Babylonian Captivity of the Church, The

Babylonian Captivity of the Church, The
   The Babylonian Captivity of the Church was a pamphlet written by Martin Luther calling for reform of the church's sacramental system. It was one of three pamphlets he issued at the end of 1520 in response to the papal bull Exurge Domin. The pope had given Luther 60 days to recant his earlier statements or face excommunication. Instead, Luther's pamphlets made a significant break with Rome, leading directly to his appearance before the Diet of Worms.
   In The Babylonian Captivity, Luther wrote that just as Israel had been taken captive to Babylon in the sixth century B.C.E., the Christian sacraments had been taken captive by Rome.
   Luther argued that the Bible authorized only two of the church's seven sacraments, baptism and the Lord's Supper (or Eucharist). The others - holy orders, confirmation, marriage, penance, and extreme unction - should be done away with (though he was open to further consideration of penance). Turning to the Eucharist, he wrote that the cup of wine should be shared with the laity, just like the wafer. He charged that the doctrine of transubstantiation, the doctrine that the real presence of Christ enters the sacramental elements once the words of consecration are spoken, was a 12th-century innovation. He then argued that baptism did not by itself, apart from faith, impart any spiritual blessing.
   Though he completely rejected Catholic teachings on the sacraments, Luther never came to his own clear understanding of them.
   Further reading:
   ■ Martin Luther, Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings, ed. by Timothy F Lull (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989)
   ■ ---, Three Treatises (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970)
   ■ "A Prelude on The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (6 October 1520) by Martin Luther, 1483-1546." Available online. URL:
   ■ E. Gordon Rupp, Luther's Progress to the Diet of Worms (New York: Harper & Row, 1964).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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