Martin Luther, His Life and Effect on The Reformation

Posted on November 17, 2011 by


During my Age of Exploration research project I studied Martin Luther, his impact on the Reformation and also just his life in general. Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483 to Hans Luder and Margareth Lindemann in Eisleben, Germany, which was part of the Holy Roman Empire. Martin Luther was a German priest, a professor of theology, and an iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. When he was younger, he dedicated himself to a monastic life, fasted, prayed a lot, and always confessed to keep himself clean from sin. Later on in his life, one of his superiors by the name of Johann von Staupitz encouraged him to get an academic career, so he became an ordained priest and taught theology at the University of Wittenburg.A little while after becoming an ordained priest, Luther led the protest against the doctrines and rituals of the Catholic Church in a movement called the Reformation. He started it because he did not agree with the fact that sins could be forgiven by paying money. He believed that the right thing to do was to confess and pray for forgiveness from God. He believed that salvation could be achieved by God’s grace and only God’s grace. He did everything in his power to protest as hard as he could but avoid getting executed at the same time (even though he was later exiled from the country). He also did many things after the Reformation, such as the translation of the bible from Latin to German and the writing of hymns. So, even though the Reformation was the main part of his life, he still did many miraculous things for Christianity that still exist to this day.

Prior to the Protestant Reformation, Roman theology stated that faith alone cannot justify a man as a good Christian. The Roman Catholics also believed that justification depended on faith by charity and good works. However, benefits of good works on earth can be obtained by donating money to the church, rather than actually doing something charitable and that is what Martin Luther protested. Martin Luther had no real intention of confronting the church because he did not want to get killed but he saw his dispute with their values as a scholarly objection to the church’s practice. He meant his tone whenever he said anything or wrote anything as more of a ‘searching’ tone more that a ‘doctrinaire’ tone. This was when Luther wrote to the Bishop Albert of Mainz on October 31, 1517 which was also All Saints Day. When he wrote his letter, it originally was just a letter but it later became his signature mark on the reformation which was titled The Ninety-Five Theses.
The Ninety-Five Theses centered on practices from Catholic churches about baptism and absolution. It rejected the validity of remissions of temporal punishment due for sins which have been forgiven which were at that time called ‘indulgences’. Martin Luther also did not believe in the fact that ‘indulgences’ should be sold because he did not agree with the part that one person could pay off his or her sins. He felt that the people who commit sins should have to confess and have God judge their confessions. After Martin Luther wrote this, he placed it in the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany because that was where he taught. It held one of Europe’s largest collections of holy relics at the time so it was a good spot for him to place it. After the Pope read The Ninety-Five Theses, Pope Leo X wrote a rebuttal titled Exsurge Domine also translated as Arise, O Lord. The pope basically highlighted where Martin Luther disagreed with the Catholic Church. What was special about this letter from Martin Luther was the fact that it became a declaration of independence from Papal authority in Northern Europe. It started the decline of feudalism and started the up-rise of commercialism. Luther was later made an outlaw and the Emperor made it known in the Holy Roman Empire that he wanted Luther to be known and punished as a heretic and also made it a crime to feed or shelter Martin Luther. He also made it legal for anyone to kill Martin Luther freely if they pleased to do so.
Later on in Martin Luther’s life after the Protestant Reformation, something happened to him that he never would imagine. He got married. He was married to Katharina Von Bora in June of 1525. She was one of the 12 nuns he helped escape from the Nimbschen Cistercian Covent. He wrote about how God plunged him into marriage after he got married. Many people were appalled at this marriage and called Martin Luther reckless for doing so. He was one of the first to be clerically married even though some were married before him, but because his ego was so big, it really set the tone for other clerical marriages.
Martin Luther also was famous for organizing a new church in 1526. He wanted to start both a confessional church and a territorial church. Both these churches laid out a new form of worship service. It also avoided extreme change from other churches because Martin Luther did not want to confuse all the people and make a mess. Here and there, there were bumps in the road because people published pieces that had major mistakes but it did not affect his churches a lot. He wrote a German mass service so the simpler people like peasants could understand them and for more of the public to become Christian. Mass because a celebration after a while where everyone got to drink the wine and eat the bread during communions.
Another one of Martin Luther’s amazing achievements was when he published a German translation of the New Testament in 1522 and when he published a translation of the Old Testament in 1534. Luther was the first person to do this because before, everyone had to read the Bible in Latin, and because a lot of people could not read it, Christianity did not grow up to its potential until Martin Luther came along.
Overall Martin Luther was an extremely influential figure and he changed Christianity as a whole.
From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. V: 9th to 16th Centuries, pp.   119-127.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.
Hallsall, Paul. “Martin Luther: Against Catholicism, 1535.” Web. 18 Nov 2011. <;.
Martin Luther: Address to the Christian nobility of the German nation respecting the reformation of the Christian estate,  tr. by C. A. Buchheim.
from The prince / by Niccolo Machiavelli. Utopia / by Sir Thomas More. Ninety-five theses; Address to the German nobility ; Concerning Christian liberty / by Martin Luther ; with introductions and notes. (New York : P.F. Collier, c1910) Harvard classics 36, ed. by C.W.Eliot
Hallsall, Paul. “Martin Luther (1483-1546): Address To The Nobility of the German Nation, 1520.” Web. 18 Nov 2011. <;.
“The Ninety-Five Theses.” Web. 18 Nov 2011. <;.
Palmer, R. R., A History of the Modern World (New York: McGraw Hill, 2002)
Erwin Iserloh, The Theses Were Not Posted: Luther Between Reform and Reformation, trans. by Jared Wicks, S.J. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968)
“Martin Luther.” Web. 18 Nov 2011. <;.
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