On October 31st, 1517 — exactly 500 years ago — Martin Luther, a professor of moral theology, nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. His theses would spark the Reformation, liberate ordinary people to interpret the Bible themselves, and eliminate the “tax on heaven.”
Up until that point, the Roman Church demanded payment, “indulgences,” for loved ones to be allowed through the Holy Gates, claiming the Bible authorized such tax. Desperately poor people all across Europe commonly gave up what little they had so their dearly departed would not suffer.
When the devout Martin Luther translated the Bible himself, (few could in those days, as it was written only in Latin), he found the Church had no such authority. Outraged that such a predatory fraud had been committed in the name of Christianity, he told everyone. The Church, which operated as a kind of government, with its own courts and punishments, as well as taxes, put Luther on trial and attempted to have him killed, but he managed to escape and ultimately triumph.
Luther’s inspiring story is told with warmth in the 2003 film Luther.