The 95 Theses – a Modern Paraphrase

The original wooden door of the Castle Church was destroyed in a fire. The present door is made of bronze and contains the text of the theses, in German. It was put up in the 19th century as a memorial. The theses were originally hand-written, but very quickly were printed and distributed throughout Europe. I’ve attempted to read through the 95 theses several times, and never gotten past #20 without my eyes blurring and having to start just skimming them. I think the reason is because of the archaic and verbose language. A pastor friend of mine posted this on his church daily e-news letter, and I find it much easier to understand. A person I had review it commented that it’s the first time he’s actually gotten through all 95 as well.

BJS makes NO assertion that this paraphrase is correct. I’ve found it over on HistoryLearningSite.co.uk, but I have no clue who originally wrote it. They called it a “translation”, but it’s really not; it is a paraphrase of the original. Also remember that it is concerned about indulgences, so some of them (e.g. #30) sound a bit odd, since we are assured of our forgiveness through our faith in Christ.

Feel free to comment on how useful you think this is, and/or your own experiences with reading through the 95 theses. Of course also post if you find any errors in it that would invalidate its publication to more of our laity.

A printable version of the original version can be found here.

Our post on them is found here.

 

  1. When Jesus said “repent” he meant that believers should live a whole life repenting

  2. Only God can give salvation – not a priest.

  3. Inwards penitence must be accompanied with a suitable change in lifestyle.

  4. Sin will always remain until we enter Heaven.

  5. The pope must act according to canon law.

  6. Only God can forgive -the pope can only reassure people that God will do this.

  7. A sinner must be humbled in front of his priest before God can forgive him.

  8. Canon law applies only to the living not to the dead.

  9. However, the Holy Spirit will make exceptions to this when required to do so.

10. The priest must not threaten those dying with the penalty of purgatory.

11. The church through church penalties is producing a ‘human crop of weeds’.

12. In days gone by, church penalties were imposed before release from guilt to show true repentance.

13. When you die all your debts to the church are wiped out and those debts are free from being judged.

14. When someone is dying they might have bad/incorrect thoughts against the church and they will be scared. This fear is enough penalty.15. This fear is so bad that it is enough to cleanse the soul.

16. Purgatory = Hell. Heaven = Assurance.

17. Souls in Purgatory need to find love – the more love the less their sin.

18. A sinful soul does not have to be always sinful. It can be cleansed.

19. There is no proof that a person is free from sin.

20. Even the pope – who can offer forgiveness – cannot totally forgive sins held within.

21. An indulgence will not save a man.

22. A dead soul cannot be saved by an indulgence.

23. Only a very few sinners can be pardoned. These people would have to be perfect.

24. Therefore most people are being deceived by indulgences.

25. The pope’s power over Purgatory is the same as a priest’s.

26. When the pope intervenes to save an individual, he does so by the will of God.

27. It is nonsense to teach that a dead soul in Purgatory can be saved by money.

28. Money causes greed – only God can save souls.

29. Do we know if the souls in Purgatory want to be saved?

30. No-one is sure of the reality of his own penitence – no-one can be sure of receiving complete forgiveness.

31. A man who truly buys an indulgence (ie believes it is to be what it is) is as rare as someone who truly repents all sin ie very rare.

32. People who believe that indulgences will let them live in salvation will always be damned – along with those who teach it.

33. Do not believe those who say that a papal indulgence is a wonderful gift which allows salvation.

34. Indulgences only offer Man something which has been agreed to by Man.

35. We should not teach that those who aim to buy salvation do not need to be contrite.

36. A man can be free of sin if he sincerely repents – an indulgence is not needed.

37. Any Christian – dead or alive – can gain the benefit and love of Christ without an indulgence.

38. Do not despise the pope’s forgiveness but his forgiveness is not the most important.

39. The most educated theologians cannot preach about indulgences and real repentance at the same time.

40. A true repenter will be sorry for his sins and happily pay for them. Indulgences trivialise this issue.

41. If a pardon is given it should be given cautiously in case people think it’s more important than doing good works.

42. Christians should be taught that the buying of indulgences does not compare with being forgiven by Christ.

43. A Christian who gives to the poor or lends to those in need is doing better in God’s eyes than one who buys ‘forgiveness’.

44. This is because of loving others, love grows and you become a better person. A person buying an indulgence does not become a better person.

45. A person who passes by a beggar but buys an indulgence will gain the anger and disappointment of God.

46. A Christian should buy what is necessary for life not waste money on an indulgence.

47. Christians should be taught that they do not need an indulgence.

48. The pope should have more desire for devout prayer than for ready money.

49. Christians should be taught not to rely on an indulgence. They should never lose their fear of God through them.

50. If a pope knew how much people were being charged for an indulgence – he would prefer to demolish St. Peter’s.

51. The pope should give his own money to replace that which is taken from pardoners.

52. It is vain to rely on an indulgence to forgive your sins.

53. Those who forbid the word of God to be preached and who preach pardons as a norm are enemies of both the pope and Christ.

