Martin Luther

What was the life and work of Martin Luther?

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2011-06-20 09:25:20

In a nutshell:

Martin Luther was born in Eisleben, Germany on 10 November 1483,

the son of a copper-mine owner. When he was 17, he entered the

University of Erfurt and gained a Bachelor's degree in 1502 and a

Master's degree in 1505. Because his father wished him to enter the

law profession, Luther then enrolled in the law school of the

University of Erfurt.

His life changed direction when he was almost hit by a lightning

bolt one day in 1505. This event caused led Luther to abandon his

law studies and enter a monastery, dedicated to serving God.

Luther tried to adapt to monastic life but he struggled with the

Roman Catholic church's demands that favour with God could only be

earned through good works. Studying the Scriptures deeply, he came

to the realisation that salvation is a gift of God's grace: it is

received by faith alone. He realised that trust in Christ's death

on the cross is the only means to that salvation.

It was this realisation that led him to challenge the teachings

of the Roman Catholic church, in particular, the nature of penance,

the authority of the pope and the usefulness of indulgences. When

Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle

Church in Wittenberg, Germany on 31 October 1517, thus began the

Reformation of the church. The theses contained numerous challenges

and attacks on papal abuses and the sale of indulgences by church


The posting of the 95 Theses caused considerable controversy.

Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic church several

years later for his attacks on the wealth and corruption of the

papacy. In particular, his belief that salvation would be granted

on the basis of faith alone rather than by works was regarded as

heresy. In 1521, the same year in which he was excommunicated,

Luther was summoned to appear before the Diet of Worms. The Diet

was a general assembly of the estates of the Holy Roman Empire that

occurred in Worms, Germany, from January to May in 1521. When an

edict of the Diet called for Luther to be seized, his friends took

him for safekeeping to Wartburg, the castle of Elector Frederick

III of Saxony.

Here, Luther continued to write numerous theological works,

which considerably influenced the direction of the Protestant

Reformation movement. He also used this time to translate the Bible

from the Latin of the time into German so that the common, everyday

people could read it. It concerned Luther that, for centuries, the

Bible had been out of reach of the common man.

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