A SHORT BIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN LUTHER

By Tim Lambert

Martin Luther was one of the greatest Christians in the history of the Church. But Luther and his followers did not want to reform the Church. They wanted to reconstruct the original teachings of the Church. Martin Luther was born on 10 November 1483 in the German town of Eisleben. (In those days Germany was not a single country but was a federation of states called the Holy Roman Empire). His father was Hans Luther, a copper smelter. His mother was called Magretta. Hans Luther wanted his son to become a lawyer. Martin went to the University of Erfut in 1501 and he received an MA in 1505. The same year he was caught in a thunderstorm. Luther was shaken by the experience and he decided to become a monk, despite his father's wishes. Martin Luther became an Augustinian monk in Erfurt. He was ordained a priest in 1507 and in 1512 he became a doctor of theology.

Meanwhile in 1510 Luther went on a trip to Rome. He was shocked by the lack of piety he found there. But Luther also had a strong sense of his own sinfulness. He studied the Bible diligently and he came to disagree with some of the teachings of the Catholic Church. Luther believed that salvation is obtained by faith only. It cannot be earned by good works. Then in October 1517 Martin Luther wrote 95 theses. He objected to the sale of indulgences (documents written by the Church releasing individuals from punishment from their sins. Indulgences could be bought by the living on behalf of the dead who were believed to be in purgatory). Copies of the 95 theses by Luther were distributed across Germany and then across Europe.

In 1519 and 1520 Martin Luther wrote several works, The Address To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, On the Freedom of a Christian, and On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. He denied there were seven sacraments as taught by the Catholic Church. Luther said there were only two, baptism and the Lord's supper. Luther also believed in the priesthood of all believers. Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church in January 1521. But Luther was undaunted. Then in April 1521 he was called to appear before a secular assembly called the Diet of Worms. Martin Luther bravely refused to change his views saying: 'Unless I am convicted by scripture and reason - I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God'. In May 1521 the Diet declared Luther an outlaw and a heretic and banned his writings. Fortunately Martin Luther was protected by powerful friends and he hid in Wartburg Castle where he continued to write.

In 1522 Luther returned to Wittenberg where he continued to try and reconstruct the early church. In 1524 the German peasants rose in revolt. Luther condemned the rebellion and it was crushed in 1525. Also in 1525 Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora. The couple had 6 children. The same year, 1525 Luther published his great work, The Bondage of the Will. Afterwards Martin Luther continued to write. He translated the Bible into German (it was published in 1534). Luther also wrote hymns. Unfortunately in the later part of his life Martin Luther suffered from chronic illness. He died on 18 February 1546 aged 62 but his life's work changed Western Civilization forever.

The 95 theses by Martin Luther

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