What Is the Importance of the Ninety-Five Theses?

The Ninety-five Theses, written by Martin Luther in 1517, are considered by historians and theologians as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The theological debate they began is the beginning of Lutheran, Anabaptist and Reformed theology within the Christian religion. As an expression of his displeasure with the church, Luther nailed this document to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther's primary concerns surrounded indulgences that the Roman Catholic Church was selling. The church sold indulgences as a fundraising campaign commissioned by Pope Leo through a Dominican priest, Johann Tetzel, in Germany. Tetzel and others were gathering money for the renovation of St. Peter's Basilica. Luther felt it wrong that penance for sin had become a commercial transaction rather than a change of heart. The Ninety-five Theses was Luther's outline of what he planned to discuss in a lecture at the University of Wittenberg that aimed to expose what he felt was a fraud to the people .

Whether Luther actually nailed his theses to the church door is widely debated. Scholars agree that he, at the very least, would have mailed the document to the pope, the Archbishop of Mainz, friends and other scholars. In February 2007, there were media reports of a handwritten note by Georg Rorer, Luther's secretary, affirming the traditional account of the story.