No one came to discuss Luther’s Theses with him the next day. But all over Germany, people were talking among themselves about them. At the time, the hierarchy of the church was both admired and hated by the common people. Many people believed church leaders took advantage of their positions and did not live as they should. Many agreed with Luther’s Theses.
Reuchlin: Johann Reuchlin was delighted when he read Luther’s 95 Theses. Reuchlin was a famous scholar of Greek and Latin, and also the uncle of Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s close friend and fellow-Reformer. Reuchlin had had a great deal of trouble with a group of monks who wanted to confiscate Hebrew books from Jews in Germany and destroy them. If they could get rid of all the Hebrew books, the monks thought they would then be able to force the Jews to become Christians. Eventually, the emperor appointed Reuchlin, who was also a legal expert, to look into the matter. When Reuchlin ruled that the books should not be destroyed, the monks attacked him, causing so much trouble that Reuchlin was called to appear before a court of the inquisition. So, when he read Luther’s 95 Theses, he cried, “Thanks be to God! At last they have found a man who will give them so much to do, that they will be compelled to let my old age end in peace.”[i]
Erasmus: Desiderius Erasmus was a priest and Latin and Greek scholar. In 1516, he published the first New Testament in Greek, which Luther later used to translate the Bible into German. Erasmus who was fiercely loyal to the Catholic Church, believed the church needed reform. In 1509, his In Praise of Folly was published. In this essay, Erasmus criticized the superstitions and abuses of the Catholic Church. When he read Luther’s Theses, he thought perhaps that Luther was the one who would accomplish the reform that the church needed. He said, “God has given men a physician who cuts deep into the flesh, because the malady would otherwise be incurable.”[ii] He also said later that the Theses caused so much disturbance because in them, Luther had “attacked the pope’s tiara and the monks’ bellies,” meaning that Luther had questioned both the pope’s authority and the reckless lifestyle of the monks.
The Elector: Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony was alarmed when he read the Theses. He worried that war might break out as a result. He believed Luther was right, but felt very anxious over how the whole matter would end.
The Emperor: The old Emperor, Maximilian felt a great deal of respect for Luther when he read his Theses and told Frederick to take care of and protect him.
The Pope: Pope Leo X, a lover of literature, was at first amused by the Theses. In Luther’s defence against those he said Luther should be treated as a heretic, the pope declared, “Brother Martin Luther is a very fine genius, and all that is said against him is mere monkish jealousy.”[iii]
[i] History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century.