*



You are watching: When a coin in the coffer rings

*

As the story is usually told, one of the mainarch villians of the Protestant Reformation was Johann Tetzel, papal seller of indulgences.It was he who played a key role in provoking Luther in regard to the 95 Theses. I recently came across a few items from Roman Catholics defending the memory of Tetzel. Here"s a recent comment from the Catholic Answers forum:"This reminds me how there is no primary source for Luther"s accusation that Johann Tetzel said "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs." It is pure hearsay that everyone seems to accept as fact" .It is usually taken at absolute fact that Tetzel often used this jingle while preaching hisindulgence sermons.It may be surprising to find out that attributing this exact jingle to Tetzel isn"t as easy as one may think.Roman Catholics have a validgripe if theyquestion if Tetzel was the originatorof the jingle "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul out of purgatory springs" (Sobald der Pfennig im Kasten klingt, die Selle aus dem Fegfeuer springt). Sometimes Protestants think this phrase was unique to Tetzel, sort of like the way the phrase "your best life now" is attached to Joel Osteen. There is no evidence I know of that Tetzel came up with this jingle.The main reason why there"s a dispute over whether or not Tetzel actually used the jingle is because it does not appear in his extant written sermons. HeinrichBoehmer points out the news of Tetzel"s indulgence sermons being preached in the district of Magdeburg provoked Luther, but there are no precise records of what Tetzel preached in that area. That is, no one wrote his sermons down. His extant "model sermons which he wrote for his subordinates about the same time", while including the sentiment of the jingle, do not use the jingle.Whose phrase is it? Certainly there"s no question it was used during the early sixteenth-century. It waspopularenough that it made its way into Luther"s Ninety-five Theses: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(LW 31:27).I"ve never read anything suggesting Luther simply made the phrase up. No, the jingle certainly had a life of its own, and provoked the Augustinian monk to write against it. Luther appears to have come across it by those who reported back indulgence sermons they had heard. Luther writing to Cardinal Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz said:Under your most distinguished name, papal indulgences are offered all across the land for the construction of St. Peter. Now, I do not so much complain about the quacking of the preachers, which I haven’t heard; but I bewail the gross misunderstanding among the people which comes from these preachers and which they spread everywhere among common men. Evidently the poor souls believe that when they have bought indulgence letters they are then assured of their salvation. They are likewise convinced that souls escape from purgatory as soon as they have placed a contribution into the chest (LW 48:45, cf. LW 60:172).This phrase may actually be traced back to a much earlier date. Martin Brecht notes the University of Paris complained about this popular jingle as early as 1482 (Martin Luther, His Road to Reformation, 1483-1521, pp. 182-183), but doesn"t provide any helpful documentation. Heinrich Boehmer notes the idea behind thisphrase wasn"t anything new when Tetzel came on the scene:"Even the much-discussed sentences concerning the automatic effect of the indulgence for the dead- which were later compressed intohe famous rhyme, "So soon as coin in coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs"- were not in substance new, but merely an apt practical application of the commonly accepted doctrine, as it had been publically set forth, for example, only a few years before by Luther"s fellow-Augustinian, John Jenser of Paltz in his Coelifodina" (Road to Reformation (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1946), p. 180).But while Tetzel may not have coined the phrase, he certainly taught it"s sentiment. Even Roman Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar (who defends Tetzel) reluctantly admits it:The saying about the money in the coffer cannot, indeed, be traced to Tetzel"s own lips, yet in his sermons he advocated a certain opinion held by some Schoolmen (though in no sense a doctrine of the Church), viz. that an indulgence gained for the departed was at once and infallibly applied to this or that soul for whom it was destined.(Luther 1, p. 343).Grisar cites Cardinal Cajetan as a "great theologian" against Tetzel"s teaching on this (also claiming Tetzel "was no great theologian"). Grisar though admits "the more highly placed Indulgence Commissaries did not scruple, in their official proclamations, to set forth as certain this doubtful scholastic opinion" (p. 344). Roman Catholic historians defending Tetzelplace the blame for Tetzel"s doctrinal error on "vague scholastic opinion." this sort of apologetic though downplays the fact that during this time period there was noofficialdoctrine or dogma as to the effect of the indulgence upon those in Purgatory.While Grisar denies Tetzel used the jingle, There may be some proof that he may indeed have uttered something like it. Schaff notes,Mathesius and Johann Hess, two contemporary witnesses, ascribe this sentence (with slight verbal modifications) to Tetzel himself. Luther mentions it in Theses 27 and 28, and in his book Wider Huns Wurst (Erl. ed. XXVL 51).There"s also the testimony of a contemporary, Prierias:"...an indulgence for the dead could be had, for "as soon as the money clinked in the bottom ofthe chest, the souls of the deceased friends forthwith went into Heaven," was, according to Prierias, actually preached as "mera et catholica Veritas"" .According to Brecht, Tetzel "was in complete command of the indulgence propaganda, as his preserved indulgence sermons indicate. "Here is Rome," he proclaimed very directly, and by no means incorrectly. People should not let the salvation offered by the indulgence escape them.

See more: How Do You Spell The Word 70 In Word Form, Write 70 In Words

"Have mercy upon your dead parents." "Whoever has an indulgence has salvation; anything else is of no avail." " (Brecht, pp. 182-183).Addendum 1:
The Commission of Indulgences can be found here.