It was around two o’clock in the afternoon on the eve of the Day of All Saints, October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, hammer in hand, approached the main north door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg. There he nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses protesting the abuse of indulgences in the teaching and practice of the Church of his day. In remembrance of this event, millions of Christians still celebrate this day as the symbolic beginning of the Protestant Reformation. October 31 is not a day for the ghosts and ghouls of Halloween but a time to remember the Reformation, especially what Luther wrote in thesis sixty-two: “The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.”
Until that time, Martin Luther was an obscure Augustinian monk in the backwater university town of Wittenberg. The door of the Castle Church served as the official university bulletin board and was regularly used for exactly the kind of announcement Luther made when he called for a public disputation on the practice of indulgences by the Church.
This is what Gutenberg's original type looked like, as would have been used by Martin Luther.
Luther was actually the first person to make use of “mass media.” Copies of Luther’s theses, which is a fancy older word for argument, were soon distributed by scholars all over Europe. In that day, printing using a press and movable type was a new innovative technique for getting words onto paper. It was begun in Mainz, Germany by Johannes Gutenberg, barely 65 years earlier (around 1455). Previously, “books” and all other documents such as deeds and contracts were handwritten by scribes. There were no such things as newspapers or magazines. In 1517, the only way to transmit news was by a letter or word of mouth. A month later, some of Luther’s friends gave his original 95 “arguments” to one of the new local printers in order to have some copies. The original was written in church Latin, but this version had been translated into German. The printer, seeing the value of Luther’s ideas made as many as 50 additional copies to distribute throughout Germany. Within just a few weeks, the unknown Augustinian monk in the small university town had become a household name and was the subject of chatter from Lisbon to Lithuania. Martin Luther was quick to under-stand the potential of the printing press. What he said about turning the Church back to Godly roots and how Christians should behave and comport themselves spread all over Western Europe by means of Luther’s tracts and pamphlets. Although Martin Luther didn’t realize it at the time when he posted the written form of his objections to Church behavior on the Cathedral door that was actually the beginning of mass communications as a means of spreading your message; and this case it was the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Luther, himself used the new printing technology extensively over the rest of his ministry/mission—until his death in 1546. In addition to his numerous tracts and pamphlets, he translated the Bible from Latin to German, certainly no small task. His sermons and hymns were in such demand that he consented to their printing during his lifetime. It has been recorded that between 1500 and 1530, Luther's works represented one fifth of all materials printed in Germany (!).