My VIP for this week is Martin Luther. I chose to do a little research on him because I am studying the Reformation this week in my humanities class. Since he started the Reformation, it is only fitting that I should study him.
Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Saxony – then part of the Holy Roman Empire and now part of Germany. His parents were Hans Luder (or Ludher, later Luther) and Margarethe, his wife. He was baptized the next morning. His mother was a “hard-working woman” and his father was a miner until he rose through the ranks to be a leaseholder on copper mines and smelters. Martin was the oldest son of several brothers and sisters.
Hans Luther wanted Martin to become a lawyer and sent him to three Latin schools. Martin would later describe his education there as “purgatory and hell.” In 1501 Martin was 17 years old, and he entered the University of Erfurt. Four years later in 1505, Martin received his master’s degree. Martin, as an obedient son, entered law school even though he was drawn to theology and philosophy. He soon left law school. He decided that he was not that interested in philosophy because reason alone could not bring a person to God. Divine revelation and scripture study were increasingly important to him.
Luther was returning to the university on July 2, 1505, on horseback when he was caught in a thunderstorm. A lightning bolt struck near him and frightened him so badly that he thought that he was going to die. He cried out to Saint Anna to save him and promised that he would become a monk. He later left law school, sold his books, and entered St. Augustine’s Monastery in Erfurt on July 17, 1505 – less than two weeks later.
Nearly two years later in 1507 Luther was ordained to the priesthood in Erfurt Cathedral. He started to teach theology 1508. He received a bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies in March 1508 and another bachelor’s degree in 1509. He received a Doctor of Theology degree in October 1512. Two days later he became a member of the senate of the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg. In 1515 he became provincial vicar of Saxony and Thuringia.
About this same time the Catholic Church began selling priesthood offices or indulgences. Luther wrote a letter of protest of the indulgences to his bishop. “He enclosed in his letter a copy of his `Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,’ which came to be known as the Ninety-five Theses.” He did not intend to confront the church but was searching for answers to questions such as the following in Thesis 86: “Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?”
Luther continued his studies of the scriptures, and by 1520 he was convinced that the Church was corrupt. He wanted to reform the Church from within but could not. The Pope warned Luther to withdraw a large percentage of his 95 statements, and Luther would not. Luther was excommunicated on January 3, 1521, by Pope Leo X, who issued an order that no one was to help him and could even kill him.
Luther escaped and headed to his home town of Wittenberg. Frederick III had “masked horsemen impersonating highway robbers” intercept Luther in the forest near Wittenberg. They took him to the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach was he was safe. While there he translated the Bible from Greek into German, married and had several children, and introduced congregation singing to the church.
Martin Luther suffered from a multitude of health problems and died at 2:45 a.m. on February 18, 1546, at age 62, in Eisleben, the city of his birth. He was buried in the Castle Church in Wittenberg, beneath the pulpit.