Martin Luther

German priest, theologian and author (1483–1546)

Not to be confused with Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther
Martin Luther, painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder
Date of birth(1483-11-10)November 10, 1483
Place of birthEisleben
Date of deathFebruary 18, 1546(1546-02-18) (aged 62)
Place of deathEisleben
Known forStarting the Protestant Reformation
Written worksThe 95 Theses

Martin Luther (10 November 1483 in Eisleben - 18 February 1546 in Eisleben) was a German monk and theologian of Christianity who is credited with starting the Protestant Reformation. That was the Protestant churches leaving the Roman Catholic Church.

Luther started the Lutheran Church, the first Protestant church.

Early life


Luther studied philosophy at the University of Erfurt. In 1505, he entered into the Augustinian Order as a monk. Luther studied theology and ancient languages in Erfurt. In 1512 he became a doctor of theology in Wittenberg and began his lectures on the Psalms and Letters of Saint Paul.

Break with Catholicism


In October 1517, Luther wrote his 95 Theses. Many people think that he put them on the door of a church in Wittenberg, but no one said so at the time and so that may be a myth. Instead, he published a copy and presented it to church officials at Worms Cathedral.[1] Luther called it The Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. It questioned the teaching of the Western Church, its ideas about penance, the authority of the Pope, and the usefulness of "indulgences." The Catholic Church was selling indulgences to get out of purgatory and to go right to heaven after death.[2] Indulgences were sold for money for the dead so that they could go to heaven faster.[2] Poor people could not be able to go to heaven as quickly, but the priests in the church could be rich from selling them. Luther thought that all of that was wrong and against the Bible.

After studying the Letters of Paul, especially the Letter to Romans, Luther came up with an idea called "sola fide". That means that only by faith, people can get salvation by God. That would mean that many of the Church's customs were useless and so should be cast away.

Luther at first believed that he could reform (improve) the Church from the inside and he wanted to stay part of it, but the papacy considered his Theses to be as heresy and excommunicated him on June 15, 1520 with a paper saying that he did not have its permission to go to heaven. In October, Luther burned the paper in public and showed he would not obey it unless it accepted his words.

Emperor Charles V opened the imperial Diet of Worms on 22 January 1521 to hear the case. For Luther, it was the last chance to say that he had been wrong. However, he did not change his mind and so the Diet declared Luther an outlaw.[3]

Starts new church


With the help of a friend, Luther hid in Wartburg Castle, near Erfurt. There, he translated the Bible. First, he wrote the New Testament in German, instead of the original Greek. Later, he translated the Old Testament into German from Hebrew. Until then, the Mass and the Bible were usually in Latin, which very few people understood. That made most people going to Mass not understand what the priest was saying. Luther translated the Bible so that more people could read and understand it. They now no longer depended on the priest to tell them what was in the Bible, but they could read it themselves.

Luther started his own church, the Lutheran Church, with his friend Philip Melanchthon.

Luther strongly believed that his cause was righteous. He wrote harsh criticism against his enemies, especially Catholics and Jews, who he believed to be false prophets from the Devil. He rejected Jewish beliefs about the Old Testament and accused Jewish leaders of lying. He advised rulers to deal violently with the Jews in their realms. Those arguments make him controversial.[4] Luther died in 1546.

Later Life


From the Bible, Luther formed firm ideas about families. Luther knew that what a child learned at home would greatly influence his life. He said in Table Talks, "Sermons very little edify children, who learn little thereby; it is more needful they be taught and well instructed in schools, and at home, and that they be learned and examined what they have learned; this way profits much; 'tis very wearisome, but very necessary."[5] Luther also preached against the Catholic Church's refusal to let priests marry. After hearing his preaching, many nuns wrote to him to ask for help in escaping their convents. Luther helped nine nuns escape from a convent. On April 4, 1524, Luther had a friend help the nuns sneak over the wall and hid them in barrels on a wagon until they were out of the city.[6] One of the nuns was Katherine von Bora.[5]

After finding husbands for the nuns whose families would not accept them, Luther had to find a husband for Katherine von Bora. Katherine, however, rejected a match Luther arranged for her, and said that she would accept only Luther or another pastor, Amsdorf, as her husband.

At first, Luther did not really like Katherine and thought that "she was proud and haughty."[5] His feelings changed, however, and they married on June 13, 1525.[5] Luther later said, "And thank God it hath turned out well; for I have a pious (holy, God-loving) and faithful wife, to whom one may safely commit (give) his heart."[5]

They had six children. On June 6, 1526, Luther wrote, "I am a happy husband... for from the most precious woman, my best of wives, I have received, by the blessing of God, a little son, John Luther, and, by God's wonderful grace, I have become a father." [5]

The firstborn was John Luther. The next was a daughter, Elizabeth, but she died when she was just eight months old, and Luther wrote in a letter, "My little daughter Elizabeth is taken from me, and hath left me with a bleeding and almost womanly heart, so sad am I on her account. I never thought the heart of a father was so tender towards his children. Pray the Lord for me."[5] A third child, Magdalene, also died young. Then came Martin, then Paul, and finally Margaret.[5] It was for his children that Luther wrote the Small Catechism,[5] a book showing the basics of Lutheran beliefs.



Since the time of the silent movies, there are 28 movies about Luther that have been made. The newest one, Luther, was released in 2003.



  1. Kevin Wright, The Christian Travel Planner (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008), p. 155
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jim Jones (2012). "Background, Against the Sale of Indulgences by Martin Luther". West Chester University. Archived from the original on 19 December 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  3. Bratcher, Dennis. "The Edict of Worms (1521)," in The Voice: Biblical and Theological Resources for Growing Christians. Retrieved July 13, 2007.
  4. Edwards, Mark U. Jr. (2003). "Luther's polemical controversies". In Donald K. McKim (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780511998744.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 Koontz, Terri; Mark Sidwell, S.M.Bunker (June 2005). World Studies for Christian Schools. Greenville, South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press. ISBN 1-59166-431-4.
  6. "Martin Luther - Reformation". Archived from the original on May 28, 2010. Retrieved May 25, 2010.

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