by Timothy J. Wengert
2015 / 90 pages
If you want to understand Luther and the reforms he began, can there be a better place to start than his 95 theses?
When I first got my copy in the mail, I was struck by how short it was. This is the Pope-shaking document that God used to start it all? Shouldn't it be...heavier? And if we were to take out the introduction, commentary, and study guide, Luther's 95 theses only amounts to 13 or 14 pages!
Thankfully, Timothy Wengert stretches it out to (a still slim) 90 pages so he can present Luther's pivotal work in the right context. He uses his introduction to set the scene, explaining how the doctrine of indulgences evolved from bad to worse. He also includes two other documents – Luther's letter to the Bishop of Mainz in which he respectfully asks the bishop to consider the theses, and Luther's "Sermon on Indulgences and Grace" written a year later, in 1518, which was intended as an explanation of his 95 theses for the common people. In the theses themselves, Wengert fills almost half of each page with footnotes to clarify Luther's more difficult points.
So this is a short, but intense read – it will take some effort to work through it, but not all that much time.
And to make the going a little easier, Wengert has sprinkled in all sorts of fascinating facts.
- Did you know Luther may never have posted his theses to the church door? The first published account of this particular detail occurs in 1546, four months after Luther's death.
- If he did post them he probably used wax, not nails.
- Luther's 95 theses were not the first he had written. This was a common communication form among students and professors, and just one month before, in Sept 1517, Luther composed 97 theses against scholastic theology.
Outside of God's Word itself, Luther's 95 theses might be the key document that our Father used to reform his Church. It isn't long. It is an education.