95 Theses

Martin Luther (21 Kb): "16th Century Anabaptism," slide 2
Martin Luther after posting his 95 Theses

On October 31, 1517, a Roman Catholic monk and Bible scholar named Martin Luther posted several pages on the main door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther's "95 Theses," as these pages were later called, questioned some of the practices of the church.

Although the church had changed its practices before, Luther's comments were especially hard to take. By 1520 the Catholic church had begun proceedings to excommunicate Luther. After refusing to "take back" his conclusions, Luther was kicked out of the church in 1521.

Reformation Begins

What began as a discussion between scholars began to have effects beyond anyone's imagination - the Reformation had begun. Within 5 years several princes had splintered off from the Roman Catholic church, and relations between them and other rulers who stayed in the traditional church became quite hostile.

Although the vast majority of Europe remained Catholic, reform movements were beginning to show. Parts of Germany were under Martin Luther's influence, while reform in the region of Zurich, Switzerland was guided by Huldrych Zwingli. Since these movements came out of Luther's "protest" towards the traditional church, the emerging church groups have become known as Protestant churches.

Another major change during this time was that, in 1521, Luther translated the New Testament into German for the first time. Although less than 10% of people could read, this made it possible for people to hear Bible stories and passages in their own language. News, pamphlets, and sketches, as well as religious and political cartoons circulated through the countryside. New ideas were being discussed in the houses, taverns, and roads of Europe, sometimes as a result of people's own reading and interpretation of the Bible. Religion was a very hot topic.

This was the situation when the "radical Anabaptists" appeared on the scene.  

Created 1998 by Derek Suderman