An Ecumenical Commentary on Martin Luther’ 95 Indulgence Theses
In cooperation with the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, the Johann Adam Moehler Institute is working on an international project named “An Ecumenical Commentary on Martin Luther’s 95 Indulgence Theses”. Therewith, we hope to contribute to the fulfilment of Martin Luther’s wish for a serious academic dispute of his indulgence theses. The commentary that brings together the Lutheran and the Catholic perspective serves the aims of identifying the reasoning that Luther and his opponents brought forward and tracing the process and development of the argument, the attempts to settle and to intensify the dispute.
The basis of the project is a collective volume that contains about 70 documents in their original languages (Latin, Early New High German) and in modern German translation and that lays the basis for understanding Luther’s initial situation at the beginning of the 16th century, that afterwards describes the indulgence argument itself with its several phases and traces the theological discussion up to the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Furthermore, it discloses the response of Martin Chemnitz. Church declarations such as primary aspects concerning the system of indulgences in the Middle Ages (Canon Law, theological reflections, sermons, liturgy, letters of indulgence) are taken into account. Starting from the indulgence initiative of the Prince-Archbishop of Mainz Albrecht of Brandenburg 1516/17, the beginnings of the indulgence argument with Luther’s 95 theses, his early comments on the indulgence system and the early responses to his criticism (e.g. by Johannes Tetzel and Johannes Eck) are documented. In the further progression of the indulgence argument up to the completion of the Roman process, Luther’s explanation of his criticism, his further disputes (e.g. with Silvester Prierias and Thomas Cajetan), university reports from Cologne and Leuven and Luther’s responses to them and finally Pope Leo’s X. bulls (of excommunication) are important marking points. The ongoing controversies on the topic of indulgences after the condemnation of Martin Luther are reflected in the statements of Catholic theologians (e.g. Jacobus Latomus, Johannes Cochlaeus) and Luther’s own statements. Reviews from Martin Luther, Friedrich Myconius and Philipp Melanchthon on the indulgence argument are added. The documentary volume closes with the Council of Trent, the Tridentine theological discussion and regulations such as with Catholic and Lutheran reactions. The volume which contains a large range of source texts shall be a helpful and fruitful basis for future research.