Some more insight into Martin Luther’s thesis nailed to the Wittenberg door.
On Saturday, October 31, 1517, a 33-year-old theology professor at Wittenberg University walked over to the Castle Church in Wittenberg and nailed a paper of 95 theses to the door, hoping to spark an academic discussion about their contents. In God’s providence and unbeknownst to anyone else that day, it would become a key event in igniting the Reformation.
Carl Trueman—who wrote his dissertation on Luther’s Legacy, teaches on Luther’s life and theology, and is writing a book on Luther on the Christian Life—answered some questions for us.
Had Luther ever done this before—nail a set of theses to the Wittenberg door? If so, did previous attempts have any impact?
I am not sure if he had ever nailed up theses before, but he had certainly proposed sets of such for academic debate, which was all he was really doing on October 31, 1517. In fact, in September of that same year, he had led a debate on scholastic theology where he said far more radical things than were in the Ninety-Five Theses. Ironically, this earlier debate, now often considered the first major public adumbration of his later theology, caused no real stir in the church at all.