1 Life 2 Doctrinal positions 3 Luther's impression 4 In popular culture 5 References
5.1 Citations 5.2 Bibliography
6 Further reading
Tetzel was born in Pirna, Saxony, and studied theology and philosophy
27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory. 28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.
Tetzel was also condemned (though later pardoned) for immorality. When
he discovered that
Karl von Miltitz had accused him of perpetrating
numerous frauds and embezzlements, he withdrew, broken in spirit,
wrecked in health, into the Dominican monastery in Leipzig. Miltitz
was later discredited to the point where his claims carry no
Tetzel died in
As soon as the gold in the casket rings The rescued soul to heaven springs
This oft-quoted saying was by no means representative of the official
Catholic teaching on indulgences, but rather, more a reflection of
Tetzel's capacity to exaggerate. Yet if Tetzel overstated the matter
in regard to indulgences for the dead, his teaching on indulgences for
the living was pure Catholic teaching. The German Catholic historian
Ludwig von Pastor
Above all, a most clear distinction must be made between indulgences for the living and those for the dead. As regards indulgences for the living, Tetzel always taught pure (Catholic) doctrine. The assertion that he put forward indulgences as being not only a remission of the temporal punishment of sin, but as a remission of its guilt, is as unfounded as is that other accusation against him, that he sold the forgiveness of sin for money, without even any mention of contrition and confession, or that, for payment, he absolved from sins which might be committed in the future. His teaching was, in fact, very definite, and quite in harmony with the theology of the (Catholic) Church, as it was then and as it is now, i.e., that indulgences "apply only to the temporal punishment due to sins which have been already repented of and confessed" .... The case was very different with indulgences for the dead. As regards these there is no doubt that Tetzel did, according to what he considered his authoritative instructions, proclaim as Christian doctrine that nothing but an offering of money was required to gain the indulgence for the dead, without there being any question of contrition or confession. He also taught, in accordance with the opinion then held, that an indulgence could be applied to any given soul with unfailing effect. Starting from this assumption, there is no doubt that his doctrine was virtually that of the well known drastic proverb. The Papal Bull of indulgence gave no sanction whatever to this proposition. It was a vague scholastic opinion, rejected by the Sorbonne in 1482, and again in 1518, and certainly not a doctrine of the Church, which was thus improperly put forward as dogmatic truth. The first among the theologians of the Roman court, Cardinal Cajetan, was the enemy of all such extravagances, and declared emphatically that, even if theologians and preachers taught such opinions, no faith need be given them. "Preachers," he said, "speak in the name of the Church only so long as they proclaim the doctrine of Christ and His Church; but if, for purposes of their own, they teach that about which they know nothing, and which is only their own imagination, they must not be accepted as mouthpieces of the Church. No one must be surprised if such as these fall into error."
According to Luther [misattribution], after Tetzel had received a
substantial amount of money at Leipzig, a nobleman asked him if it
were possible to receive a letter of indulgence for a future sin.
Tetzel quickly answered in the affirmative, insisting that the payment
had to be made at once. The nobleman did so and received thereupon
letter and seal from Tetzel.
When Tetzel left
Jakob Tiedtke in the 1928 German film Luther.
Alexander Gauge in the 1953 film Martin Luther.
In John Osborne's 1961 play Luther, Tetzel was played by
^ Ganss 1912, p. 539. ^ a b Pollard 1911. ^ Ganss 1912. ^ Smith 1913, p. 570. ^ Ganss 1912, p. 540. ^ Pastor 1908, pp. 347–348. ^ Durant 1957, p. 339.
Durant, Will (1957). The Reformation. The Story of Civilization. 6.
Simon and Schuster.
Ganss, Henry George (1912). "Johann Tetzel". In Herbermann, Charles.
Catholic Encyclopedia. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Pastor, Ludwig (1908). Kerr, Ralph Francis, ed. The History of the
Popes, from the Close of the Middle Ages. 7. London: Kegan Paul,
Trench, Trubner & Co. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
Pollard, Albert Frederick (1911). "Tetzel, Johann". In Chisholm, Hugh.
Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Smith, Preserved, ed. (1913). Luther's Correspondence and Other
Contemporary Letters. 1. Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication
Vedder, Henry C. (1914). The
Bünz, Enno; Kühne, Hartmut; Wiegand, Peter, eds. (2017). Johann Tetzel und der Ablass (in German). Berlin: Lukas Verlag. ISBN 978-3-86732-262-1.
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