22 pages 44 minutes read

Martin Luther

Ninety-Five Theses

Nonfiction | Essay / Speech | Adult | Published in 1517

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Index of Terms


Indulgences were grants from the Catholic Church offering a Christian some absolution for their sins. This absolution would reduce the Christian’s time in purgatory, a place in the afterlife where a Christian’s soul would have to atone for their sins before ascending to heaven. The penitent still had to perform certain actions that are prescribed in the text of the indulgence, such as seeing a priest for confession, prayer, or charity.

As the head of the church, the pope had not only the power but a responsibility to offer opportunities for atonement. It was expected that Christians would pay money for these indulgences, although they were often offered to the poor free of charge. Indulgences could also be purchased on behalf of a deceased loved one whose soul was thought to be in purgatory.

Indulgences were intended to help either the living or the dead by shortening the time to pay penance. Luther argues that certain priests deliberately misrepresented what indulgences could do. Luther writes, “Thus, indulgence preachers falsely claim that one is freed from all punishment and is saved by the indulgences of the pope” (Line 21).

Source: MacCulloch, Diarmaid. The Reformation: A History. Penguin Books, 2003, pp.