Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Born: Nov 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Saxony, Holy Roman Empire
Died: Feb 18, 1546 (at age 62) in Eisleben, Saxony, Holy Roman Empire
Nationality: German
Famous For: Leading the Protestant Reformation

Martin Luther became one of the world’s most influential figures in the history of Christianity when he started the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Luther called into question some basic tenets of Roman Catholicism, and a section of his followers soon abandoned the Roman Catholic Church to start the Protestant tradition.

Luther’s Early Years

Martin Luther was born in 1483 in Eisleben. He was the second child born to Hans and Magarete Luther. Two of his brothers passed away during an outbreak of the plague, but one other brother lived to adulthood. Luther’s parents were of peasant lineage, but his father was a successful miner and smelter. In 1484, his family moved to Mansfeld where his father held ore deposits.

Educational Years

Hans Luther knew that mining and ore smelting was a hard business, and he wanted good life for his son, Martin. He decided to do whatever he could to see his son become a lawyer. At the age of seven, Luther started school in Mansfeld. At the age of 14, he went to north Magdeburg, where he continued his education.

In 1498, he came back to Eisleben and enrolled in school, studying rhetoric, grammar, and logic. Three years later, Luther entered the University of Erfurt where he obtained a Master of Arts degree in logic, grammar, rhetoric and metaphysics.

Luther’s Life Changes

But in July 1505, Martin Luther had a life-changing experience. He was caught in a horrific thunderstorm that nearly ended his life. Afraid that he would die, he cried out, “Rescue me, St. Anna, and I will become a monk.” The storm subsided and Luther was rescued. His decision to become a monk was hard and frustrated his father who wanted his son to become a lawyer, but Luther felt he must honor the promise.

Leadership as a Reformer

Luther believed that the Bible ought to be the foundation of Christian life and available to everyone. He was not the first or the last churchman to come to this conclusion, but arrived at the time of nationalism. With his thesis against abuses of indulgences, Luther inadvertently sparked religious as well as political reforms in Germany and established a Lutheran branch of Protestantism.

He took up the arsenals of pen and platform against Catholicism corruptions. He spoke against papal abuses, clerical celibacy, denying non-clergy access to the scriptures and the communion wine. Astonishingly, Luther retained a number of conventional elements of the church that most of his predecessors rejected. He stressed humanity’s sinfulness, the grace of God, as well as the adequacy of faith in Jesus for salvation.

Luther’s Legacy

History remembers him as the Father of Reformation. He translated the Bible into German and also formulated catechisms in vernacular. Luther is less admired due to his anti-Jewish sentiments, which were utilized later as anti-Semitic propaganda by the Nazis.