M14-NEWSLuther Nails Revolt to Castle DoorWuttenberg, 31 October 1517Martin Luther, a 34 year old professor at the university in this pleasant littletown on the banks of the Elbe, has issued a challenge to public debate on this,the eve of All Saints Day. He has posted a list of 95 theses, mostly attackingthe uses of indulgences by the church, on the door of the Wittenberg church.They are written in Latin and mix fine theological points with an emotionalattack on the pope’s men.Luther was deeply shocked earlier this month when he saw the Dominican,Johannes Tetzel, traveling around Germany with a papal bull on a scarletvelvet cushion, auctioning indulgencies like a common street peddler. Even ifthe money is to be used to build a new Basilica of St Peter’s in Rome, this doesnot justify suggesting to people that they can buy remission from their sins,according to Luther.In one of his thesis he asserts that if the pope knew of his preacher’s exactionshe would rather have St Peter’s reduced to ashes than “built with the skin, fleshand bones of his sheep”. In another he asserts that any Christian who is trulyrepentant is entitled to forgiveness, without any indulgences.The 95 thesis are not especially radical, or different from what many othercritics of the church are saying, however students who have been attendingLuther’s lectures over the last few years say that he is a most unusual man whois developing a radical theory which could easily bring him into head-oncollision with the church.Unusually for a scholar, he has no sophistication or cunning. He is open abouthis views and feelings. A big tough man with disturbing eyes, he is immenselyproud of his peasant blood. He is often vulgar, course and crude in hislanguage, and when he laughs it is so loud, long and deep. He sings tenor andplays the lute.He was born in 1483, the son of a wealthy copper miner, in Eisleben, inSaxony. He studied nominalist philosophy at the University of Erfurt and aftera dramatic experience in a thunderstorm decided to enter a convent of theAustin Friars. He studied St. Augustine and fell in love with his work. In1512, while living at Austin Friars house here, he became a doctor andprofessor of the university.His lectures lay great stress on the epistles of St. Paul and particular in his viewthat “the just shall live by faith”. Luther argues that priests should not standbetween men and the Bible, and that faith is a gift from God. Un like thehumanists, he does not think that it can be gained by scholarship.1 Luther Defies Both Pope and EmperorWorms, Germany, 18 April 1521Friends of Martin Luther, the radical theologian from Wittenburg, fear for hislife tonight. This evening he confronted the young emperor, Charles V, in theDiet of Worms, refusing to retract the views which led the pope toexcommunicate him last January.Luther’s radical teaching challenges the papal claim to be the sole authority onthe scriptures. He questions many of the rights of the priests and rejects thebelief that bread and wine became the physical body and blood of Christ. Heaffirms Christians’ personal right to faith.The welcome of the German crowd here showed that he has touched a popularchord. The emperor fears that the revolutionary spirit may affect his power.Now that Luther has refused to retract, the diet will certainly denounce himand may even have him executed. Bitter German Knights Become BanditsGermany, April 1523The revolt of the small-landowning German knights is over, their forcesscattered at Landstuhl, their leaders fled. But a group of Franconian knightsincluding Gotz von Berlichingen, have become bandits, terrorizing the countrynear Nuremberg.Changes in the art of war, with growing emphasis on firearms and artillery, andthe use of mercenaries, deprived the knights of much of their power.Meanwhile, the German princes have been building their political influencethrough councils and chancelleries.Knights like Ulrich von Hutten and Franz von Sickingen tried to form amilitary arm for Luther’s revolt against the church, but Luther rejected them. Luther Translated Bible into German for theCommon PeopleGermany September 1522.Martin Luther, who has been in refuge in the castle here since his denunciationby the Diet of Worms last year, has begun his most ambitious work. He istranslating the Bible into German. In a few years’ time Germans who do notunderstand Latin will b able to read the Bible, and thanks to the boom in newprinting presses, they will be able to buy it relatively cheaply.Although he is a university professor Luther has always written in plainlanguage. He comes from peasant stock himself, and he makes sure that he is2 in tune with today’s language by listening to the phrases the people use in themarketplace. His Bible is thrilling narrative, not dull theology. Revolt Fired by Luther Crushed by PrincesGermany, 7 May 1525The German Peasant Revolt has been crushed at Frankenhausen. With themassacre of many thousands. German princes have been increasingly worriedby the uprisings, which began last year in Bavaria and spread rapidly to Hesse,Franconia, Thuringia, Saxony and the Tyrol. The Princes have acteddeterminedly and today one radical, Thomas Munzer, was beheaded.The revolt was not a concerted movement so much as a series of localuprisings against oppression by princes, landlords and the church. It wasinspired in part by Martin Luther’s teachings and by radical Christiancommunities like the one set up at Alstedt in 1523 based on commonownership.Some peasant leaders did get as far as drawing up a manifesto at Memmingen.It proposed the abolition of serfdom, the reduction of tithes and the right tochoose and expel pastors. It was a programme radical enough to drive theprinces to this month’s repression. Luther Condemns Peasant’s UprisingGermany, 1525Martin Luther seems to have turned against the series of pesant uprisingswhich have been sweeping the country for more than a year. Luther’steachings have been one of the main causes of the revolts. Peasant leadershave been encouraged to call for the right to choose their own pastor, to opposeoppression by landlords, and to win back former common land.Luther supports many of their aims, but he was deeply shocked by a murder atWeinsberg, when peasants speared the count of Helfenstein in front of his wifeand child. Luther had denounced them in a four-page tract: Against theMurdering Thieving Hordes of Peasants. “You cannot meet a rebel withreason”, he wrote, “Your best answer is to punch him in the face until he has abloody nose.” 3Short Answer Questions: Answer all 4#1. Conduct research and List four of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses which he posted on the door of the Wittenberg church in 1517.#2. Using the document “News-Luther”:Create a chronology of five events that took place, with a brief statement of explanation for each.#3. Why were the issues Luther referenced in his 95 theses, considered to be radical Christian teaching in 1517?#4.How would you describe the overall impact of the Protestant Reformation upon 16th century Europe? How did the rise of Protestantism permanently alter the course of Western Civilization?
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