Martin Luther

Martin Luther was born in Eisleben on 10th November 1483. From 1488 to 1501 he was a pupil in Mansfeld and Eisenach. Afterwards he read law in Erfurt. He narrowly escaped being struck by lightning during a thunderstorm and this experience prompted him to enter a monastery in 1505. As was usual in his day, he firmly believed in a severe, judging God and gave himself heavy penances. From 1508 he studied Theology in Wittenberg and graduated in the year 1510.
At the time of Luther, the Church allowed letters of indulgence to be sold. In this way, devout people were supposed to be absolved from God’s punishment for sins committed. The proceeds from the letters of indulgence were designated for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Luther was so angry about this that in October 1517 he wrote 95 theses against the selling of indulgences. According to tradition, he nailed the theses on the door of the Schlosskirche (castle church) in Wittenberg. He had intensively concerned himself with St. Paul’s epistles and preached that God was gracious and reached out to the people. In other texts he spread a new teaching according to which only faith and the grace of God could make man reconciled to God. For this reason he was excommunicated in 1520. Luther publicly set fire to the bull of excommunication. At the Imperial Diet in Worms in 1521 he was ordered to revoke his writings, but Luther refused to recant. Whether it was on this occasion that he spoke his famous sentence: “Here I stand, I can do no other” is not historically proven.
At the Imperial Diet, Luther was put under imperial ban. He was declared an outlaw and anyone was allowed to kill him. The Prince Regnant Elector Friedrich of Saxony, who was also one of Luther’s followers, hid him in Wartburg Castle. Luther lived here for several months using the name of “Junker Jörg”. It was during this time that he translated the Bible. After 1522, in spite of the imperial ban, he dared to go among the people. He travelled to Wittenberg, preached in Zwickau against the iconoclasts and tried to arbitrate in the Peasants’ War. In the year 1525 Luther married the former nun Katharina von Bora. At the beginning of 1546 he settled an inheritance dispute between the Counts of Mansfeld in Eisleben. It was there that he died on 18th February 1546, probably because of a heart disease.
A movement had begun which soon led to a division of the Church. But there were also differences in the movement. Protestant princes founded an alliance, but Luther did not want political power. Reformers such as Zwingli or Calvin construed the Bible far more strictly than Luther. With reference to the Bible, iconoclasts stormed the churches and destroyed statues. Luther also criticised pomposity, but also saw pictures as didactic means. His former pupil Thomas Müntzer found impulses for a social revolution in the Bible and led the peasants’ revolt. Luther refused to use the Bible for political goals and harshly condemned the Peasants’ War.
For the translation of the Bible, Luther used expressions and sayings that he had heard at markets and in the streets. He called that: “listening to what people say”. In doing so, he wanted to make the contents of the Bible understandable for the population. A great deal can still be found in general language usage: “Feuertaufe” (baptism of fire), “Schandfleck” (eyesore), “Lästermaul” (scandalmonger), “Perlen vor die Säue werfen” (throw pearls before swine), “auf Sand bauen” (building on sand), “etwas ausposaunen” (trumpet abroad), “im Dunkeln tappen” (grope in the dark) and much more.

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