October 31, 1517: Martin Luther Posts 95 Theses

On this day in 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg in Germany. This act is generally credited as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Replica of 95 ThesesOn this day in 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg in Germany. This act is generally credited as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther, a Catholic priest and professor of theology wrote the theses in protest to numerous frustrations with the Catholic Church, including indulgences and the practice of them being sold in place of confession. In 1520, Pope Leo X demanded that Luther retract his writings. He refused and was excommunicated from the church.

By that time, Luther’s 95 Theses had been reprinted all over Europe and he had numerous followers, known as Lutherans. This new form of religion launched all of the protestant denominations.

October 17, 1979: Mother Teresa Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

On this day in 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She was given the award for her work in fighting poverty and distress throughout the world, two factors that are also a threat to peace.

Mother TeresaOn this day in 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  She was given the award for her work in fighting poverty and distress throughout the world, two factors that are also a threat to peace.

Mother Teresa spent the majority of her life combatting poverty. The Missionaries of Charity Fathers, which she formed in 1950, is active today in 133 countries in areas including hospice, education, AIDS and leprosy.Mother Teresa did all of her work while forgoing fanfare and financial reward. When she received the Nobel Prize, she refused the celebratory dinner and asked that the $192,000 monetary gift be used to feed the hungry in India.

While certain Nobel Peace Prize winners over the years have generated controversy, no one could argue Mother Teresa’s receiving of the award.

August 13, 1962: Vatican and Russian Orthodox Church Sign Metz Accord

On this day in 1962, the Vatican and Russian Orthodox Church signed the Metz Accord, in Metz, France. This secret agreement allowed for the Russian Church to send observers to the Second Vatican Council in exchange for the Catholic Church not condemning the Soviet Union’s atheistic communism.

Christ the Savior Cathedral - MoscowOn this day in 1962, the Vatican and Russian Orthodox Church signed the Metz Accord, in Metz, France. This secret agreement allowed for the Russian Church to send observers to the Second Vatican Council in exchange for the Catholic Church not condemning the Soviet Union’s atheistic communism.

Since eliminating religion was part of its ideology, the Soviets spent decades executing and torturing clergy, sending churchgoers to labor camps and closing churches. To make matters worse, the policy was not consistent. For example, Premier Joseph Stalin began promoting the Russian Orthodox Church in 1945 to boost Soviet morale following World War II, but then Nikita Khrushchev reversed it by beginning his own campaign against the church in 1959.

When the Second Vatican Council announced that it would meet, it was apparent that a condemnation of communism would be damning to Soviet “diplomacy” and its efforts to expand the ideology into other countries. So the Cardinal of the Curia, Eugène Tisserant, who represented Pope John XXIII, and Nikodin, who represented the Russian Orthodox Church, met and reached this secret but monumental agreement.

Two months later, more than 2,000 bishops, sisters, observers and laymen began the first of four sessions between 1962 and 1965. Vatican II produced 16 documents that laid the foundation for the modern Catholic Church. Sadly, communism was not part of the discussion.

February 11, 1946: Revised Standard Version of New Testament First Published

On this day in 1946, the International Council of Religious Education published the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the New Testament. This was the first stage of the creation of the development of the RSV Bible.

On this day in 1946, the International Council of Religious Education published the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the New Testament. This was the first stage of the creation of the development of the RSV Bible.

The RSV Bible was created with the intent of drafting a literally accurate but readable version of the Bible in today’s English.  The panel of theology scholars who developed the RSV used the 17th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek text for the creation of the New Testament and the Hebrew Masoretic text for the Old Testament. In addition, for parts of the Book of Isaiah, the scholars used the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were first discovered in 1946.

After thoroughly examining the RSV New Testament, the National Council of Churches (formed through a merger of the International Council and the Federal Council of Churches in 1950) authorized the publication of the full RSV Bible. The first copy was presented to President Harry Truman on September 30, 1952.

There was controversy regarding some of the differences in the text between the RSV and the King James Version. The most famous example comes in Isaiah 7:14, which reads in the King James Version:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

For the RSV, the scholars interpreted the Hebrew word “almah” to mean “young woman” instead of “virgin.” This is one of the many examples with the text that generated a flood of discordance that still exists today.

January 11, 630: Muhammad Conquers Mecca

On this day in 630, the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, led an army of 10,000 Muslims to conquer the city of Mecca (in present-day Saudia Arabia). Mecca would soon become the center of Muslim pilgrimage.

On this day in 630, the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, led an army of 10,000 Muslims to conquer the city of Mecca (in present-day Saudia Arabia). Mecca would soon become the center of Muslim pilgrimage.

At the time, the city was ruled by the Pagan Qurayish tribe who persecuted Muhammad and his Islamic followers once he began to preach his new religion. This resulted in a conflict that lasted several years but was a halted by a brief ceasefire from 628-630. However, the Qurayish then broke the peace and attacked and killed a group of Muslims, prompting Muhammad to gather up 10,000 men and finally conquer the city.

Victorious, Muhammad declared Mecca, which also happened to be his birthplace, the holiest site in Islam and the center of Muslim pilgrimage.