What Did Martin Luther Actually Say in His 95 Theses?

July 29, 2017
Sam Logan

The 95 Theses
by
Martin Luther

English text (below):  http://www.luther.de/en/95thesen.html

Afrikaans text: https://proregno.com/2017/07/19/die-95-stellings-van-maarten-luther-in-afrikaans/

Chinese text: http://www.christianstudy.com/data/theology/95theses.html

French text: http://www.accordphilo.com/article-2272960.html

German text: http://www.luther.de/leben/anschlag/95thesen.html

Korean text: http://m.cafe.daum.net/nuri1009/OJIy/53?q=D_jJN3mOMRpC50&

Portuguese text: http://www.luteranos.com.br/lutero/95_teses.html

Spanish text: https://alatinacolonia2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/95-tesis.pdf


For texts in other languages, go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninety-five_Theses , then scroll down and, on the left, there will be a list of all the languages in which the Ninety-Five Theses are available.



English Language Version

[Note NO use of the English words “justification,” “justify,” or “faith”]

Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

#1.  When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

#2.  This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

#3.  Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

#4.  The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

#5.  The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.

#6.  The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.

#7.  God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.

#8.  The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

#9.  Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

#10.  Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.

#11.  Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept (Mt 13:25).

#12.  In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

#13.  The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.

#14.  Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.

#15.  This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

#16.  Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.

#17.  It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.

#18.  Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.

#19.  Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.

#20.  Therefore the pope, when he uses the words ``plenary remission of all penalties,'' does not actually mean ``all penalties,'' but only those imposed by himself.

#21.  Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.

#22.  As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.

#23.  If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.

#24.  For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.

#25.  That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.

#26.  The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.

#27.  They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.

#28.  It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.

#29.  Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.

#30.  No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.

#31.  The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.

#32.  Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

#33.  Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.

#34.  For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.

#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.

#45.  Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God's wrath.

#46.  Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.

#47.  Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.

#48.  Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.

#49.  Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.

#50.  Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.

#51.  Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.

#52.  It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.

#53.  They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

#54.  Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.

#55.  It is certainly the pope's sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

#56.  The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.

#57.  That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.

#58.  Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.

#59.  St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

#60.  Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.

#61.  For it is clear that the pope's power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.

#62.  The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.

#63.  But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last (Mt. 20:16).

#64.  On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

#65.  Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.

#66.  The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.

#67.  The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.

#68.  They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.

#69.  Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.

#70.  But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.

#71.  Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.

#72.  But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.

#73.  Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.

#74.  Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.

#75.  To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.

#76.  We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.

#77.  To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.

#78.  We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written. (1 Co 12[:28])

#79.  To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.

#80.  The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.

#81.  This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.

#82.  Such as: ``Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church?'' The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.

#83.  Again, ``Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?''

#84.  Again, ``What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, beca use of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love's sake?''

#85.  Again, ``Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?''

#86.  Again, ``Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?''

#87.  Again, ``What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?''

#88.  Again, ``What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?''

#89.  ``Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?''

#90.  To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.

#91.  If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.

#92.  Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, ``Peace, peace,'' and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14)

#93.  Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, ``Cross, cross,'' and there is no cross!

#94.  Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.

#95.  And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).

  

The Papal Bull [Decet Romanum Pontificem, 1520]  Excommunicating Luther Listed The Following as His Errors
[There were no citations of specific works or statements by Luther.
There was one mention of “faith” {Item 15} but no mention of “justify” or “justification.”]

1. It is a heretical opinion, but a common one, that the sacraments of the New Law give pardoning grace to those who do not set up an obstacle.

2. To deny that in a child after baptism sin remains is to treat with contempt both Paul and Christ.

3. The inflammable sources of sin, even if there be no actual sin, delay a soul departing from the body from entrance into heaven.

4. To one on the point of death imperfect charity necessarily brings with it great fear, which in itself alone is enough to produce the punishment of purgatory, and impedes entrance into the kingdom.

5. That there are three parts to penance: contrition, confession, and satisfaction, has no foundation in Sacred Scripture nor in the ancient sacred Christian doctors.

6. Contrition, which is acquired through discussion, collection, and detestation of sins, by which one reflects upon his years in the bitterness of his soul, by pondering over the gravity of sins, their number, their baseness, the loss of eternal beatitude, and the acquisition of eternal damnation, this contrition makes him a hypocrite, indeed more a sinner.

7. It is a most truthful proverb and the doctrine concerning the contritions given thus far is the more remarkable: "Not to do so in the future is the highest penance; the best penance, a new life."

