A short clip on the Reformation and Martin Luther.

Vocabulary to know:
  • Martin Luther: German priest who initiated the Protestant Reformation
  • Erfurt: a university
  • Saint Anne: traditionally the mother of Mary
  • Augustinian: of the Augustine Order, based on the teaching of Augustine the Hippo
  • Papal: pope
  • Papal Bulls: refers to the decrees issued by a Pope, specifically (in this video) about the "bull" issued against Martin Luther
  • Indulgences: a grant by the Pope that partially repays ones sins, or allows an earlier release from purgatory; many people would sell these indulgences
  • Transubstantiation: the miraculous change in which, according to the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox dogma (set of principles laid down by an authority), the Eucharistic elements (the bread and wine) turn into the body and blood of Christ, while still looking like bread and wine
  • Excommunication: officially exclude someone from the Christian Church
  • The 95 Theses: a document written by Martin Luther, listing all the problems he had found in the Roman Catholic Church


Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, to Hans Luder (or Ludher, later Luther) and his wife Margarethe and baptized the next day. Martin had seven siblings, but being the eldest, his father pushed him the most. Hans wanted Martin to become a lawyer, and so Martin was sent to different schools throughout his childhood so that he could grow up to become a lawyer. Martin later compared life at these schools to purgatory and hell. By the age of nineteen, Luther had joined Erfurt University, and got his masters degree by 1505. He then enrolled in a law school, in accordance with his father's wishes. He almost immediately dropped out, being drawn more towards theology and philosophy. Luther later claimed that he left the law school after being caught up in a storm. Thinking he would die, he cried out for help from Saint Anne, saying he would become a monk. After surviving the ordeal, Luther joined an Augustinian friary (a building or community occupied by men of a certain religious order).

Luther devoted himself to monastic life. He prayed for long hours, fasted, went on pilgrimages, and frequent confessions. He later remarked that he was in a deep spiritual despair. Johann von Staupitz, Luther's superior, decided Luther needed something to distract him, so he ordered him to pursue an academic career. In 1507, Luther became a priest, and began teaching at the University of Wittenberg. He was later received into the senate of the theological faculty at the University of Wittenberg. He spent the rest of his career in this position.

95theseCC.jpgWhen the Church began to sell indulgences in Erfurt, Luther wrote a letter to his bishop, protesting the sale of indulgences. He also included a copy of "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences," which we now know as "The Ninety-Five Theses." Some people think that Luther didn't really want to confront the Church, but instead just wanted to make a scholarly objection to church practices. However, some of the theses did challenge the Church. For example, number 86 states, "Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?"

From 1510 to 1520, Luther lectured on different portions of the Bible. As he studied the Bible, he finally came to the conclusion that the Church had become corrupt, and had lost sight of some of the things he thought were central ideas in Christianity. The most important idea for Luther was the idea of justification (God's act of declaring a sinner righteous), and that justification could only be received by faith alone in God.

Finally, after not heeding the Pope's warning and stopping, Luther was excommunicated on January 3, 1521.

The rest of the information on Martin Luther is included in the Reformation page.

(note in the song it says "God help me here I stand" that refers to "hier stehe, ich kahn nicht anders" (Martin Luther) meaning Here I stand, I can no other. This note was written by Jodi 4/18/2011)




Created by Bagatur April 20, 2011