Millions are celebrating one young Augustinian monk’s consequential actions on this year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Even those with no interest in the history of Christianity often know the story of the great Martin Luther and his revolutionary doings on October 31, 1517. Luther’s great protestant hammer detonated a bomb as it drove a nail into the rugged wooden door of Wittenberg’s main cathedral.
It was as if he were driving a spike right into the heart of a terribly corrupt religious system. Second only to the cross of Christ, this action divides Western history into before and after.
The results of this theology professor’s world-changing action are beyond dispute. What actually happened on what is celebrated as Reformation Day, however, is highly questionable. Simply put, it’s unlikely the door episode ever happened. It certainly didn’t happen as portrayed in popular historyand classic paintings.