8. By no means may you presume to confess venial sins, nor even all mortal sins, because it is impossible that you know all mortal sins. Hence in the primitive Church only manifest mortal sins were confessed.

9. As long as we wish to confess all sins without exception, we are doing nothing else than to wish to leave nothing to God's mercy for pardon.

10. Sins are not forgiven to anyone, unless when the priest forgives them he believes they are forgiven; on the contrary the sin would remain unless he believed it was forgiven; for indeed the remission of sin and the granting of grace does not suffice, but it is necessary also to believe that there has been forgiveness.

11. By no means can you have reassurance of being absolved because of your contrition, but because of the word of Christ: "Whatsoever you shall loose, etc." Hence, I say, trust confidently, if you have obtained the absolution of the priest, and firmly believe yourself to have been absolved, and you will truly be absolved, whatever there may be of contrition.

12. If through an impossibility he who confessed was not contrite, or the priest did not absolve seriously, but in a jocose manner, if nevertheless he believes that he has been absolved, he is most truly absolved.

13. In the sacrament of penance and the remission of sin the pope or the bishop does no more than the lowest priest; indeed, where there is no priest, any Christian, even if a woman or child, may equally do as much.

14. No one ought to answer a priest that he is contrite, nor should the priest inquire.

15. Great is the error of those who approach the sacrament of the Eucharist relying on this, that they have confessed, that they are not conscious of any mortal sin, that they have sent their prayers on ahead and made preparations; all these eat and drink judgment to themselves. But if they believe and trust that they will attain grace, then this faith alone makes them pure and worthy.

16. It seems to have been decided that the Church in common Council established that the laity should communicate under both species; the Bohemians who communicate under both species are not heretics, but schismatics.

17. The treasures of the Church, from which the pope grants indulgences, are not the merits of Christ and of the saints.

18. Indulgences are pious frauds of the faithful, and remissions of good works; and they are among the number of those things which are allowed, and not of the number of those which are advantageous.

19. Indulgences are of no avail to those who truly gain them, for the remission of the penalty due to actual sin in the sight of divine justice.

20. They are seduced who believe that indulgences are salutary and useful for the fruit of the spirit.

21. Indulgences are necessary only for public crimes, and are properly conceded only to the harsh and impatient.

22. For six kinds of men indulgences are neither necessary nor useful; namely, for the dead and those about to die, the infirm, those legitimately hindered, and those who have not committed crimes, and those who have committed crimes, but not public ones, and those who devote themselves to better things.

23. Excommunications are only external penalties and they do not deprive man of the common spiritual prayers of the Church.

24. Christians must be taught to cherish excommunications rather than to fear them.

25. The Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, is not the vicar of Christ over all the churches of the entire world, instituted by Christ Himself in blessed Peter.

26. The word of Christ to Peter: "Whatsoever you shall loose on earth," etc., is extended merely to those things bound by Peter himself.

27. It is certain that it is not in the power of the Church or the pope to decide upon the articles of faith, and much less concerning the laws for morals or for good works.

28. If the pope with a great part of the Church thought so and so, he would not err; still it is not a sin or heresy to think the contrary, especially in a matter not necessary for salvation, until one alternative is condemned and another approved by a general Council.

29. A way has been made for us for weakening the authority of councils, and for freely contradicting their actions, and judging their decrees, and boldly confessing whatever seems true, whether it has been approved or disapproved by any council whatsoever.

30. Some articles of John Hus, condemned in the Council of Constance, are most Christian, wholly true and evangelical; these the universal Church could not condemn.

31. In every good work the just man sins.

32. A good work done very well is a venial sin.

33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.

34. To go to war against the Turks is to resist God who punishes our iniquities through them.

35. No one is certain that he is not always sinning mortally, because of the most hidden vice of pride.

36. Free will after sin is a matter of title only; and as long as one does what is in him, one sins mortally.

37. Purgatory cannot be proved from Sacred Scripture which is in the canon.

38. The souls in purgatory are not sure of their salvation, at least not all; nor is it proved by any arguments or by the Scriptures that they are beyond the state of meriting or of increasing in charity.

39. The souls in purgatory sin without intermission, as long as they seek rest and abhor punishment.

40. The souls freed from purgatory by the suffrages of the living are less happy than if they had made satisfactions by themselves.

41. Ecclesiastical prelates and secular princes would not act badly if they destroyed all of the money bags of beggary.