On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church


Category: Religion

By Martin Luther

Published in 1520

Reference #1342

Third German Edition printed in the same year as the first edition. This is the second of Luther’s three crucial reformatory writings of 1520, coming after the ‘Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation’ (August 1520) and before ‘On the Freedom of a Christian’ (November 1520).

In this work, Luther radically critiques the sacramental system of the church and “first levels his charge that the pope is the Antichrist and explicitly condemns the Church as a tyrannical oppressor of Christian liberty.” “Using the explicit text of the Scriptures as his litmus, Luther denies that there are seven sacraments and instead recognizes only three: baptism, confession, and the Lord’s Supper.”

“The ‘Babylonian Captivity’ was Luther’s most severe attack on the Church to date and its impact reverberated throughout Europe. The University of Paris condemned the document; upon reading it, Erasmus realized that his efforts to restore peace were futile and announced, “The breach is irreparable.”” Furthermore, “it was the chief evidence of Luther’s heresy.”