Roberts Liardon tells us that the sixty days passed, and Luther did not recant. Instead, he burned the bull along with the entire cannon law, which was the law governing the whole church from the beginning of Roman Catholic history! Some historians say that this bonfire, more than the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses, was the beginning of the Reformation.
The burning was scheduled for the morning of December 10. Luther even posted an invitation. The notice read, “All adherents of the truth of the Gospel to be present at nine o’clock at the Chapel of the Holy Cross outside the walls, where the impious books of papal law and scholastic theology will be burned according to ancient and apostolic usage.”
People came from throughout the university, professors and students. First the volumes of the canon law were thrown into the flames. This was no small affair as the canon law was to the western world what the Talmud is to Judaism or the Koran to Islam. It was the law book of Latin Christendom, invested with religious authority. According to beliefs of the day, the canon law was the same as the commandments of God.
Roberts Liardon tells us that after the canon law was consumed, Luther stepped up to the flames and threw in the bull with these words: “Because thou hast brought down the truth of God, may the Lord today bring thee down unto this fire!” Luther further commented, “Since they have burned my books, I burn theirs.” 39 With that, he went back to town with the other professors. The students stayed on though, full of life and energy, charged by the evening’s events. Though at that time they lacked the revelation to realize what really took place there, Luther would bring them a bold definition of what the ten-minute ceremony meant and what stand they would have to make now that they knew the truth.