April 16, 1521: German reformer Martin Luther arrives at the Diet of Worms, convinced he would get the hearing he requested in 1517 to discuss the abuse of indulgences and his "95 Theses." He was astounded when he discovered it would not be a debate, but rather a judicial hearing to see if he wished to recant his words. In defending himself the next day, Luther said, "Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds of reasoning . . . then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen!" When negotiations over the next few days failed to reach any compromise, Luther was condemned (see issue 34: Luther's Early Years).
April 16, 1879: Bernadette Soubirous, who at age 14 became famous for her visions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes, dies in Nevers, France. In 1933 the Roman Catholic church declaired her a saint.
May 17, 1844: German biblical scholar Julius Wellhausen is born. His controversial theory about the Pentateuch—that it is a compilation of four literary sources (J, Jahwist; E, Elohist; D, Deuteronomist; and P, Priestly Editor), laid the foundation for most subsequent Old Testament criticism.
May 17, 1971: The musical Godspell, based on Matthew's gospel, opens at the Cherry Lane Theater in New York.