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Father of Protestantism Martin Luther Biography
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Martin Luther is most popularly known as the Father of Protestantism. A German monk, theologian, university professor, priest and church reformer, Luther was the one who began the Protestant Reformation and changed the course of Western civilization.
Martin Luther taught that all men are equal and salvation can only be received when a person attains true faith in Jesus. Martin Luther challenged papacy and declared that Holy Bible is the only perfect source of Christian doctrine. It was his theological views that continued to live and sustain his legacy, despite his death.
Martin Luther Childhood & Early Life
Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483 in a peasant family, living near Mansfeld. His father Hans, though a peasant himself, had big dreams and aspirations for his son, whom Martin Luther wanted to join the civil service and bring honor to the family.
As a result, young Luther was given proper education. Martin Luther studied in schools in Mansfeld, Magdeburg and Eisenach and entered the University of Erfurt, in 1501. Being a bright student, Luther received his Bachelor’s degree after just one year, in 1502, and his Master’s degree three years later, in 1505.
To fulfill his father’s wishes, Luther enrolled himself in the law school, at University of Erfurt. However, fate had something else in store for him. One day, in the summer of 1505, while returning home from university, he got trapped in a thunderstorm. Luther urged for help and cried out to St. Anne that he would become a monk, if saved from the storm. After being saved from the storm, young Luther kept his words and dropped out of law school, to enter a monastery.
Luther’s struggle to find peace with God
Though young Luther dedicated himself completely to a monastic life, peace with God still eluded him. Martin Luther undertook good works to please God, like serving others, through praying for their souls. However, there was no respite for him. Despite doing fasts, indulging in flagellations, spending long hours in prayer, going on pilgrimages and taking constant confessions, he realized that the more he tried to come closer to God, the more aware he became of his sins.
To help Luther, his senior, Johann von Staupitz, ordered Luther to engage in an academic career. Ordained as a priest in 1507, Luther started teaching theology at the University of Wittenberg. Within a span of two years, Lutherearned two Bachelor’s degrees. While the first degree was in Biblical Studies, attained in 1508, the second was in the Sentences by Peter Lombard, completed in 1509. In 1512, Martin Luther was credited with a Doctorate of Theology, by the University of Wittenberg.
Martin Luther’s Evangelical Discovery
To meet the demands that came during his study of academic degrees and while delivering lectures, Martin Luther studied the Holy Scriptures in depth. Martin Luther spent most of his time in the study of the Holy Book and soon realized the exact meaning of penance and righteousness. The publication of his book ’95 Theses’ brought with it controversy, which made Luther more determined to study the Bible.
As a result of this study, he became convinced that the Church had gone wayward and lost several central truths. Martin Luther came to understand thatand teach that salvation is a gift of God’s grace. It can only be received if one has faith and trust in “God’s promise to forgive sins for the sake of Christ’s death on the cross.”
Luther’s 95 Theses
One of the most prominent works of Martin Luther, ’95 Theses of Contention’ ( a list of 95 issues of heretical theology and crimes of theRoman Catholic Church ) blamed the Roman Catholic Church of heresy upon heresy. Though many reformers had already given up their life for the same theory, Luther’s work is considered as a starting point for many people. His thesis was in response to the selling of indulgences by Johann Tetzel, a Dominican priest.
Martin Luther also challenged another aspect of the goings inthe Church i.e. the position of the clergy with regard to individual salvation. His book gained immense popularity and was soon translated from Latin into German. One of the first controversies to be aided by printing press, Luther’s ’95 Theses of Contention’ spread throughout Germany, within two weeks, and Europe, in two months.
Exile at Wartburg Castle
Martin Luther’s work raised great tumult in the country and as a result, his work was condemned as sacrilegious by Pope Leo X, in the bull Exsurge Domine, in 1520. Luther was given two choices – either to renounce them or reaffirm at the Diet of Worms on the April of 1521. When asked, in front of the assembly, if he stood by what was written in his works, Luther apologized for the harsh tone used in the writings.
However, at the same time, he said that he would not decline the teachings in them. As a result, Martin Luther was declared an outlaw by the Emperor in his Edict of Worms, on May.
It was, thence, that Luther’s powerful friends came to play. Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, arranged for Luther’s abduction. On his way fromthe Diet , Luther was seized by a group of masked horsemen and was carried to the castle of the Wartburg. During his stay at Wartburg, under the pseudonym Jörg, Luther continued to work and started translating the Bible into German. Once in a while, Martin Luther would go to the nearby towns and markets, to listen to people speak, so that his translation of the Bible would be in a language that the people understood.
Translation of Bible
With the translation of the Bible into German, Martin Luther became the first person to paraphrase the Holy book into a commonly – spoken dialect of the people. While the Luther’s German translation of New Testament was first published in 1522, the German translation of the Old Testament came to be published in 1534.
Anti – Judaism
Martin Luther taught his followers endurance and tolerance against Jews. Martin Luther was of the opinion that the reason why Jewish people had not converted to Christianity was that either they were discriminated against or they had never received the opportunity of reading the Gospel of Christ. However, his way of thinking was altered, when the Jews failed to adopt Christianity, despite his persuasion.
Now, Martin Luther went on to say that the Jews were evil and purposely adopted anti – Christian ways. Martin Luther also suggested that the Jews should be expelled from German politics. Passionate about Gospel, Luther saw Jews as a threat, as they failed to recognize Jesus as their Savior. To him, it was his duty to direct the German people to cling to Jesus. Luther was of the opinion that despite their beliefs and opinions, Jews should be subject to the same laws that were applied to all other Germans.
Martin Luther’s Personal Life
In 1525, Martin Luther tied the nuptial knot with Katharina von Bora, one of the 12 nuns whom he had helped flee from the Nimbschen Cistercian convent, in April 1523. Though a couple of priests and former monks had already married, it was Luther’s marriage that sealed the approval on clerical marriage. The couple had six children.
Martin Luther Death
Martin Luther’s health kept on deteriorating as he grew older. He suffered from a lot of diseases, like constipation, hemorrhoids, Meniere’s disease and cataract in one eye. To add to it all, in 1536, Martin Luther developed kidney and bladder stones, arthritis and even an ear infection ( that ruptured an ear drum ). Luther had felt the effects of angina by 1544.
In 1546, after the negotiations with Count Albrecht of Mansfeld over the Hans Luther’s copper mining trade was successfully concluded, Luther experienced chest pains. An apoplectic stroke deprived him of his speech. Martin Luther finally left for the holy abode on February 18, 1546. Martin Luther was buried in the Castle Church in Wittenberg, in Eisleben, the city of his birth.
Martin Luther Timeline
- 1483 – Born in Eisleben.
- 1505 – Became a Monk in Erfurt.
- 1512 – Credited with a Doctorate of Theology, in Wittenberg.
- 1517 – Nailed ’95 Theses’ to the door of the Castle Church.
- 1521 – Wasoutlawed and exiled to the Wartburg.
- 1522 – Returned to Wittenberg.
- 1525 – Married Katharina von Bora.
- 1534 – Published the complete Bible in German.
- 1546 – Died in Eisleben.
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