In a twenty year period, roughly a generation, three major events happened that set to course of modern Europe. First was the removal of the Moors from Spain in 1491-1492. Second was the return of Christopher Columbus and the opening of the New World. Third was the Protestant Reformation. Not since the fall of the Western Roman Empire 500 years previous had there been such a base change in the European landscape.
Luther's theses were intended to begin a debate among academics, not a popular revolution, but there are indications that he saw his action as prophetic and significant. Around this time, he began using the name "Luther" and sometimes "Eleutherius", Greek for "free", rather than "Luder". This seems to refer to his being free from the scholastic theology which he had argued against earlier that year. Luther later claimed not to have desired the Theses to be widely distributed. Elizabeth Eisenstein has argued that his claimed surprise at their success may have involved self-deception and Hans Hillerbrand has claimed that Luther was certainly intending to instigate a large controversy. At times, Luther seems to use the academic nature of the Theses as a cover to allow him to attack established beliefs while being able to deny that he intended to attack church teaching. Since writing a set of theses for a disputation does not necessarily commit the author to those views, Luther could deny that he held the most incendiary ideas in the Theses.