stated in print that Luther posted the Theses came in June 1546, shortly after Luther’s death, in a preface to the second volume of his Latin works, written by Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560), who first arrived in Wittenberg in August 1518 and thus was not an eyewitness to the event. The historical details that Melanchthon provided throughout the preface are at best mixed, where some ‘factual errors’ are included with descriptions of events that historians have since discovered to be completely accurate. Melanchthon and Luther had countless conversation not recorded elsewhere, so that Melanchthon could well have simply been reporting what Luther had told him, namely, that on 31 October 1517, Luther posted a copy of the 95 Theses on the Castle Church door.
  Melanchthon could, however, simply have assumed that Luther acted in line with university statutes and posted the these theses the way he had posted others for regular disputations. The door of the Castle Church functioned as a kind of University of Wittenberg bulletin board; it was such an important source of information that printers in the 1540s and beyond began publishing collections of the notices and poems that regularly appeared there.” (The Roots of Reform, pp.22-23)

In statement 41, Luther refers to “Papal indulgences,” or “Apostolic indulgences.” These are “indulgences granted by the successor to the apostles, the pope, in this case the so-called Peter’s Indulgence. Luther now introduces a second corollary and explores the possibility of good preaching of indulgences and their relation to good works and the gospel.” (ibid, p.39-40)

35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.

36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.

39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.

40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them — at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.

41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.

44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.

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