During the 16th century, Martin Luther’s teachings challenged the authority of the pope. His teachings caused division among numerous religious groups and helped to inspire the Protestant Reformation.
Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Germany. Martin attended school in Mansfeld. At the age of seventeen, Martin attended the University of Erfurt, earning his Master’s degree in liberal arts. In 1505, Martin dropped his studies and entered the Mendicant order of Augustinian monks. For two years, Luther followed the traditions of being a monk; daily prayer, fasting, and manual labor. Luther continually worked hard at confessing his sins, but felt that the harder he tried to please God, the more he was aware of more of his own sins. In 1507, Luther was ordained as a priest and by 1508 he began teaching theology at the University of Wittenburg. During 1509, Luther received two Bachelor’s degrees and in 1512 he received his doctorate in Theology.
Luther did most of his teaching at the University of Wittenburg. For 10 years he lectured on Psalms, Romans, Galatians, and the book of Hebrews. During this study time, Luther became convinced that the Roman Catholic Church had fallen away from the teachings of penance and righteousness. To Luther, justification (God’s act to declare righteousness to a sinner) was his most important topic and was entirely the work of God.
In 1517, Luther nailed his, 95 Theses, to the door of the Castle Church in Castleburg. Luther’s 95 Theses was written to his superiors to put a stop to the sale of indulgences. Within 2 months after Luther wrote this, it had spread throughout all of Europe. Dominican Monk, Johann Tetzel accused Luther of heresy and threatened to burn him at the stake.
In 1520 the pope warned Luther that he was facing excommunication unless he would withdrawal 41 sentences from his writings in 60 days. Luther burned the book of church law that December and in 1521, the Pope excommunicated Luther from the church.
Luther went into hiding for fear of his life and during this time he devoted himself to the translation of the Greek New Testament into German.
Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora on June 27, 1525. Together they had six children. Katherina was a former nun, whom Luther helped escape with 12 others from the Nimbschen Cistercian convent. Luther was devoted to his wife and family, they made a decent living farming the land and taking in boarders. Katherina died on December 20, 1552.
Luther suffered from various physical ailments such as; arthritis, digestive upset, and heart problems. However, despite his weakening condition, Luther continued to teach at the University of Wittenberg. Luther was known for his attacks on the Pope. He wrote, Against the Papacy at Rome Founded by the Devil (1545). This is said to be one of Luther’s most coarse and vehement works he ever produced. As his health weakened, he began to be harsher in his words and actions. His last sermon was delivered at Eiselben, three days before his death. This sermon was fiery against the Jews and was in hope that the Jews would be driven out of Germany or convert.
After prolonged chest pains, Luther died on February 18, 1546. It has been said his last words were:
“Into your hands, I command my spirit. You have saved me, Father, you faithful God.”
Luther was laid to rest in Wittenberg in the Chancel of the Castle Church. He is buried beneath the floor of the church with a stone marking his tombstone that reads:
“Here lies the body of Martin Luther, Doctor of Sacred Theology, who died in his hometown Eisleben in the year of our Lord 1546 on the 18th day of February after having lived for 63 years, 2 months and 10 days.”