Luther's Final Refutation of Tetzel

Luther, Martin (1483-1546)

Ein freyheyt des Sermons Bebstlichen ablaƟ und gnad belangend. wider die vorlegu(n)g. So zu schmach sein und desselben Sermons erdichtet.

[Nuremberg: Johann Gutknecht,] 1518


Quarto: 21 x 15.5 cm. 8 lvs. A-B4 (B4 blank)

One of several printings in the year of the first.

A fine, tall copy in modern wrappers. Discreetly repairs, no loss.

In March 1518 Luther published his "Sermon on Indulgences and Grace", in which he distilled his 95 Theses into a concise and comprehensive statement in German. John Tetzel responded with a series of 50 counter-theses. And in turn Luther responded with the present text.

"The theological debates sparked by Martin Luther’s posting of ninety-five theses on a church door in Wittenberg 1517 picked up new strength in 1518. On January 20th, 1518, at their regional chapter meeting in Frankfurt an der Oder, three hundred Dominicans gather to hold a disputation in Latin concerning Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. Luther's opponent, Johann Tetzel, Order of Preachers, inquisitor of heretics, subcommissioner for the preaching of the St. Peter’s indulgence in the Dioceses of Mainz and Magdeburg, participates by presenting the '106 Frankfurt Theses'to refute the Augustinian Luther’s theses.

"While both Luther’s 'Ninety-Five Theses' and Tetzel’s response to them '106 Theses'were composed in Latin, following the established practice for theological and academic exchange, Luther wrote his response to Tetzel’s '106 Theses', 'Eyn Sermon vom Ablass und Gnade', (Sermon on Indulgence and Grace) in vernacular German. When Tetzel responded to Luther with his 'Rebuttal' (Vorlegung wider einen vermessenen Sermon), he also resorted to the vernacular, answering Luther’s twenty 'articles' or theses by first quoting each of them verbatim. Thus, within this one volume, the two antagonists are locked in a fateful struggle, inextricably linked by their common German tongue. The exchange of ideas articulated here would have momentous results, not the least of which was the unleashing of the German language as an effective weapon for Luther and many of the antagonists of the Reformation era. After 1518 the vernacular reigns, and for the German language, the foremost molder of that language is Martin Luther."(Kramer)

As promised in his rebuttal, Tetzel followed his 'Vorlegung' with another list of 50 theses, which he published in Latin. In the present work, "Eine Freiheit des Sermons", Luther –again in the vernacular- addresses those articles.

Benzing 188; VD 16, L 4745; Knaake I, 52; Jackson 708