Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: Renaissance)
Article abstract: Out of his own personal struggle and his conflict with the Church, Luther developed a theology and a religious movement that rejuvenated the Christian faith and had a profound impact on the social, political, and religious thought of Western society.
Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, at Eisleben, Saxony, to Hans and Margarethe Luther. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Mansfield, where his father worked in the copper mines, prospering sufficiently to become one of the town’s councillors in 1491. Possessing a strong, forceful character, Hans Luther had a great impact on his son. He could be exceptionally stern; years later, Luther stated that his father gave him a sense of inferiority that took years to overcome. Yet, recognizing that his son had a promising intellect, his father sent Luther to Latin school at Mansfield. At age twelve, he spent a year at a school in Magdeburg operated by the Brethren for the Common Life and in 1498 attended a school at Eisenach. In 1501, Luther entered the University of Erfurt, one of the best universities in Germany, obtaining his bachelor’s degree in 1502 and his master’s degree in 1505.
His father wanted Luther to pursue a legal career. Luther, however, was suffering from depression, a lifelong chronic condition. On July 2, 1505, as he was returning to Erfurt from Mansfield, a lightning bolt knocked him to the ground....
(The entire section is 2314 words.)
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IntroductionIn 1517, Martin Luther intended to spark only a reform within the Catholic Church when he hammered his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. However, the result was a revolution that permanently split Christianity into independent denominations. A monk and a scholar, Luther had become disenchanted with a Catholic Church that used its power to promote ignorance in the masses and raise wealth for itself. In his 95 Theses, Luther detailed these abuses and refused to be silenced. Violent controversy followed as he continued to attack the corruption of the Papacy and supported the translation of the Bible into the vernacular so that people could read it for themselves. In living his conscience, Luther changed the world.
- Luther was a promising law student until 1505, when he underwent a religious conversion after being struck by lightning, crying at the time, “Help, St. Anne, I will become a monk.” He later joined the Order of the Hermits of Saint Augustine.
- The Bible verse that first inspired Luther to question the church was Romans 1:17: “For the justice of God is revealed from faith to faith in that it is written, for the just shall live by faith.”
- Many of Luther’s complaints about the church revolved around the sale of indulgences. Indulgences promised the purchaser the remission of sins and reduced his or her time in purgatory (a temporary hell where believers were to pay for their sins).
- Luther translated the Bible into German, publishing The New Testament by himself in 1522.
- On June 13, 1525, Luther married Katharine Von Bora, a former nun. She was one of a group of nuns that he had helped escape from a Cistercian convent by smuggling them out in herring barrels. They had six children together.
All Resources by Category
Dictionary of World Biography: Martin Luther
Martin Luther Biography / Profile
Renaissance and Reformation Biographies: Martin Luther
What Was The Reformation? - History Fact Finder
Why Were Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses So Important? - History Fact Finder
Luther Posts His Ninety-five Theses: Salem on History
Martin Luther Appears Before the Diet of Worms: Salem on History