Martin Luther, painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder
|Date of birth||November 10, 1483|
|Place of birth||Eisleben|
|Date of death||February 18, 1546 (aged 62)|
|Place of death||Eisleben|
|Known for||Starting the Protestant Reformation|
|Written works||The 95 Theses|
Martin Luther (10 November 1483 in Eisleben - 18 February 1546 in Eisleben) was a German monk and theologian of Christianity. He is credited with starting the Protestant Reformation. As this happened, what are now called Protestant churches split from the Roman Catholic church. He started the Lutheran Church, the first Protestant church.
Luther studied philosophy at the University of Erfurt. In 1505, he entered into the Augustinian Order as a monk. Luther studied theology and ancient languages in Erfurt. In 1512 he became a doctor of theology in Wittenberg and began his lectures on the Psalms and Letters of Paul.
In October 1517, Luther wrote his 95 Theses. Many people think that he put them on the door of a church in Wittenberg, but this is not sure. Instead, he published a copy. He presented these to church officials at Worms Cathedral. Luther called them The Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. It questioned the teaching of the western Church and its ideas about penance, the authority of the Pope and the usefulness of "indulgences". At that time, the Catholic Church was selling indulgences to get out of purgatory, and go right to Heaven after death. They were selling indulgences for money for the dead so they could go to Heaven faster. If that was true, it would mean that poor people would not be able to go to Heaven as quickly, but that the priests in the church would be rich from selling these things. Luther thought that this was all wrong, and was against the Bible.
After studying the Letters of Paul, especially the Letter to Romans, Luther came up with an idea called "sola fide". This means that faith is the only way that people can get salvation from God. According to sola fide, this would mean that many church customs were useless, and should be cast away.
First, Luther believed that he could reform (change) the Roman Church from the inside (while still being a part of the Church) with his Theses, but the Papacy took his attitude as heresy and excommunicated him on June 15 1520 with a paper saying he did not have their permission to go to Heaven. In October, Luther burned the paper in public, and showed he would not obey the Church unless they accepted his words.
Emperor Charles V Opened the imperial Diet of Worms on 22 January 1521 to hear the case. For Luther, it was the last chance to say he had been wrong. But he did not change his mind. The Diet declared Luther an outlaw.
With the help of a friend, Luther hid in Wartburg Castle, near Erfurt. In the castle, he translated the Bible. First, he wrote the New Testament in German instead of the original Greek. Later, he translated the Old Testament into German, too. Until then, the Mass and the Bible were in Latin. Very few people understood it. Most people went to Mass, and did not understand what the priest said because they did not speak Latin. Luther translated the Bible so that more people could read and understand it. That way they were no longer depending on the priest to tell them what was in the Bible, but could read it themselves.
From the Bible, Luther formed firm ideas about families. Luther knew that what a child learned at home would greatly influence his life. He said in Table Talks, "Sermons very little edify children, who learn little thereby; it is more needful they be taught and well instructed in schools, and at home, and that they be learned and examined what they have learned; this way profits much; 'tis very wearisome, but very necessary". Luther also preached against the Catholic Church's demands that ministers cannot marry. After hearing his preaching, many nuns wrote to him to ask for help in escaping their convents. Luther helped nine nuns escape from a convent. On April 4, 1524, Luther had a friend help the nuns sneak over the wall and then hid them in barrels on a wagon until they were out of the city. One of these nuns was Katherine von Bora.
After finding husbands for the nuns whose families would not accept them, Luther had to find a husband for Katherine von Bora. Katherine, however, not only rejected a match Luther arranged for her, but said she would accept only Luther or another pastor named Amsdorf as her husband.
At first Luther did not really like Katherine and thought "she was proud and haughty." His feelings changed, though, and they married on June 13, 1525. Luther later said, "And thank God it hath turned out well; for I have a pious (holy, God-loving) and faithful wife, to whom one may safely commit (give) his heart".
They had six children. On June 6, 1526, Luther wrote, "I am a happy husband...for from the most precious woman, my best of wives, I have received, by the blessing of God, a little son, John Luther, and, by God's wonderful grace, I have become a father." 
The firstborn was John Luther. The next was a daughter, Elizabeth; but Elizabeth died when she was just eight months old, and Luther wrote in a letter, "My little daughter Elizabeth is taken from me, and hath left me with a bleeding and almost womanly heart, so sad am I on her account. I never thought the heart of a father was so tender towards his children. Pray the Lord for me." A third child, Magdalene, also died young. After Magdalene came Martin, then Paul, and finally Margaret. It was for his children that Luther wrote the Small Catechism - a book showing the basics of Lutheran beliefs.
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Categories: 1483 births | 1546 deaths | Christian theologians | German academics | German Lutherans | German theologians | Martin Luther | Monks | People from Saxony-Anhalt | Protestant Reformers | Translators | People excommunicated by the Catholic Church