54. It is blasphemy that the word of God is preached less than that of indulgences.

55. The pope should enforce that the gospel – a very great matter – must be celebrated more than indulgences.

56. The treasure of the church is not sufficiently known about among the followers of Christ.

57. The treasure of the Church are temporal (of this life).

58. Relics are not the relics of Christ, although they may seem to be. They are, in fact, evil in concept.

59. St. Laurence misinterpreted this as the poor gave money to the church for relics and forgiveness.

60. Salvation can be sought for through the church as it has been granted this by Christ.

61. It is clear that the power of the church is adequate, by itself, for the forgiveness of sins.

62. The main treasure of the church should be the Gospels and the grace of God.

63. Indulgences make the most evil seem unjustly good.

64. Therefore evil seems good without penance or forgiveness.

65. The treasured items in the Gospels are the nets used by the workers.

66. Indulgences are used to net an income for the wealthy.

67. It is wrong that merchants praise indulgences.

68. They are the furthest from the grace of God and the piety and love of the cross.

69. Bishops are duty bound to sell indulgences and support them as part of their job.

70. But bishops are under a much greater obligation to prevent men preaching their own dreams.

71. People who deny the pardons of the Apostles will be cursed.

72. Blessed are they who think about being forgiven.

73. The pope is angered at those who claim that pardons are meaningless.74. He will be even more angry with those who use indulgences to criticise holy love.

75. It is wrong to think that papal pardons have the power to absolve all sin.

76. You should feel guilt after being pardoned. A papal pardon cannot remove guilt.

77. Not even St. Peter could remove guilt.

78. Even so, St. Peter and the pope possess great gifts of grace.

79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross is of equal value with the cross of Christ.

80. Bishops who authorize such preaching will have to answer for it.

81. Pardoners make the intelligent appear disrespectful because of the pope’s position.

82. Why doesn’t the pope clean feet for holy love not for money?

83. Indulgences bought for the dead should be re-paid by the pope.

84. Evil men must not buy their salvation when a poor man, who is a friend of God, cannot.

85. Why are indulgences still bought from the church?

86. The pope should re-build St. Peter’s with his own money.

87. Why does the pope forgive those who serve against him?

88. What good would be done to the church if the pope was to forgive hundreds of people each day?

89. Why are indulgences only issued when the pope sees fit to issue them?

90. To suppress the above is to expose the church for what it is and to make true Christians unhappy.

91. If the pope had worked as he should (and by example) all the problems stated above would not have existed.

92. All those who say there is no problem must go. Problems must be tackled.

93. Those in the church who claim there is no problem must go.

94. Christians must follow Christ at all cost.

95. Let Christians experience problems if they must – and overcome them – rather than live a false life based on present Catholic teaching.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

The 95 Theses – a Modern Paraphrase — 5 Comments

  1. I’ve attempted to read through the 95 theses several times, and never gotten past #20 without my eyes blurring and having to start just skimming them. I think the reason is because of the archaic and verbose language.

    I am confused. They were originally posted in Latin, later translated to German, and later to English and other vernacular languages. So, it sounds like poor translating. Anyway thanks for the Reader’s Edition 😉

    BJS makes NO assertion that this paraphrase is correct. I’ve found it over on HistoryLearningSite.co.uk, but I have no clue who originally wrote it. They called it a “translation”, but it’s really not; it is a paraphrase of the original.

    Aren’t several of the BJS readers proficient in Latin and could comment on any interesting translation issues?

  2. CPH used to print a little booklet on the 95 Theses for .95 cents. It is now out of print and apparently they have no plans to make it available except through the purchase of a book that contains it. I have a copy of the CPH booklet around here someplace and I will be looking to make a comparison. CPH would not give me permission to scan the booklet and use it as a handout at one of our seminars.

  3. Thesis 93 may be the most difficult to understand. One English translation of it is: “Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, ‘Cross, cross,’ and there is no cross!” (http://bookofconcord.org/95theses.php).

    I am dismayed by how it has been paraphrased here: “Those in the church who claim there is no problem must go”. That is completely off.

    Here is how Luther himself explained it in a letter which he wrote to an Augustinian prior:

    You are seeking and craving for peace, but in the wrong order. For you are seeking it as the world giveth, not as Christ giveth. Know you not that God is “wonderful among His saints,” for this reason, that He establishes His peace in the midst of no peace, that is, of all temptations and afflictions. It is said “Thou shalt dwell in the midst of thine enemies.” The man who possesses peace is not the man whom no one disturbs—that is the peace of the world; he is the man whom all men and all things disturb, but who bears all patiently, and with joy. You are saying with Israel, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace. Learn to say rather with Christ: “The Cross, the Cross,” and there is no Cross. For the Cross at once ceases to be the Cross as soon as you have joyfully exclaimed, in the language of the hymn,

    Blessed Cross, above all other,
    One and only noble tree.

    This quotation is posted here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/first_prin.iii.i.html

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