Early Gothic thinkers started reform. They laid thought upon thought—as cathedral masons laid stone upon stone—until a staircase of steps carried at least part of Christendom over the Reformation threshold.
Martin Luther was born about ten years before the discovery of America. He climbed the Reformation staircase the early Gothic thinkers built. Luther opened the door and crossed the Threshold of Reform—after he tacked his 95 theses for debate on the door of the church at Wittenberg in 1517.
In the debate over indulgences, Luther pointed out the mistranslation in the Latin Bible of Jerome compared to Erasmus’ translation from the Greek. Erasmus translated Matthew 4:17 as “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” instead of “Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The correct translation—repent which is “be penitent,” instead of “do penance”—undercut the indulgences.
Dominicans backed Tetzel, who came to collect the indulgences, while Augustinians backed Luther. Debates, hearings, and trials continued in Augsburg, Leipzig, Heidelberg and Worms. By 1519 Luther insisted that Holy Scripture was the supreme authority, rather than the Pope or church. The Dominican master of the Sacred Palace at Rome upheld the doctrine of the Roman church and Roman pontiff as “the infallible rule of faith from which sacred scripture derived strength and authority.”
Luther stated, “A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or council without it.” This statement sanctioned and upheld the “priesthood of the believer.”