10/04/2017 in: Educationalon
November 10, 1483
February 18, 1546
Eisleben, Germany, 130 miles southwest of Berlin
Augustinian monk, priest, professor of philosophy at the University of Wittenberg
Katharina von Bora, wife, and six children Johannes, Elisabeth, Magdalena, Martin, Paul, and Margaret
Luther was born to Hans and Margarethe Luther in 1483 and was named for St. Martin of Tours, on whose feast day he was baptized. Luther’s father was determined that Martin should become a lawyer and sent him to school, including university at Erfurt. Luther studied law and philosophy, but completely changed course when he was caught outside in a thunderstorm in 1505. Scared of death and divine judgment, he cried out to Saint Anne in terror and promised that he would become a monk. True to his word, Luther joined St. Augustine’s Monastery in Erfurt in July 1505.
As a monk, Luther was plagued by spiritual despair and guilt over the depth of his sin. Over the next several years, Luther became a priest and a professor of theology and philosophy at the University of Wittenberg and preached in churches throughout the city. As Luther studied Scripture, he noticed incongruence between the Bible and certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church. The trigger for Luther’s famous Ninety-Five Theses was when a man named Johann Tetzel began selling indulgences in Wittenberg that would lessen a believer’s time in purgatory. Luther wrote to his bishop to protest the sale of indulgences and later furthered his protest by posting the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. This is considered the fated beginning of the Reformation.
The Ninety-Five Theses were written in Latin, but were soon translated into other languages and copies spread throughout Europe. Luther wasn’t alone in his protests against the excesses and skewed doctrine of the Catholic Church. Luther’s study of Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians in the years after 1517 further solidified his doctrine of justification: good works cannot earn us the salvation that we receive by faith alone in Jesus Christ. After several years and many battles with the Pope and his delegates, Luther refused to recant and was excommunicated on January 3, 1521.
Luther turned his attention to organizing a new church in accordance with new values, which has been handed down to us generally as Protestantism and specifically as Lutheranism. Besides being known as the Father of the Reformation, Luther also wrote two catechisms, translated the Bible into the vernacular instead of using the Latin Bible, and wrote hymns for congregational singing. He died in 1546 at the age of 62.
While writing this biography, we used a couple resources that are available in our store! Our favorite is Reformation Heroes—a short book filled with biographies of the major players of the Reformation. Additionally, we used this short biography on Luther by John Piper, which you can get for free!