Wild Boar in the Vineyard: Martin Luther at the Birth of the Modern World

Theology: Academic and Vernacular > Babylonian Captivity of the Church

On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Wittenberg: Melchior Lotter, 1520
Burke Union Rare Pamphlets GT2 1520cb

Unlike his Open Letter to the Christian Nobility, this more theologically nuanced work is composed in Latin (though there were German editions) and addressed to a specialist audience in a more measured tone. Citing the Bible as evidence, Luther argues that the number of sacraments should be reduced from seven to three (and finally to two), thereby removing major pillars upon which the structure of the medieval way of life had been erected. In particular, he attacks the Church’s doctrine, which drew on Aristotelian categories, of the “transubstantiation” of bread and wine at Communion, instead insisting that “the Holy Spirit is greater than Aristotle.” The work articulates ideas that would come to define many Protestant traditions, but also prove to be sources of ongoing division among them.


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